State of Alert in place in the ACT

State of Alert in place in the ACT

A State of Alert is in place for rural and remote areas in the south and the west of the ACT.

Information on what this means, what you need to do, support available and service changes can be found below and will be updated regularly.

ACT State of Alert Map

 

ACT Government support and service changes

With heavy smoke coming and going in the ACT and bushfires currently in the surrounding region, it is important to follow the advice of emergency services and to keep up-to-date on changing conditions via the ACT Emergency Services Agency webpage.

There are changes to a range of ACT Government services including parks and reserves.

https://www.environment.act.gov.au/home/home-news-listing/ongoing-parks-and-reserve-closures2

Other ACT Government services may be impacted and you can visit the following ACT Government websites for up-to-date information:

What are our emergency services doing?

The ACT Emergency Services Agency and ACT Parks and Conservation Service are well prepared to manage any risk that may occur in the ACT.

The ESA is continuing to monitor the situation in the ACT and NSW and support crews across the border where we can.

What we need you to do

Bushfire plan 

The State of Alert means, as a community, we must be prepared.

The State of Alert means, as a community, we must be prepared. While the State of Alert no longer applies to urban areas of Canberra. It is still important to be prepared.

By taking 20 minutes with your family to prepare your Bushfire Survival Plan you could save their lives, and your home.

The Emergency grab and go booklet is also a valuable reference in being prepared.

The plan is just four simple steps: DISCUSS – PREPARE – KNOW - KEEP

Stay informed

For all updates in relation to the State of Alert, continue to monitor the ESA website and follow ACT ESA on Facebook and Twitter.

Access Canberra services visit: www.act.gov.au/accessCBR

Health and wellbeing during the State of Alert

Looking after your mental health and wellbeing

In difficult times such as a time of increased alert or after the events on the south coast of NSW and Victoria, it is understandable that many people will be feeling distressed and at times overwhelmed by what is happening to them, their families and their community. 

  • Simple things can really help. Spending time with and getting support from family, friends and other people can be beneficial as can expressing how you are feeling. 

  • People will need different levels of support and some people such as children or people with previous mental health difficulties may be more vulnerable.   
  • Using usual support mechanisms such as a regular GP can help. Many community services also offer counselling and support. Online resources can also provide strategies to help manage any distress.  
  • Canberra Health Services continues to offer its full range of services. 

Canberra Health Services offers a full range of mental health support services. More information is available on their Mental Health page.

Lifeline also provides 24 hour phone support if you are experiencing a personal crisis. Phone 13 11 14 or visit the Lifeline website www.lifeline.org.au

Visit the ACT Health Directorate website for the latest health advice on the heavy smoke conditions impacting the ACT. A frequently Asked Questions section addressing common questions from the community is also available on this page.

Walk-in Centres

Walk-in Centres offer free health care for minor injuries and illnesses. They are in Belconnen, Gungahlin, Tuggeranong, and Weston Creek and are open from 7.30 am to 10 pm daily. No appointment is needed.

Walk-in Centres are led by a team of highly skilled advanced practice nurses and nurse practitioners with extensive experience in treating people with minor injuries and illnesses. There are no doctors at the clinics.

If you have complex health conditions or children under 2 years, please visit your GP for advice.

In an emergency or life-threatening situation, please call 000. For more information go to: walkincentre.act.gov.au

Maternity Care

If you are pregnant and worried about your baby, you can go to Centenary Hospital for Women and Children or Calvary Public Hospital Bruce.

Call Canberra Maternity Options on 5124 9977 and speak with a midwife who can help find the best care for you.

What to do to prepare for possible evacuation

Disasters have the potential to cause disruption, damage property and take lives. Your survival depends on your preparations, and the decisions you make.

Many disasters will affect essential services and possibly interrupt the ability to travel or communicate with others. You need to be prepared to cope on your own for up to two days or more following a major disaster. This is when you will be most vulnerable.

