4818.0.55.001 - Household Preparedness for Emergencies: NSW, Vic., Qld and ACT, Oct 2007 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 06/06/2008  First Issue
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This publication presents results from the Household Preparedness for Emergencies survey which was conducted in New South Wales (NSW), Victoria (Vic.), Queensland (Qld), and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) during October 2007. The survey examined the steps households had taken in preparing for emergencies. These steps included safety precautions such as installing smoke alarms, ensuring emergency phone numbers were accessible and having an emergency plan. Where households had experienced a recent emergency (in the last 2 years), the survey investigated how they responded during the emergency and whether any changes were made to ensure better preparedness in the future.


The most common safety precaution that households had taken was to have smoke alarms or detectors installed in their homes. In each jurisdiction, 90% or more of homes had a smoke alarm installed (Vic. 97%, NSW 94%, Qld 94% and the ACT 90%).

State and territory legislation and building codes regarding smoke alarms are probably the main influences on the high proportion of homes with smoke alarms. In NSW, Vic. and Qld, it is (and was at the time of the survey) mandatory for all homes, new and old to have smoke alarms installed. In the ACT, it is mandatory for new homes and those undergoing significant renovations to have smoke alarms installed.

Electrical safety switches or circuit breakers were the second most common safety precaution. These were present in over three quarters of homes in the ACT (79%), NSW (76%) and Vic. (75%) and in 90% of homes in Qld.

As with smoke alarms, the proportion of dwellings with safety switches was influenced by jurisdictional legislation and building codes. It is (and was at the time of the survey) mandatory to have safety switches installed in new homes and those undergoing renovations or rewiring work in NSW, Vic. and ACT. In Qld all homes built since 1992 must have safety switches installed, whilst all properties which have changed ownership or are leased to tenants are required to have safety switches to be installed within 3 months and 6 months respectively.

Presence of selected safety precautions, Household estimates - October 2007
Graph: Presence of selected safety precautions, Household estimates—October 2007

Aside from these legislated safety precautions, more than half the homes across all the surveyed jurisdictions had a portable first aid kit and around one-third had a household member with a current first aid qualification.

A written or rehearsed emergency plan was the least common safety precaution implemented by households in Vic. (15%), ACT (15%) and NSW (13%). In Qld the two least implemented precautions were fire blankets (19%) and a written or rehearsed emergency plan (20%).

For NSW a greater proportion of households in balance of state NSW had taken non-legislated safety precautions compared to households within Sydney. In Qld there was no significant difference between balance of state Qld and Brisbane in most implemented non-legislated safety precautions. The exception for Qld was written or rehearsed emergency plans, where in balance of state Qld 22% of households had an emergency plan compared to 17% of households in Brisbane.

In NSW and Vic. the biggest difference was in the proportion of homes with a portable first aid kit. While in both Melbourne and Sydney 54% of homes had a portable first aid kit, the balance of state for both jurisdictions reported higher proportions of homes with a portable first aid kit NSW (63%) and Vic. (60%).

In Qld, Vic. and NSW couple with children households were more likely than other household types to have a household member with a first aid qualification (Qld 53%, Vic. 43%, NSW 45%). These households were around 3 times more likely than lone person households to have a first aid qualification (16% in Qld, 15% in both NSW and Vic.)

In Qld and Vic. portable first aid kits were most commonly found in couple with children households (74% and 66% respectively). In NSW couple with children households (66%) and couple households (64%) were the household types most likely to have portable first aid kits.

Home ownership increased the likelihood of a household having the safety precautions to put out house fires, compared to homes that were rented. In particular, households who owned or were paying off their home were approximately twice as likely to have fire blankets and fire extinguishers compared to households who rented. This was evident in all of the jurisdictions surveyed.


Household members' easy access to appropriate emergency phone numbers can be crucial to fast contact with emergency services when they are required. Approximately one-third of all households in the surveyed jurisdictions, did not keep emergency phone numbers in a location for ease of use (Qld 39%, ACT 38%, NSW 36% and Vic. 30%).

The most common locations to keep emergency phone numbers for all jurisdictions, was either on the fridge or near the phone. Vic. had the highest proportion of households with emergency phone numbers located on the fridge (34%), followed by ACT (29%), NSW (28%) and Qld (24%).


An indicator of preparedness for emergencies is whether households have an emergency plan. Of the households with a perceived risk of bushfire, a majority of the surveyed jurisdictions, except Vic., did not have an emergency plan. In Vic. 54% of households who perceived themselves at risk of bushfire had an emergency plan (compared to 41% in both NSW and Qld and 35% in the ACT).

In each of the surveyed jurisdictions, approximately one-fifth of all households had at least one household member who would have difficulties evacuating without help in an emergency. This however did not increase the likelihood of those households having an emergency plan. Across all jurisdictions over 60% of households had a household member who would have difficulties evacuating did not have an emergency plan.

Households with one or more household members who volunteered in the emergency services were more likely to have an emergency plan than households with no volunteer household members. At the state and territory level, this was most evident in ACT and Vic. where 58% and 57%, respectively, of volunteer households had an emergency plan, compared to 30% and 28%, respectively, of non-volunteer households.


The ACT had the highest percentage of households (18%) who had experienced an emergency, in the two years prior to October 2007. This was followed by NSW (12%), Qld (10%) and Vic. (8%).

The most common type of emergency experienced in all jurisdictions surveyed was storm, wind or hail. Twelve percent of ACT households had experienced an emergency due to storm, wind or hail, compared to 7% of NSW households, 6% of Qld households and 3% of Vic. households.

MOST RECENT EMERGENCY(a), Household estimates - October 2007
Graph: MOST RECENT EMERGENCY(a), Household estimates—October 2007

Of the households who reported experiencing a recent emergency, approximately a quarter contacted emergency services in Vic. (24%), followed by NSW (21%), ACT (17%) and Qld (15%). The most commonly contacted emergency services were the Fire Service and the State Emergency Service.

Approximately half of Qld, NSW and Vic households who experienced emergencies implemented changes for better preparedness, compared to over a third of households who experienced an emergency in the ACT (37%) and made changes. These changes include installing and regularly testing smoke alarms, implementing an emergency plan and putting emergency phone numbers in an easily accessible place.