Date: 20 December 2016
Dear Service Provider,
Summer in Victoria brings dangers such as extreme heat and smoke from bushfires or planned burns that can impact on the health and wellbeing of Victorians. We value your continued assistance in promoting important health messages to the community to encourage proactive behaviours to manage the effects of heat and smoke over summer.
Extreme heat and heatwaves can affect anybody, especially those most at risk such as older people, babies and young children, pregnant and nursing mothers, people who are physically unwell or on medications for mental illness. Heat kills more Australians than any other natural disaster. Victoria experienced two significant heat events in 2009 and 2014. There were an estimated 374 and 167 excess deaths respectively, a reminder of the devastating impacts of extreme heat and heatwaves.
Smoke from bushfires and planned burns is a reality in Victoria, particularly during summer and autumn. Bushfire smoke can reduce air quality in rural and urban areas and can affect the health of many Victorians. Children, the elderly, smokers and people with pre-existing illnesses such as heart and lung conditions (including asthma) are more sensitive to the effects of breathing in the fine particles that may be found in smoke.
Planning and preparing for extreme weather conditions and knowing what to do to avoid or minimise exposure to smoke is critical in ensuring the health and wellbeing of all Victorians, especially the most vulnerable.
The department has a subscription service for the distribution of heat health alerts and other Chief Health Officer advisories and alerts. The Department of Health and Human Services issued health alerts for 10 days during the summer of 2015-2016. To subscribe to receive heat health alerts and advice about urgent public health issues and emergencies please go to www2.health.vic.gov.au/about/key-staff/chief-health-officer. This service is available to everyone – you, your clients, your colleagues, your stakeholders and your family. I encourage you to subscribe to receive alerts to ensure you are informed and prepared this summer.
I am pleased to provide you with information about a range of resources, including the department’s Survive the Heat and Smoke and Your Health communication resources. These resources can be ordered at no cost using the online order form, which is available from www2.health.vic.gov.au/public-health/environmental-health/climate-weather-and-public-health/heatwaves-and-extreme-heat/heatwave-community-resources. Information about additional resources such as Kids in Cars developed by the Department of Education and Training and Your Guide to Power Outages developed by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) has also been included.
Thank you for your continued assistance in promoting important health messages to protect people from the impacts of extreme heat and smoke from fires. Working together we can continue to improve the health of all Victorians during the summer period.
If you have any questions please contact the department’s Emergency Management Branch by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr Finn Romanes
Acting Chief Health Officer
16 / 12 / 2016