An evidence-based approach to protect public health during prolonged fires

James Stewart-Evans*, Andrew Kibble, Laura Mitchem

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Fires pose a potential risk to public health from exposure to products of combustion. The default initial public health advice is often for people to shelter indoors and minimise exposure. Controlled burn strategies are used when active fire-fighting is impossible or to minimise environmental impacts, but operational guidance recognises that the protection of people should take precedence. Prolonged fires extend the duration of potential public exposure. Effective incident management requires a multi-Agency operational response that is informed by public health risk assessments. This paper sets out a universal approach, focused on assessing and minimising acute risks to health. Using England as an illustration, it discusses the differing roles of responders, the necessity of active exposure assessment and health surveillance, and criteria for decision-making and risk mitigation. When environmental monitoring is undertaken, health-based screening levels can aid risk assessment and day-To-day incident management; their operational application deserves further evaluation and development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Emergency Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Controlled Burns
  • Emergency Management
  • Emergency Response
  • Exposure Assessment
  • Fires
  • Health Surveillance
  • Products Of Combustion
  • Public Health Risk Assessment
  • Risk Management.
  • Smoke


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