13 December 2023

Owner and director of Macarthur General Practice, Dr Ken McCroary, and Alyssa Horgan from SWSPHN’s Disaster Response team, take a look through the guide.


Guidance to ensure general practices in South Western Sydney have up-to-date and tested disaster response plans in place to enable them to continue to care for patients during a disaster, is now available.

SWSPHN created the Practice Disaster Planning Guide which is available on our website as a PDF.

The guide is one of the initiatives we’ve developed in response to new PHN responsibilities to put measures in place to support community and general practice in particular, in times of disaster like bushfires and flood.

Another resource is the Your health matters in a disaster flyer. The flyer was created to provide our community with practical advice to ensure their health isn’t forgotten during a disaster, in addition to information about access to services.

It outlines five simple steps your patients can use to take control of their health during challenging and disrupted times. It is available as a webpage or a pdf.

The Practice Disaster Planning Guide contains important checklists on preparing your practice, patients and staff for a disaster, SWSPHN-subsidised training options for frontline staff, step-by-step instructions on what to do during a disaster, and a recovery checklist.

The guide also includes specific information for patients with chronic disease, mental health support options, and other resources to provide patients with information or support during a disaster.

SWSPHN Chief Executive Officer, Dr Keith McDonald PhD, said most general practice emergency planning guides focused on business continuity.

“While business continuity is really important, it is also essential we focus on how a disaster affects general practice staff and patients, and what can be done to better prepare and plan for emergency events,” he said.

“After undertaking research and consulting with disaster experts, we’ve added advice about caring for patients who have chronic conditions.”

The guide also shows where tasks align with RACGP accreditation standards, making it easier for practices to identify where and how standards have been met.

Dr McDonald said the guide had been created to adapt with how practices want to use it.

“Although tables have been created for ease of use, it’s editability means existing information such as contact lists or sections of policies and procedures can be cut and pasted so the guide is tailored to meet the needs of the practice without duplication,” he said.

You can arrange for our Disaster Response team to visit your office to help you initiate the plan by emailing alyssa.horgan@swsphn.com.au.

Additional resources:

Disaster management support for practices, including:


08 December 2023

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Bushfires are as Aussie as barbecues and coastal getaways. They’re a summer companion, albeit an unwelcome one.

While the threat of bushfires – particularly when the mercury soars – is constant, commonsense, a plan and some preparation can temper the risks.

As Australia heads into the 2023-24 summer, the Bureau of Meteorology has updated its long-range forecast overview highlighting the drivers for a potentially bad bushfire season.

Until February:

  • Rainfall is likely to be below average
  • Maximum and minimum temperatures are very likely to be above average
  • Maximum and minimum temperatures are at least 2.5 times more likely than normal to be unusually high

In August, NSW Rural Fire Service (NSWRFS) Commissioner Rob Rogers said: “Wet weather over the last three years has caused prolific growth, and as we move out of this incredibly wet period the bushfire risk is returning to NSW.”

Assessing the risk of bushfire in and around your community is the first step to keeping you and your family safe during the bushfire season.

The second step is a plan.  

“Everybody needs to start preparing for bush fire season as we start to see fire activity on the rise across NSW,” Emergency Services Minister Jihad Dib said recently.

“Our Rural Fire Service volunteers are ready to respond to emergencies 365 days of the year, and it’s every landowner’s responsibility to be equally prepared for the threat of fire.”

Simple steps to prepare your health for disaster 

In response to natural disasters like bushfires and flood, SWSPHN has taken on new responsibilities to put measures in place to support our community in times of emergency.

One of those measures is a flyer which provides practical advice about preparing your health for disaster, as well as information about access to services. 

The flyer, Your health matters in a disaster, outlines five simple steps to help you and your family prepare in case a disaster occurs.

Find out more by downloading the media release and/ or flyer.

We have also developed a Practice Disaster Planning Guide to better prepare not only general practices, but staff and their patients in the event of a natural disaster.

The guide contains important checklists on how to prepare, step-by-step instructions on what to do during a disaster and a checklist for recovery.