Steps to prepare

  • Complete a Grab and Go booklet and pack your Getaway Kit.
  • Agree on a personal support network to check in on family members in an emergency.
  • Monitor key communication channels like the ESA website, the ESA Twitter and Facebook accounts, and local media.
  • Understand where your nearest evacuation centre or safe place is.
  • Have a car ready with at least half a tank of fuel. If conditions are bad, do not wait for an evacuation warning.

Preparing your getaway kit

Your getaway kit should contain:

  • Portable radio with spare batteries
  • Torch with spare batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Candles, with lighter or waterproof matches
  • Dust masks (especially for people with asthma or respiratory problems)
  • Woollen blankets
  • Wide-brimmed hats
  • Work/gardening gloves
  • Street directory (in case you can’t access web-based maps)
  • Changes of clothing
  • Hand sanitiser, toilet paper
  • Towels
  • Swiss army knife/ can opener

Pre-pack your kit. Choose something easy to carry, durable and waterproof. Place it in easily accessible place, close to an escape route, in your house, shed or carport. Make sure everyone in your home knows where it is.

How will I know it’s time to leave

When it’s time to evacuate

If you are told you need to leave your property, add these items to your prepacked kit and put in your vehicle: 

  • Your wallet with small quantity of cash, ID and concession cards
  • Medications and repeat prescriptions
  • Mobile phone and charger
  • House and car keys
  • Glasses, hearing aids, mobility aids
  • Food and drinks (including special dietary items)
  • Changes of clothing
  • Toiletries
  • Small items of personal value (e.g.photo albums)
  • Laptop / iPad
  • Pillow and sleeping bag.

Take your pets. Dress appropriately for the conditions, with sturdy shoes. Turn off gas, power and water. Close doors, windows and vents. Tell family, friends and neighbours that you are evacuating.

Providing help to others

Some people in the community may need more help than others during an evacuation including: 

  • Older or frail people

  • People with disability
  • Those who are injured or ill
  • People with mental health conditions
  • Young people
  • Parents with babies

For more information about helping vulnerable people during evacuation can be found in the booklet.

Evacuation centres

There are a number of Colleges across the ACT that can be established as evacuation centres if required. Centres will be pet friendly and accessible for people with a disability.

Final locations will depend on advice on fire risk from the ESA, and you should check the ESA Website and social media channels to confirm which centres have been opened in the event an evacuation is required.

If you are a person with a disability with an NDIS plan, you can use the support services available, including Respite, which is available via your NDIS provider.

Emergency space for horses

EPIC Equestrian Relocation Centre

There is currently no threat to property and no evacuations have been ordered for residents, horses or other animals in the ACT.

However, EPIC is offering free stabling to those who wish to relocate their horses during the declared State of Alert in the ACT.

Please enter through Gate 1, on Flemington Road and make your way directly to the EPIC stables, you will be required to register your details there. An EPIC staff member will be available to assist with registration.

 Please bring:

  • water and feed buckets,
  • enough feed for 24 hours
  • any horse/s medication and
  • some simple first aid.

Please note: Animals cannot be left unattended. You must be self-sufficient for the duration of your stay and you will be required to clean out the stable upon leaving.

Assistance for people from NSW and VIC

The Dickson Relief Centre will close as of 7pm on Friday 17 January 2020.

This decision comes as a result of a significant reduction in patronage of the Centre as the situation in regional bushfire affected areas slowly improves.

The Relief Centre can be quickly re-established in this (or another location) if circumstances were to change.

The following relief services will continue to be available to people from interstate who are affected by the bushfires through the following government and community agencies:

BUSHFIRE RECOVERY ASSISTANCE

NSW Disaster Welfare Assistance 1800 018 444 NSW Housing Contact Centre - Short term housing support: 1800 422 322

Commonwealth Government Disaster Recovery Allowance: 180 22 66 HMAS Harman, Canberra Avenue Symonston – short term accommodation support.  Report to the base security desk.

HELP WITH COUNSELLING AND PASTORAL SUPPORT

Access Mental Health 1800 629 354 Mental Health Line: 1800 011 511 Beyond Blue 1300 224 636 Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network ACT   0414 884 954

HELP WITH CLOTHING AND PERSONAL ITEMS SUCH AS TOILETRIES

St Vincent de Paul Society - Vinnies shops are in Dickson, Mitchell, Gungahlin, Phillip, Kippax, Belconnen, Tuggeranong, Queanbeyan and Weston Creek.

