Public Health Assignment: Taking a Hand-on Approach on Bushfire
Australia is no stranger to natural disasters such as bushfire, heatwaves, floods, severe storms, tropical cyclones and earthquakes (Haealthdirect, 2020). Bushfire is a common and unpredictable disaster that can happen at any time in all states of Australia. It causes significant losses and damages to Australians nationwide each year, including their families, firefighters, homes, wildlife, and forest. The government, relevant organisations, public health groups, and communities make great effort and enormous investment to lessen the degree of loss and mitigate the risk from bushfires. An Emergency strategic plan has been developed and implemented in all states where stakeholders are involved, particularly local communities (NSDR CEF, 2013). The Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC) is one of the organisations contributing to managing emergency & disaster situations nationwide through the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) (National Aerial Firefighting Centre, 2021) and National Resource Sharing Centre (Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council, 2017b). AFAC set the collaboration model involving five collaboration areas: Resilient communities; Trusted response; Credible information; Effective governance; Knowledge and research to achieving the Strategic Directions and enhancing collective capabilities in Australia and New Zealand(Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council, 2017a). Community engagement model developed by Australian Emergency Management Institute has been used as a framework (NSDR CEF, 2013)
On the 4th of February 2021, Western Australia (WA) faced a massive bushfire that burned over 25,000 acres of northeast of Perth. The Department of Fire and Emergency Service (DFES) was established in 2012 by Western Australia Government to coordinate emergency services and collaborate with Western Australian communities and other government agencies to help prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from natural disasters (Department of Fire & Emergency Services, 2021a). WA government provide updated information and knowledge about bushfire and how to prepare bushfire plan (Department of Fire & Emergency Services, 2020). My FireWatch is the online, interactive map-based tool that WA government use to provide the updated information about the areas of fire incidents and warning (My FireWatch, 2021). The consumer bushfire tool kit is available to support communities to prepare themselves (Department of Fire & Emergency Services, 2021b).
Additionally, the community engagement framework has been used as a guide for working with professionals and community (Department of Fire and Emergency Services, 2016).
Read the scenario of public health emergency and develop a public health assignment report draw from your critical analysis and applying theory into practice.
1. Use appropriate data and information to critically explain the given public health emergency (Bushfire in WA in 2021)
2. Critically analyse the existing emergency response plan that has been implemented in the given scenario and identify the areas that could be improved or changed
3. Propose recommendations for improving the existing emergency response plan; or to developing a future plan based on the given scenario. Discuss the potential stakeholders who should be involved in your recommended emergency response plan.
The present public health assignment concerns about bushfires that have been a natural phenomenon for the Australian environment which is further stimulated with the growing population and development that encroaches deeper with close proximitywith the bush land areas. The magnitude of the destruction is magnanimous for the communities involved and contingentandappropriatemeasures becomes quintessential to contain the fire and mitigate the detrimental repercussions on the communities, environment, and wildlife. In this context of the discussions, the present report is placed wherein the different impacts of bushfire of Perth in 2021 has been discussed along with the emergency responses and approaches undertaken by the concerned authorities. The report ends with recommendations to enhance the existing plan of DFES.
2. Context of the Public Health Emergency
2.1 An overview of the public health emergency
As the Australian climate is under the influence of La Nina that triggered dry landscape and coarseweather conditions with no rainfall on the Western Australia in 2020, the conditions were high for above-normal fire conditions through the summer. This veritably caused the apocalyptic bushfire in Perth, Western Australia (WA) in 2021. The severely heated environment underpinned with the brisk winds exacerbated the fire and the blaze spread out rapidly as well as the bushfire around the Perthcreated their own weather systems that stimulated the fire all across the region.
Figure 1: Bushfire at Perth
(Source: bbc, 2021)
Figure 2: Exact location of the bushfire at Perth
(Source: Gabber, 2021)
2.1 Critically analysing the impacts of WA bushfire of 2021 on the residents both mentally and physically
The bushfire also thwarted the commercial endeavours of the communities’restricting effective ways of livelihood along with the fact that the fire tumbled the electricitytransmission process over the affected region. Therefore the residentsspentdays without the electricity until the fire came under controlled.
The impacts of bushfire in Western
Australia unveiled several negative ways forcing several Australians to flee to the evacuationcenters as almost 71 homes have been destroyed in the east of Perth. The community is not only treated from the uncontrolled fire, the largest fire that the city has witnessed in years but also suffered from the huge damage to the physical properties like almost 10,237 hectares of the land has been burnt (bbc, 2021).
Figure 3: Helicopter footage shows the Bushfire’s trail of destruction north of the city
(Source: bbc, 2021)
Figure 4: The smoke plumes from the bushfire blanketed Perth affecting the air quality
(Source: bbc, 2021)
In addition to this, the bushfire also induce several heath issues for the residents of the Perth. This is because the wide-spreading smoke smothered the city with harmful particulate matters and at times precipitated ash over the suburban areas that substantially deteriorated the air quality. This wildfire smoke imprints negative effects like rapid spread of the smoke plume-laden infectious diseases through microbes and respiratory ailments and cardiovascular diseases due to microscopic soot participles that threatened the health of the residents (bbc, 2020).Beyond these effects, the bushfire scenario also significantly impacts the mental health of the residents owing to the distressing situations all around.