Download the guide

Owner and director of Macarthur General Practice, Dr Kenneth McCroary, is reviewing the new guide by Alyssa Horgan from SWSPHN’s Disaster Response team.

Know your fire risk

Many Australians love incorporating nature into their lifestyle.

You may live in a rural or semi-rural area, near bushland, or enjoy trees and a flourishing garden on your block.

But the reality is you don’t need to be in the path of a bushfire to be at risk.

Ember attack is the most common cause of building damage or destruction from bushfires.

At least 80 per cent of properties in a bushfire are damaged due to embers.

  • Fire embers can spread many kilometres from the location of a large bushfire, causing smaller spot fires to break-out
  • Radiant heat can be felt more than 100m from a large bushfire and can melt or fracture objects including parts of cars and glass windows

The NSW Rural Fire Service has released a guide to help you to assess your bushfire risk, based on the type of area in which you live.

It details fire risks based on homes in bushland, near paddocks and grassland, where the bush or grasslands meet built-up areas and near the coast.

Evaluate your bushfire risk here.

You also should check your local council website and search for the Bush Fire Prone Land Map.

Minimise your fire risk

Being fire-ready is a routine you should practice all year round.

Your home is your largest investment, and some simple steps can protect it if a bushfire threatens and give you peace of mind.

There’s no guarantee it will be saved if the bushfire is ferocious, but it will stand a better chance if fire hazards around your property are reduced:

  • Trim overhanging trees and shrubs.
  • Mow grass and remove the cuttings. Have a cleared area around your home.
  • Remove material that can burn around your home, such as door mats, wood piles and mulch.
  • Clear and remove all the debris and leaves from the gutters surrounding your home.
  • Prepare a sturdy hose or hoses that will reach all around your home.

NSWRFS has a prepare your home factsheet for more information about how to fire-proof your home.

The CSIRO has a great resource, bushfire best practice guide. While it is designed for Victorians its suggestions on how to improve the bushfire resilience of your home and garden applies to all Australians.

The Healthdirect website also has some practical bushfire health and safety tips.

NSWRFS recommends four simple steps to ensure you are prepared for a bushfire threat. They also remove the panic when the threat becomes real.

Discuss: Know what you and your family will do if a fire threatens your home or property.

Prepare: Get your home and property ready for bushfire season, by keeping the grass low and clearing an area around your home.

Know: Be mindful of the Bush Fire Alert Levels and the Fire Danger Rating. These will give you an indication of how dangerous a fire near you will be.

Keep: In a bush fire, stay up to date on the situation in your area. It is important you do not rely on one source of information.

Bushfires – what do you do?

A practical Australian bushfire protocol to follow is:

  • Plan
  • Act
  • Recover

Plan: Assess your bushfire risk, consult with your household, and maybe your neighbours, and prepare a written plan of what you will do in a bushfire emergency: at what point will you leave your house, what will you take, where will you go and how will you get there. The NSWRFS has put together a guide to assist with your bushfire survival plan.

Prepare a survival kit and keep it updated and handy. The kit will save you time whether you’re packing to leave or preparing to stay and defend. It should include practical items such as a first-aid kit, shovel, bucket, hoses and smoke masks.

You should also pack an emergency kit if you plan to leave your home during a bushfire threat. The Red Cross has a preparation checklist of things to pack. It’s also a good idea to keep key documents in a safe place away from your home or saved online so you can access them when needed.

The Red Cross has emergency preparedness plan guides for people with different circumstances such as chronic illness, children, people with a physical disability and older people.

If there is the threat of a bushfire nearby, there are a number of websites and apps you can link into for weather and fire updates or accessible transport routes.

The Service NSW website provides emergency warnings and advice. Healthdirect has a list of emergency apps and online tools, while NSW Health also has a list of emergency numbers to call during a disaster.

Don’t forget your pets or stock need a contingency plan for the threat of bushfire. Take early action to protect or relocate them to a safe area.

Act: If you know there are bushfires in your region, act at once. Fires can start and move quickly, and a threat can be swift and limit options.

