Our region experiences a range of natural disasters including floods, bushfires, drought and pandemics. These emergencies can pose a risk to business continuity in general practice. It is a requirement of the RACGP Standards for General Practice that practices compile and maintain an emergency response plan.
Tips for being better prepared:
- Develop an up-to-date emergency response plan.
- Trial and exercise your plan on a regular basis.
- Contact other primary health care providers in your area to connect and offer mutual support.
- Have a plan in place to send communications to patients about service disruptions or changes.
Further information and resources:
Preparing your practice for a natural disaster or other emergency
During a disaster, WNSW PHN is here to help you tackle some of the many challenges that may arise.
- Our Practice Development Team are your first point of call. They are here to help understand your needs and challenges during this difficult time. They will liaise with other teams within the WNSW PHN on your behalf, and provide you with assistance, resources and support to help your practice get back on track.
- Our Digital Health Team can help support you to deliver Telehealth services to your community if your practice site has been affected by a disaster.
- Our HealthPathways portal is a useful tool and holds information and resources to help you and your patients.
- Our Communications team can assist you in promoting your services, specific messaging and change of circumstances (eg site, operational hours etc) through our regular newsletters and social media channels. They can also assist in communicating recovery and evacuation sites in your area, use emergency contacts and available support services.
- Our team can also help communicate what support mechanisms are available to you, your staff and your community.
Health Risks during a disaster
There are specific health-related risks that arise in communities during disasters that general practices should be aware of.
Keep up to date with relevant alerts and warnings during a disaster
- Bureau of Meteorology – National warnings summary
- NSW Rural Fire Service – Fires Near Me
- NSW State Emergency Service
- NSW Transport Live Traffic
- ABC Radio
We know that post-disasters, recovery can be a long journey. Not only is there often the physical rebuilding of infrastructure, but also the long-term support necessary to strengthen the mental health of those affected by the disaster.
How WNSW PHN can help you
WNSW PHN are here to support you and your community to get back to health.
- We can support trauma-informed care on the ground (bring in psychologists through grants and commissioning).
- We represent general practice in the regional recovery committees.
- We may have local service and grant funding packages to assist in the recovery phase of a disaster – see our Grants page for any available packages.
- We can assist in promoting services available through our regular newsletters and social media channels.
Medical Benevolent Association of NSW
In the aftermath of a disaster, if you, a family member or a colleague are in need of support, contact the Medical Benevolent Association of NSW to arrange a confidential chat with either a Social Worker or Counsellor, to discuss how MBANSW may be able to assist.
MBANSW provides a confidential, non-judgemental avenue of support for doctors and their loved ones, and may be able to assist by providing counselling support, referral/advocacy and financial assistance.
What is emergency preparedness?
Emergency preparedness means taking action to be ready for emergencies before they happen. The objective of emergency preparedness is to simplify decision making during emergencies.
How should I prepare for an emergency?
Develop an up-to-date emergency response plan. Be sure to include the following in your plan:
- Where to shelter
- A route for evacuation
- Getting emergency alerts and warnings
- Communication (how you will receive information/alerts, and how you will communicate to your patients)
Emergency preparedness is also an individual responsibility. We encourage that all your staff are familiarised with the plans and precautions currently in place at your practice, but also to become aware of the measures they need to take to protect themselves and others in an emergency situation.
How often should I review my emergency plan?
Emergency plans should be dynamic and routinely reviewed and updated to reflect an ever-changing environment. Ensure you are familiar with your emergency plan leading into the pre-seasons (i.e. review your Bushfire Emergency Plan in Spring).
What happens if we need to evacuate?
In the event of a fire, flood or other disaster it may be hard to think clearly. Staying informed can help you make better decisions if you need to evacuate.
If you’re concerned about your safety, don’t wait to be told to evacuate, prepare and leave early.
- The best way to know if you need to leave is to monitor your local ABC radio station, television broadcasts, emergency service updates and weather warnings. Remember, if mobile or power networks are down, a battery-operated radio and radio broadcasts may be your primary source of information.
- If there's time before you leave, turn off the power, gas, water, and lock the doors and windows in your practice.
- Plan where you will evacuate to – whether that is with friends or family in a safe location, rented accommodation in a safe location, or an evacuation centre.
If an evacuation centre is open, the location will be communicated by the relevant emergency service. For an evacuation centre in a:
- Bushfire – Download the Hazards Near Me app, visit the Rural Fire Service (RFS) website or follow it on Facebook or Twitter.
- Storm – Visit the State Emergency Service (SES) website or phone 132 500 or follow it on Facebook or Twitter.
- Flood – Visit the State Emergency Service (SES) website or phone 132 500 or follow it on Facebook or Twitter.
- Check evacuation routes are open via the Live Traffic website or app.
- Advise family, friends or neighbours of your decision to leave and where you plan to evacuate to.