Figure 5: Firefighters battling the blaze in Perth
(Source: bbc, 2021)
Figure 6: Perth on fire
(Source: Visontay&Boseley, 2021)
3. The existing emergency response plan
3.1 Critically analysing the existing emergency response plan/systems/services in WA
The authorities of WA as part of their emergency services activated the Lord Mayor’ Distress Relief Fund to aid the huge destruction to the property and life in the regions of Perth.The fund administered by the authoritiesof WA was raised and donated to the families of Perth that have been worst affected by the catastrophic fires (gov, 2021). In addition to this, the Australia’s government also initiated the NationalBushfireRecovery Agency to offer fire relief to the victims as well as payments to the ones who have volunteered to befire-fighter’s and contribute towardnecessary community service.
Figure 7: Lord Mayor’s Distress Relief Fund
(Source: gov, 2021)
Furthermore, the Australian Government has also offered to ensure one-off disaster recovery payments to the affected victims of the bushfires who are seriously injured worth $1000 per eligible adults and $400 per eligible child. The financial help is also extended to the families whose homes or assets have beenseriously damaged or have experienced unfortunate deaths of the immediate family members (Pearce, 2021). An emergency warning was issued by the Department of Fire & Emergency Services in collaboration by the government of Western Australia across the place for parts of the shires that coerced hundreds of the local residents to evacuate from their residents that have the potentiality of being threatened by the mounting ablaze. Even a Watch and Act warning for the nearby areas of the Perth was placed to control the detrimental impacts on the residents (Gabber, 2021).DFES has also encouraged for the widespread monetary donations to help out the affected outcomes effectively and reliably.
3.2 Critically explaining the approach used by DFES/WA government
The DFES approached the emergency responses through the stages of Advice warnings, Watch and Act and Emergency warnings.
Figure 8: Three levels of warning provided
The unprecedented disastrous situation of the Perth’s bushfire coupled with the ongoing global pandemic gave forced the authorities of the Western Australia to implement measures that takes into consideration of the both. Furthermore, the commissioner of the Western Australia’s Department of Fire and Emergency (DFES) had advised the residents of the affected-prone areas to loosen the quarantine measures imposed at the onset of the global pandemic caused by Covid-19 and act towards preservation of the life (gov, 2021). Advise like evacuating from their homes if the situation propels them to do so without thinking much about quarantine measures yet maintain the required social distancing norms for the well-being of their health, choosing a room between two exists have been facilitated.The DFES puts emergency warning of the imminent dangers and asked the residents to protect themselves and their family from the bushfire foremost than anything.
Moreover, the Watch and Act implementation as an emergency service not only helped the authorities engaged in curbing of the fire alert the people of the impending dangers of all aspects but also empowered them with ideas and resources to cope up with the detrimental impacts of the fire individually and as communities. For instance, alerts through telephonic emergency warnings like save driving due to low visibility, change shelter before the fie approaches, and enact bushfire survival plans as situation demands (Pearce, 2021).
3.3 Identification of the areas for improvement for public health practice in the given scenario
The use of technology could be used by the DFES in a more enhanced manner instead of only relying on the telephonic alert. The use of technology is still at nascent stage and there is a requirement for incorporation of the social media platformsextensivelyfor the effective emergency management during the national crises. This is because the spreading and circulating of media message over the social platforms would empower the authorities to reach a wide spectrum of citizens at a time.
4. Recommendation for future emergency response plan
4.1 Application of the community engagement framework to provide recommendation on developing future emergency response plan
The community engagement framework has been contextualised to develop the future emergency plan further.
Figure 9: Community engagement framework
Taking into consideration the principles of empowerment of the community engagement framework that stands for instilling the efficacies and capacities into the communities and individuals to comprehend the intensity and degree of the risks and thereby, fosters accountability to implement measures to safeguard the well-being of the people by themselves. Therefore, the residents of the bushfire-prone areas must prepare themselves taking into considerations the livestock and pets as well as other physical assets. This fire preparedness emergency plan could include:
- Identification of the assets that are vulnerable to the bushfire because protecting the assets could minimize the surfacing of the anxiety, pain, and fear caused by witnessing the destruction of the homes in predatory fire.
- Determining the degree of risks and consequences on the individual property so that effective measures could be ascertained and planned.
- Take measures before-hand to minimize the risks and implement the same with the proper resources and knowledge.
- Making plans in consultation to the required authorities to save the pets and livestock from the fire.
- Making sure that the individual and their immediate family are conscious of the steps that needs to be taken to minimize the negative health implications both physical and mental. The mental health must be emphasized. This is because the mental health of the residents also impacts negatively owing the extreme fear, stress, and anxiety caused due to losing shelter, distressing scenario of suffering animal, destruction of hard-built properties, as well polluting the surrounding environment within which they live that makes livelihood challenging (Resnicket al., 2020).
4.2 Discussion of the potential stakeholders
The potential stakeholders would the communities and the authorities concerned who needs to be operating and implementing measures in conclusion with each other and ensuring integrative efforts so as to facilitate utmost outcomes in the best interests of preserving and retaining the livelihoods.
Therefore, from the preceding discussions it could be stated that the Bushfire potentially affects the life of the people affected at the varying levels which demanded prompt and reliable measures on the part of the concerned authorities to mitigate the detrimental repercussions. Moreover, the DFES has approached the bushfire of Perth, 2021 by advice warnings, watch and act, and emergency warnings. However, the endeavours of leveraging the technology has been suggested to improve the approach. Furthermore, the suggested future plan is presumed to be creating value for the emergency serviceability ensure to tackle the bushfire emergency.
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