There are a few initial steps you should implement:

  • Monitor conditions outside. Your view from the front or back door can give you a sign of a bushfire nearby and the wind direction can tell you if it’s coming your way
  • Stay informed. Listen to the radio or check websites and apps. Keep all bush fire information numbers, websites and the smartphone apps in an easy-to-find place
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing made from natural fibres like wool, denim or heavy cotton and sturdy boots
  • Action your bushfire survival plan. If you don’t have a plan, you should leave early. Inform family and friends of your decision

Leaving early is always the safest option. Authorities now recommend this course of action. Make sure you are prepared if you plan on staying to protect your property.

The CSIRO advises that understanding the risks associated with bushfire will help you prepare your property.

Check out the NSWRFS bushfire factsheets for more information on bushfire safety. They are also available in languages other than English.

Recover: The days after a bushfire has swept through and destroyed a community are surreal. The landscape is grey, black and charred – and so are human spirits.

Even if your home and property haven’t been destroyed, there is still a foreboding of gloom and despair. The task ahead – coming to terms with loss, the clean-up and the rebuilding of not just your home and community but your life – takes time to get your head around.

Your capacity is diminished – while your spirit recovers.

While the effects of a disaster are immediate and localised, they often last for months. Even years. They include human, material, economic and environmental losses and impacts.

The Australian national bushfire health and wellbeing survey, conducted by Australian National University researchers, found the Black Summer bushfires across NSW in 2019–20 led to extensive mental health problems which persisted for more than 18 months after the devastating events.

Maintaining your mental health in challenging times is vital during and for recovery. Health Resource Directory has some good advice in its factsheet mental health during a disaster. Healthdirect also has good advice for all types of disasters and emergencies.

The Australian Red Cross has a checklist toolkit, recover from disaster, which offers useful information and guides those affected by disaster through some of those important steps in the days and months following. They include cleaning up, coping with a crisis, returning home and dealing with disaster anniversaries.

Service NSW also has links to practical advice and support in the aftermath of disasters as does SWSPHN (Mental and Emotional Support for People Affected by Bushfires).

Following a bushfire, whatever your decision is – to stay and rebuild, or start again elsewhere – be rest assured: there is support for you and your family, to get back on your feet and move forward and regain your joy of life.

For more information, visit:

NSW RFS – NSW Rural Fire Service

Service NSW

South Western Sydney Local Health District

NSW Health

Australian Red Cross | Act for humanity

National Emergency Management Agency

Trusted Health Advice | healthdirect

Health Resource Directory

08 December 2023

As we head into another potential tinderbox bushfire season, disaster management experts are reminding the South Western Sydney community preparation is the key to safety and survival.

South Western Sydney Primary Health Network (SWSPHN) has developed a flyer to make it easier for our community to ensure planning for their healthcare needs is part of those preparations.

The flyer provides practical advice to ensure your health isn’t forgotten during a disaster, as well as information about access to services. It is available as a webpage or a pdf.

SWSPHN Acting Chief Executive Officer, Kristen Short, said the old saying “forewarned is forearmed” rang true around natural disasters and emergencies.

“If you are prepared, the panic is removed, and with a plan already in place you are better able to deal with extreme conditions and challenges,” she said.

“Our flyer, Your health matters in a disaster, outlines five simple steps to help you and your family prepare health-wise in case of a disaster in your community.”

During and in the aftermath of a disaster, existing illnesses can become worse: prescriptions may be left behind if you’re forced to evacuate and access to medical services might be limited.

Here are some steps to take control of your health during challenging and disrupted times:

  1. My Health Record. SWSPHN advises people to install the “my health” app on your mobile device and ask your GP to store your medical information on My Health Record. In an emergency, health professionals can access your health records through My Health Record. My Health Record securely stores your medical history, allergies and medications online.
  2. Your medication. Active Script List (ASL) stores your prescriptions electronically. Your pharmacist or GP can then access these scripts in an emergency. In a declared disaster, pharmacists have permission to dispense certain medications without a prescription.
  3.  Seeing a doctor. If you have a chronic illness, getting health advice in an emergency is a priority. If your regular GP is not available, you can search for a nearby doctor on the healthdirect website or call 1800 022 222 to speak with a health professional for advice. To find after-hours medical services in South Western Sydney, visit the SWSPHN website.
  4.  Look after your mental health. Your mental wellbeing can take a battering during a disaster or emergency. You can access mental health support at headtohealth.gov.au or call 1800 595 212 during business hours. Lifeline has 24/7 crisis support by calling 13 11 14.
  5.  Making an emergency health plan. A health plan is just as important in a disaster as emergency and survival plans. The Person-Centered Emergency Preparedness (P-CEP) tool can be used by anyone, including people with a disability.

