Asbestos is a potential hazard when returning to bushfire affected properties.
State and territories have issued advice and these links are provided below for your information.
Asbestos is present in as many as 1 in 3 homes built prior to 1990, as well as many public buildings built in that time, and in natural disasters like fires formally bonded asbestos fibres can easily become loose and airborne.
The most likely time that exposure to asbestos could occur is during the building clean-up or demolition phase, when debris and materials are moved extensively. However, exposure can also occur when walking around the site to assess damage. It is strongly recommended that personal protective equipment is worn. (see example of type of equipment here).
There are precautionary measures that the public can take to protect themselves as much as possible, and authorities have advised on this.
Advice common across all Commonwealth, state and territory responsible authorities includes:
- Take all advice from emergency and clean up personnel on the ground
- Do not enter your property until you are advised that it is safe
- Wear a P2 face mask and protective clothing (such as sturdy boots and gloves) – whether you believe asbestos may be present or not.
- Keep children (and animals) clear of the site
- Building rubble should not be buried as it may contain hazardous materials including asbestos
- Don't spread ash and debris around your property, or move it extensively, particularly if asbestos materials were used in your home or other structures
- Moisten the ash with water to minimise dust and keep damp but do not use high pressure water sprays
Important and useful information:
From state and territory governments:
NSW Government - SafeWork NSW: Fact Sheet: Property Hazards Following Bushfires
Victorian Government: After a fire: asbestos hazards fact sheet
Worksafe Victoria: Bushfires: information about bushfires and the workplace
NT Government: Asbestos during fires
QLD Government: Returning home after a bushfire
QLD Government: Asbestos and fires
SA Government: Fire and water damage
WA Government: Fire recovery