Emergency assistance

If you are in an area affected by bush fires, listen to the instructions given by emergency services personnel. Important messages are often played on the radio. If you need emergency assistance, ring triple zero (000).

Smoky air

Bush fires can result in a large amount of smoke particles in the air, even great distances from the fires. The best way to avoid breathing in the smoke is to remain inside with the windows and doors closed, preferably in an air-conditioned building. 'P1' or 'P2' face masks can be purchased at chemists and hardware stores and may reduce exposure to particles in the air.

Signs and symptoms of smoke irritation

  • itchy/burning eyes
  • runny nose
  • shortness of breath
  • headaches
  • irritated sinuses
  • throat irritation
  • cough

If you are having trouble breathing, go to an emergency department or ring triple zero (000) for an ambulance.

Smoke pollution can affect people for many days after it is inhaled. People with existing lung conditions, such as asthma, may experience an exacerbation of their symptoms and should prepared to activate their Asthma (or COPD) Action Plan.

Treating burns

Whatever the depth of a burn, the initial treatment is always the same:

  1. Remove any clothing or jewellery near the affected area.
  2. Place the burn under cool running water for at least 20 minutes.

Do not use ice or iced water and take care not to induce hypothermia (low body temperature) - keep the person warm.

All large burns (greater than the size of a 20c piece), partial-thickness burns (painful, blistered and weeping) and full-thickness burns (painless, white and potentially waxy or charred-looking) require urgent medical assessment. To protect the burned area after cooling with running water, lay a sheet of cling film over it. Do not wrap cling film all the way around a limb.

All burns affecting the face or neck require urgent medical assessment. All burns that cross a joint or that completely encircle a digit (finger or toe) or limb also require urgent assessment.

Small, epidermal burns (less than the size of a 20c piece) may be treated at home. An epidermal burn is one that only affects the top layer of skin. It will be red and painful, but the skin will be intact, with no weeping or blistering. Covering the burn with a layer of cling film after cooling will protect the area and may reduce the pain. Do not burst any blisters that develop. If the burn is very painful, or seems to be getting worse, seek medical attention.

Drinking water

Power and water may be cut off during a bushfire. Your bushfire survival kit should include plenty of drinking water (at least three litres per person per day). Ensure you drink plenty of water so you do not dehydrate. For more information see the Rural Fire Service Bushfire Survival Plan.

NSW Health fact sheets

Additional resources

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Page Updated: Wednesday 23 October 2013