What a public health emergency is
It is important that we manage all potential human health impacts when national emergencies happen, such as:
- natural disasters like bushfires, cyclones, earthquakes, floods or tsunamis
- plane, train or other major transport accidents involving mass casualties
- chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear incidents of national significance
- bombing or armed attacks
- communicable disease outbreaks.
In Australia, state and territory health authorities manage the on-the-ground response ,within their jurisdictions, in a health emergency. We coordinate the national health response. through the National Incident Centre, when an emergency has a national or international impact.
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) provides advice on health protection matters to mitigate emerging health threats in a national health emergency. Learn more about this committee and its role in advising the Australian Government on health protection issues.
We can't predict exactly when health emergencies will occur, or exactly how they might unfold. So, it’s important to be prepared and have a coordinated approach to:
- managing consistent and appropriate responses between states and territories
- managing the extra load on our health system
- reducing the effect on the health of Australians.
Some emergencies may lead to longer-term health or environmental impacts, in addition to the immediate threat or impact. For example, bushfires can affect respiratory health for many Australians, as well as causing significant damage to the environment.
Emergency management in Australia
Various agencies are involved in broader emergency management in Australia, including:
- Home Affairs, which:
- safeguards Australia’s essential everyday services such as: energy, food, water, transport, communications, health, banking and finance. This is done through the Critical Infrastructure Resilience Strategy and the Cyber and Infrastructure Security Centre
- coordinates responses to and recovery from disasters and emergencies
- includes the National Emergency Management Agency – supports communities affected by disaster
- Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) – protects the Australian people and the environment from the harmful effects of radiation
- state and territory governments – manage frontline emergency responses involving police, fire, health and emergency services. Each state or territory has a health disaster plan that helps coordinate their health facilities when responding to situations.
Our role in emergency management covers a range of activities, planning and support. Find out what we’re doing about emergency health management.