University Of Tasmania
141067 - Public health messaging during extreme smoke events.pdf (3.47 MB)
Download file

Public health messaging during extreme smoke events: are we hitting the mark?

Download (3.47 MB)
Background: Emergency services working to protect communities from harm during wildfires aim to provide regular public advisories on the hazards from fire and smoke. However, there are few studies evaluating the success of public health communications regarding the management of smoke exposure. We explored the responses to smoke-related health advisories of people living in a severely smoke-affected region during extensive wildfires in Tasmania, Australia early in 2019. We also evaluated the acceptability of portable high efficiency particle air (HEPA) cleaners used in study participant’s homes during the smoky period.

Methods: We conducted semi-structured interviews with 24 households in the Huon Valley region of Tasmania following a severe smoke episode. These households were initially recruited into a HEPA cleaner study. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed for common themes using an inductive framework approach.

Results: Public health messaging during the 2019 wildfire event in Tasmania was widely shared and understood, with social media playing a central role. However, some participants expressed concerns about the timeliness and effectiveness of the recommended interventions, and some would have appreciated more detailed information about the health risks from smoke. Public messages and actions to protect households from wildfire threat were, at times, contradictory or dominated in coverage over the smoke messaging, and many participants were conflicted with the multiple public messages and action relating to the more serious perceived threat from the fire.

Conclusions: Public messaging about smoke and health should continue to use multiple avenues of communication, with a focus on simple messages provided through social media. Messaging about the smoke hazard should be available from a trusted central source regarding all aspects of the wildfire emergency, with links to more detailed information including local air quality data alongside interpretation of the associated health risks.


Publication title

Frontiers in Public Health



Article number









Menzies Institute for Medical Research


Frontiers Research Foundation

Place of publication


Rights statement

Copyright 2020 Marfori, Campbell, Garvey, McKeown, Veitch, Wheeler, Borchers- Arriagada and Johnston. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Public health (excl. specific population health) not elsewhere classified