​​​​​​Whether you live in a city, a suburb, or a regional or rural area, bushfires and bushfire smoke can impact your health and the health of those around you.

Being prepared for a bushfire is not only about preparing your home or property. Having a plan for your health and preparing emotionally is just as important.

There are things you can do now to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy.​​​​​​

  • Smoke contains fine particles that can affect your health.

    Bushfire smoke causes mild symptoms for most people such as sore eyes, nose and throat, and/or a cough.

    However, it can also make some people’s existing health conditions worse.

    Things you can do now:

    • Know if you are at higher risk of getting sick from bushfire smoke.
    • Talk to your doctor about how bushfire smoke might affect your health.
    • Check your health action plans and your family’s health action plans are up to date. For example, if you or any of your family members have an Asthma Action Plan.
    • Check your prescriptions are up-to-date and your medicine is stored in an easy spot for you to get quickly if you need to evacuate. If you use an asthma inhaler, store it with your spacer.
    • Know what to do if the air quality is impacted by bushfire smoke in your area. You may need to change your daily activities.
    • Consider keeping a supply of P2/N95 face masks at home to protect you from bushfire smoke if you are unable to avoid exposure. Learn how to fit them, as P2/N95 masks must fit properly with an air-tight seal to work well. P2/N95 masks can make it harder to breathe, so if you have a heart or lung condition talk to your doctor before using one.
    • Consider using an air purifier with a high efficiency particle air (HEPA) filter. A HEPA filter can remove smoke particles from indoor air. To work well, the purifier must be the right size for the room you will use it in, and the room must be well sealed. Before you purchase an air purifier check that it is the right size and that the room can be sealed. If you already have one, check manufacturer’s instructions to see if the HEPA filter needs to be replaced.

  • It is important to have a bushfire survival plan to protect you and your loved ones if you live in a bushfire prone area. Use the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) - My Fire Plan to make your own plan online. It can take as little as five minutes.

    Remember your health as you plan and prepare.

    Things you can do now:

    • Ask your doctor:
      • if you should get extra medication in case of a bushfire emergency.
      • what to do if you cannot access your regular health services, such as dialysis, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
      • about creating a shared health summary and a pharmacist shared medicines list. These shared summaries can include your diagnosed health conditions and the medicines you take. During an emergency, these documents can help health professionals manage your health. These records can also be helpful if you are away from your local area.
    • Include your medicines, prescriptions and any medical devices (such as a hearing aid or walking aid) when you are preparing your bushfire survival plan.
    • Keep your medicines and any paper prescriptions with your important items so they are quick and easy to find if you need to evacuate.
    • Ask your pharmacist about emergency storage of refrigerated medicines. Have ice packs or ice bricks on hand if you need to leave your home because of a bushfire.

    Visit the RFS to find out if you are at risk of bushfires in your area and for more information on how to plan and prepare.

    Visit Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (AH&MRC) to find resources to help get your mob bushfire ready.

  • Bushfires can be terrifying and stressful. It is normal to feel stressed and not think clearly in an emergency, however having a plan now can help you cope during a bushfire.

    Being prepared emotionally may help you think more clearly, protect yourself and remain calm to help your loved ones in an emergency.

    Things you can do now:

    • Prepare a bushfire survival plan to help reduce the uncertainty and anxiety for you and your family. Use the NSW Rural Fire Service - My Fire Plan to make your own plan online. You can also use the Red Cross’ Rediplan template.
    • Make a mental health plan
      • What are your usual signs that things are getting too much?
      • What are the things that help you to relax (reading, listening to music, writing)?
      • Who can you call for support if you need to talk (family member, friend, helpline)?
    • Keep a list of important phone numbers so you know where to get the right information, at the right time. This might include:
      • family and friends
      • your doctor
      • the 24-hour healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 for medical advice
      • Triple Zero (000) for medical emergencies
      • Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 for 24-hour mental health support
      • 13YARN (13 92 76) a dedicated mental health support service for Aboriginal people
      • Rural Fire Service on 1800 NSW RFS (1800 679 737) for bushfire information
      • Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) National on 131 450 for an interpreter.
      • your local pharmacy.

    There are also a range of free mental health support services and resources available.

Current as at: Friday 27 October 2023
Contact page owner: Environmental Health