OTHER HELP INCLUDING FOOD

Communities@Work Ph: 02 6293 6500 - Switchboard (Monday - Friday 9am-5pm)

  • Access to transport support and problem-solving travel challenges
  • Information and referral services in the ACT including accessing; clothing, wellbeing services and other community supports
  • Assistance paying for medical scripts
  • Assistance with emergency accommodation
  • Space to charge mobiles phones
  • Eat heated meals
  • Showers and shower packs

Tuggeranong - 245 Cowlishaw Street Greenway (between the Tuggeranong Library and McDonalds)

Gungahlin - 47 Ernest Cavanagh Street, Gungahlin (across from the Centrelink office).

Air quality monitoring

ACT Health reports on air quality using up-to-date, accurate data on levels of pollutants in the air. We use this information, and data on the 24-hour rolling average concentrations in the air, to determine what our health advice is to the community and the practical ways people can reduce their exposure and worsening of pre-existing chronic health conditions.

Following community feedback, hourly PM2.5 concentration levels can now be found on the ACT Health website.

This will provide information on the changing levels of smoke in the air throughout the day.

Health advisories, which are based on 24-hour rolling averages, continue to be available on the ACT Health website.

We will continue to listen to your feedback and refine air quality information over time on the ACT Health website, as appropriate. This will likely involve working with national counterparts, noting we are not alone in this.

P2/N95 masks

Supply for vulnerable Canberrans

P2/N95 masks for people who are most sensitive to smoke have been delivered to pharmacies in Canberra and Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services.

Individuals who will be able to access these masks include: 

  • people with existing chronic lung and heart conditions, such as asthma, chronic bronchitis or emphysema, and heart disease 
  • all pregnant women, and 
  • people over 65 years of age. 

Each eligible person will receive two masks.

ACT Health recommends that people with lung conditions or chronic heart conditions should seek advice from their medical practitioner prior to using these masks. 

It is important to help us ensure masks remain available for those in our community most sensitive to air quality deterioration due to smoke.

For further information about masks and how to fit them visit the ACT Health website at: https://health.act.gov.au/public-health-alert/heavy-smoke-and-hot-conditions-act 

Advice on P2/N95 masks

It is best to avoid exposure to smoke by staying indoors where possible, and not using evaporative air conditioners which draw air into the house from outside. 

P2 and N95 masks filter some smoke, however, they cannot completely eliminate exposure to smoke, and are not recommended for use in the general community as an alternative to avoiding outdoor exposure. 

Ordinary paper masks are not effective at filtering smoke, however do not cause any harm if people choose to wear them and they feel they get some benefit.

The Government is continuing to monitor demand for masks and is working closely with community service partners to tailor support for vulnerable people experiencing extended exposure to hazardous weather.

For further information about masks and how to fit them visit the ACT Health website at: https://health.act.gov.au/public-health-alert/heavy-smoke-and-hot-conditions-act 

How often should I replace my P2/N95 mask?

You should always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions provided with the mask about to correctly fit the mask and when to change the mask.

Generally, disposable P2/N95 masks are not intended for extended use (i.e. for more than eight hours). These masks trap the moisture you breathe out and the filtration provided by the mask becomes ineffective as it becomes moist or wet. How quickly a mask becomes moist depends on many factors such as the size of the person wearing the mask and the activity they are undertaking. The same brand of mask will last longer on a sedentary small person than on a large person undertaking strenuous physical activity.

The general rule remains that if the mask becomes damaged, soiled, moist or contaminated it should be replaced.

Refer to Use of P2/N95 Masks factsheet and watch the instructional video to learn how to fit the mask properly.

Disposal of face masks (P2 masks)

Most P2 face masks are not able to be recycled and should be disposed of in your general waste (red lid) bin. Some masks will come in packaging that is recyclable and can be disposed of in your (yellow lid) recycling bin. Please check information provided on products and packaging prior to disposal.

