Public health and natural hazards

new policies and preparedness initiatives developed from an Australian bushfire case study

Rachel Westcott*, Kevin Ronan, Hilary Bambrick, Melanie Taylor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


Objective: Public preparedness for natural hazard events is low. With worsening severe weather events due to climate change, public health policy and practices must evolve to more effectively engage communities. This study's findings identify and suggest new strategic public health policies to shift the practice of all-hazards preparedness into routine, everyday life. Methods: Semi-structured interviews, focus groups and Thematic Analysis were used to investigate the interactions between participant groups: emergency responders and animal owners. Results: Three policies designed to improve human safety and well-being are proposed and discussed. These are (i) a new system of workplace leave, (ii) an innovative regime of financial incentives for fire-ready properties, and (iii) review of the use of firebreaks on farms and rural blocks. Conclusion: Policies proposed in this research aim to proactively narrow the awareness-preparedness gap and build adaptive capacity to minimise risk to human health in all-hazards contexts. Further research could evaluate the efficacy of trialled public policy. Implications for public health: These new policies seek to contribute to establishing and maintaining a culture of preparedness as a routine aspect of everyday life, and thus promote and protect public health in the short, medium and long terms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-400
Number of pages6
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
Issue number4
Early online date15 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2019. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • bushfire
  • preparedness
  • public health policy
  • emergency responders
  • animal owners

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