1. Current fire situation
a) ACT Emergency Services Agency
The ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) is the ACT Government organisation charged with providing emergency management services to the Canberra community. The ACT ESA website provides information including current fires, fire danger ratings and how to prepare a Bushfire Survival Plan: http://www.esa.act.gov.au/
b) ABC Canberra 666 radio
If you’re close to or in an emergency situation, your local ABC Radio station will provide the latest emergency warnings and advice, as supplied by the relevant emergency agencies. There any many ways you can tune in – via AM/FM radio, the ABC listen app, online streaming via the local website or ABC Radio website, your smart speaker, or DAB+ Digital radio in metropolitan areas.
2. Bushfire smoke
Hourly air quality monitoring info is now available on the ACT Health website to provide a better understanding of the levels of smoke in the air as they change throughout the day.
b) P2 masks
Advice on the use of masks for those exposed to bushfire smoke has been provided from the Acting Chief Medical Officer and State and Territory Chief Health Officers.
The ACT Government has made P2 masks available free of charge to identified vulnerable people via pharmacies across Canberra. Further information about the bushfire smoke and masks is available on the ACT Health website.
3. Medical help
If you need medical help, there are a range of convenient, affordable and accessible services in the ACT. Many of these are free and available after hours. Knowing when and where to go means you will get the most appropriate health care for your symptoms and may save you time. Go to Your Health Options for medical help options in the ACT.
If you decide that seeing a GP is the most appropriate option, you are encouraged to attend your regular general practice. A directory of general practices in the ACT, including their opening hours (updated 10 Jan. 2020), is located under “Related Documents” on this page.
4. Support for Canberrans
The ACT Government has agreed that any Canberrans in need of support, or a place to rest and talk to someone, will also be assisted at the Dickson Relief Centre. One Link is the best resource for accommodation and support options for Canberrans.
5. National Crisis Support
If you or someone you know has been affected by the bushfires and needs some extra support, we encourage you to reach out and access the services available. If you, or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 000 or visit your nearest hospital.
National crisis support numbers for individuals and communities:
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
- Kids Help Line: 1800 551 800
- Mensline Australia: 1300 78 99 78
- Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
- Disaster Welfare Assistance Line: 1800 018 444
- GriefLine: 1300 845 745
- MindSpot Disaster Response Support Line: 1800 622 427
6. Mental health support
The Better Access Bushfire Recovery Initiative is available from 17 January 2020 to 31 December 2021 if:
- you or your family have been impacted by the 2019-2020 bushfires or you are a first responder or emergency
- you are a first responder or emergency management employee or volunteer who worked during the 2019-2020 bushfires.
People affected by bushfires are eligible to receive Medicare benefits for up to 10 counselling sessions through this initiative. This can be accessed by speaking with a:
- Occupational therapist
- Social worker
You do not need a GP referral or mental health treatment plan to access the 10 sessions under the Better Access Bushfire Recovery Initiative and they are available in addition to sessions currently available with GP Mental Health Treatment Plans through the existing Better Access Initiative. Click here for more information.
Bushfires can have a significant impact on the mental health and wellbeing of affected communities and individuals. The impact may also be felt by people who are not directly affected by bushfire activity, but may have experienced previous trauma related to a natural disaster, have loved ones in affected areas or are witnessing traumatic events through media coverage and social media. There are a range of services available for people who wish to seek mental health support due to the impact of bushfires, including:
7. For health professionals: HealthPathways
The ACT & SNSW HealthPathways site in response to the recent bushfires has localised a number of relevant specific pathways including:
- Preparing a General Practice for a Disaster
- General Practice Management During a Disaster
- Preparing Patients for a Disaster
- Post Natural Disaster Health
- Burn Injuries
- Asthma in Adults
- Asthma in Children
Please contact HealthPathways for further information via email: healthpathways [at] chnact.org.au or phone 6287 8073 or 0418 760 841.