 

Tips for dealing with indoor smoke

For a range of fact sheets and resources on dealing with the smoky air conditions in the ACT, including air quality monitoring, visit the ACT Health website at the following links:

Working outdoors

Employers have a legal responsibility under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (the Act) to ensure all workers are provided with a safe workplace.  

WorkSafe is encouraging employers to look at mitigation strategies to eliminate or minimise the impact of the current heat and smoke conditions, particularly by eliminating strenuous or outdoor work where possible. Mitigation measures may include: 

  • Avoid or reschedule the outdoor work if possible 
  • Rotate workers to limit prolonged exposure 
  • Provide P2 masks for those who need to do prolonged outdoor activity or workers sensitive to smoke. 

A risk assessment may be based on the outdoor air quality level reading from the nearest air quality station (Monash, Florey or Civic) compared with the daily temperature and weather forecast via Bureau of Meteorology site. 

Employees are encouraged to talk to their employer or manager if they are feeling the effects of smoke and are encouraged to take regular breaks. 

For more information regarding outdoor smoke, please read ACT Health’s Outdoor Smoke factsheet.

For event planners wishing to host activities outside, given the current weather and smoke in the air, only essential activity should be arranged. You should consider ways to best manage and reduce any risks to attendees and staff. Event organisers are encouraged to review the ESA website and the ACT Health website for advice in relation to air quality and smokey air as well as review their safety, emergency response and WHS plans.

Asbestos

At this stage, no asbestos testing of air quality is considered necessary. With consideration of the relatively small number of buildings and structures lost and the very large number of other contaminants from bushland fire, the risk of increased levels of airborne asbestos fibres is extremely low and considered to be no greater that normal atmospheric levels.

Transport

There are no operational changes to the ACT’s public transport system. Keep up to date with the latest information on public transport through the Transport Canberra website www.transport.act.gov.au.

Disposal of green waste and debris from your property

With heightened levels of awareness relating to the fire risk across the ACT, most Canberrans have been tidying up around their properties. Many Canberrans have recently taken up the opportunity of acquiring a green bin, which is a great way to dispose of your unwanted vegetation and green waste. Green bin collections are continuing as programmed for all Canberra suburbs. Please refer to the Access Canberra website www.accesscanberra.act.gov.au for details of your next collection date.

For those without access to a green waste bin, or those with excess vegetation, green waste can be dropped off for free at Mugga Lane Resource Management Centre in Symonston between 7.30am and 4.45 pm daily as well as at Canberra Sand and Gravel on Parkwood Road Holt between 7.30 am and 4:45 pm daily.

If you notice excess debris or vegetation on public land, please visit the Fix My Street website to register a job so that the ACT Government can respond.

Childcare centres

Parents should contact their childcare centre for information on individual centre arrangements.

To minimise the risk to children and educators:

  • avoid physical activity outdoors, stay indoors with windows and doors closed
  • stay in air-conditioned premises and switch the air-conditioner to ‘recycle’ or ‘recirculate’ to reduce the amount of smoke entering the building, and
  • do not use evaporative cooling systems as they import air from outdoors.

Child Care Centre services should speak with families to ensure that medical plans for children with known conditions are up to date and that the correct medication is on hand.

For further information on minimising the health impacts of outdoor smoke, refer to the ACT Health Directorate factsheet.

Donations

The ACT Government will not be coordinating or offering donation collection points.

There are a number of ways you can help. The best way is to donate money. This allows people to buy the things they need, and it supports local businesses which have also been impacted.

For more information on how to donate to support those affected in other states:

Canberrans wanting to donate goods are asked to go through GIVIT. GIVIT is a national not-for-profit organisation connecting those who have with those who need, in a private and safe way (www.givit.org.au). GIVIT runs specific disaster relief projects and this is the best way to ensure community support is targeted appropriately.

If you want to donate goods to local charities, we encourage you to make these donations directly during business hours to their shopfronts, rather than through charity bins. This helps ensure the material is not damaged in the current weather conditions. The volume of material being donated is also beyond what the charities can clear from the bins.