A message from the President

Date published:
07 Jan 2020

As we begin 2020 I would like to acknowledge the enormous impact the Australian bushfires are having across Australia and I am sure I am reflecting the concerns held by my fellow Directors. 

To date 23 lives have been lost and more than 1,500 homes have been destroyed as fires, some with flames higher than a 20-storey building, continue to burn across New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia and Queensland. In total they have destroyed an area larger than the entire south-east of England. This interactive map shows the enormity of the scale. 

Thousands of people have had to evacuate their homes and take shelter from the fires at evacuation centres and even on beaches, with no power or phone signal. 

Blackened skies and unbreathable air is affecting many states and territories around Australia and over the weekend Australia was named as having the worst air quality in the world, with parts of the country choking in pollution 12 times above the minimum hazardous levels. 

Smoke from the Australian bushfires has even reached New Zealand, prompting a flood of calls to emergency services. 

Amid the disaster wrecked upon people and towns it is estimated that nearly half a billion animals have died in the fires and many more have had their habitat destroyed. 
I would like to acknowledge the tireless work of our firefighters and emergency services that have been working for months to tackle this crisis, and their work will continue for some time to come. 

I am also mindful that many members may be actively affected by this crisis and involved in treating victims or working as volunteer firefighters. Please don’t hesitate to make use of your College’s resources in this time of crisis. 

Are you actively involved? 

Our Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine is interested in knowing if any of our members are actively engaged in this area of occupational medicine. The ability to be able to gather data that can help to assist firefighters in their work is important, particularly given the tragedy unfolding across the country and the very real potential for more situations to occur. 

Please contact the AFOEM office if you work with firefighting services to find out more about the development (currently testing in the UK and the US) of a wearable device for physiological monitoring of fire fighters (temperature, movement, heart rate, etc) which can be integrated with communications systems. 

Yours sincerely, 

Associate Professor Mark Lane 
RACP President

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