Ms Short said: “SWSPHN’s role in a disaster is to work with the community to prepare and respond to an emergency together and, ultimately, protect and improve the health of our region”.

30 November 2023

SWSPHN representatives attended the Community Services Networking Day at Wollondilly Shire Hall in Picton last week.  

Our Integration and Priority Populations Manager Ben Neville attended the event alongside Suicide Prevention Program Coordinator Luke Swain and Integration and Priority Populations Coordinator Alyssa Horgan.  

The event brought together service providers, other council representatives and Local Health District representatives.  

The goal of the networking day was to support community service organisations, and provided SWSPHN with an opportunity to connect with various services and share information.  

All three SWSPHN representatives delivered presentations on the day.  

  • Mr Swain discussed targeted regional initiatives for suicide prevention.  
  • Miss Horgan shared insights on disaster preparedness and recovery for the community.  
  • Mr Neville focused on health considerations for growth areas.  

Each presentation was followed by a five-minute Q&A session. 


For further information on the topics covered during the networking day: 

19 October 2023

The below disaster training resources are available at no cost to practices in South Western Sydney.


Phoenix Australia

Cost-free online training is available to GPs and frontline staff. This is fully subsidised by South Western Sydney PHN until 30 June 2024.

Psychological First Aid

This psychosocial support activity helps people affected by an emergency, disaster or traumatic event. It can be applied following a disaster, and is widely used in the weeks, months and years following trauma. Upon successful completion of the online self-paced training, participants receive a Certificate of Attendance signifying they have the skills and knowledge to become a PFA provider.

Vicarious Trauma

Experiencing stress and adversity can have direct consequences on mental health and impact every aspect of our lives. Indirect exposure to other people’s trauma, including through repeated exposure to written or visual details of traumatic events, can have the same harmful effects. This is referred to as vicarious trauma. Some occupations are at increased risk. This course introduces a framework to help guide you in the development of healthy individual and work practices to build resilience and mitigate risk.

Trauma Informed Care

If you work in an environment where colleagues or clients have been impacted by traumatic events, you may notice changes in their behaviour and performance which is harmful to the individual, colleagues, and productivity. A trauma informed care organisation promotes workplace wellbeing through mindful policies, procedures and environments.


Email disastermanagement@swsphn.com.au to register.

Subsidised participation is limited.


Resilience NSW

Resilience NSW offers the following free online emergency management training courses:

NSW Emergency Management Training

This foundational online course empowers you to understand emergency management in NSW. Across four modules, you will cover the different emergency management plans that govern an emergency response and the roles of different organisations.


NSW Emergency Management Training is a prerequisite to a catalogue of additional training programs, including:

Introduction to Emergency Management

An overview of the emergency management roles and responsibilities of relevant government and community agencies in NSW and the general concepts and structure of emergency management under the NSW Emergency Management Arrangements.


Evacuation Management

Using a risk treatment strategy, learners acquire the skills and knowledge to contribute to the selection, planning, implementation and management of evacuations in a community experiencing one or more disasters.



South Western Sydney LHD

Major Incident Emergency Management Medical Support (MIMMS)

MIMMS is a globally recognised training program. It teaches a systematic approach to a multiple casualty incident. This approach can be applied to any major incident. The emphasis is on scene management. The course is based on developing the practical skills health professionals can use in management of health and casualties in a disaster or major incident. The MIMMS approach provides consistency and ensures responders are prepared and understand the operational management structure they are working within, both inside the hospital and out in the field.

One-day workshops are made available to primary care periodically. Email disastermanagement@swsphn.com.au to request notification of the next available MIMMS training.