The Northern Territory Emergency Service works hard to promote personal safety, particularly in the Territory’s rough terrain and often harsh environment.
This page provides basic information on how to prepare for short trips or long camping expeditions, to minimise your risk of misadventure and what to do when confronted by an emergency situation.
Take plenty of water
In the Territory you need to drink at least 2 litres of water a day and more if you are outdoors or exercising.
Dress for the conditions
Always wear a hat and sunscreen and sturdy shoes when out and about in the bush. Also be aware of the different weather conditions at different times of the year e.g. extreme cold in the southern region can be just as dangerous as heat in the north.
Mosquitoes are active around sunset. Insect repellent (with a DEET base) is advisable.
Traveling with pets
Dogs and cats are not permitted in national parks and reserves in the Territory.
The waters of the Territory look particularly enticing for a cool dip, but are home to many saltwater (estuarine) crocodiles. Be CROCWISE and only swim in safe designated areas.
On the road
Remember that during the wet season (November to April) some roads and tracks may become impassable, contact the Department of Infrastructure for a Road Report before heading off.
Fuel and food
Always travel with adequate food and fuel supplies. Carrying an emergency supply of fuel and food is a good idea wherever you are going. It is essential to carry plenty of water; at least 20 litres.
Distances in the Northern Territory can be long and fatigue is one of the most frequent causes of serious motor vehicle accidents. Make sure you take regular breaks.
The Northern Territory has varying speed limits on the major highways. However, there are many gravel roads and conditions vary greatly throughout the year. Caution should be exercised. You should always drive to the conditions present.
Seatbelts save lives. For this reason, by law in the Northern Territory everyone in a vehicle fitted with seatbelts must wear them. It is the driver's responsibility to ensure that all passengers are wearing a seatbelt and fines will be imposed on those who do not comply.
The Northern Territory is renowned for its road trains, some of which can be three trailers (50m) long. Roadtrains need plenty of room, so when overtaking them, ensure that you have at least 1km of clear straight road ahead.
Stop at level crossings. Stop, look, listen and think! Never try to cross a railway line or beat a train.
Unless you are sure of the water depth, flow rate and any road damage, do not attempt to cross flooded bridges or causeways. Most importantly, do not ignore signs.
There is an abundance of wildlife to be enjoyed, but please take care when driving particularly at dawn or dusk when the wildlife is most active. Stock and wildlife often feed on the verge or wander across the road. Be particularly wary of road-wandering buffaloes during these times.
Dust on outback roads can pose a danger, obscuring vision of the road ahead. It is best to wait for the dust to settle.
Lost or broken down
A missing vehicle is easier to locate than missing people, so never leave your vehicle, regardless of the circumstances. Economise on water if you are away from a main road. If you intend to leave a main road let somebody trustworthy know of your plans, your intended route and your expected time of arrival. Importantly, let them know you have arrived safely.
Four wheel driving
Driving on unsealed roads and tracks require additional care and preparation. Driving a four-wheel drive does not mean you will not get bogged or that you can 'go anywhere'. It does mean that you will be able to access more remote areas though, and if you are new to four-wheel driving extra concentration will be required. Braking distances on unsealed roads are longer and four-wheel drive vehicles are more unstable than a conventional vehicle. Please take care, particularly at high speeds.
Entering Aboriginal land
To enter Aboriginal Land requires an access permit. Permission to enter Arnhem Land must be obtained from the relevant Land Council.
Entering pastoral property
Pastoral properties are private property. If you are going off-road make sure that the road is a public access road or obtain permission to pass through from the relevant landowner. When passing through leave everything as you found it i.e. closed gates should be closed again and open gates left open.
For more tips on remote area travel, go to the Royal Flying Doctor Service website.
On the water
Boating regulations should be strictly adhered to when on the water. Be cautious when traveling at high speed, as there may be hidden marine debris. If possible, avoid standing in the water when launching and recovering your boat.
Do not clean fish, or dispose of carcasses in or near the water as this may encourage the presence of saltwater crocodiles. Never wash 'baity' hands over the side of the boat!
For more information on marine safety please click HERE or contact the Marine Safety Branch within the Department of Transport.
In the bush
If you're going to be heading off the beaten track, remember to be aware of potential dangers and take care of yourself while camping or traveling in the bush.
Before setting off, ensure you obtain local advice about the area where you will be traveling. Advise a friend or family member of your intended trip, where you are going, who will be with you and when you expect to return.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Read signs and brochures carefully
- Swim only in designated areas
- Be careful when swimming. Never dive or jump into waterholes or rivers
- Supervise your children, especially near water
- Be CROCWISE
- Stay well back from cliff edges and waterfalls
- Stay on walking tracks, and carry water and food on longer walks
- Take plenty of drinking water & food
- Carry a first aid kit
- Always wear a hat, sunglasses sunscreen & use an insect repellent
- Ensure your footwear and clothing are suitable for where you are going
- Carry a compass, map, whistle and a lighter
- Pack some water purifier tablets and some salt or salt tablets
- Plan carefully, and make sure your camping equipment and vehicle and/or boat are in good working order
- Lock your vehicle and secure any valuables
- Take care with fire; light fires only in designated fireplaces. Take a gas BBQ in case there is a total fire ban