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Extreme heat, bushfires and air quality

The University has planned for extreme conditions during the El Niño weather event this summer, including measures to be deployed in the event of a heatwave, poor air quality or bushfires.

El Niño declared for the 2023/2024 summer

On 19 September, the Bureau of Meteorology formally announced an El Niño event for Australia during the 2023/2024 summer. This means that parts of Australia will likely experience warmer and drier conditions with minimal rainfall, increasing the risk of heatwaves and fire danger.

Your health and wellbeing is paramount. In the lead up to and during summer, we'll follow the forecasting guidelines of the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) to ensure our community stays safe during extreme weather. We have emergency responses in place in the case of severe heat, poor air quality and bushfire events. We will proactively communicate with you when there is a change to campus access and activities due to weather-related conditions, and what you need to do to stay safe.

Campus operations

An El Niño event increases the risk of unusually hot weather and heatwaves. Warmer weather can affect everyone; however, some people are at greater risk than others. 

Our Central Operations Services team has reviewed the available air-conditioning systems across our campuses, and where the best indoor locations on campus are for offering respite from the high temperatures outdoors.

Teaching and exam spaces have been prioritised to ensure minimal disruption if you’re studying over the summer, and when you return in Semester 1, 2024. If you require adjustments, you can visit the special consideration and arrangements page for more information.

University libraries will be closed during the shutdown period, 23 December 2023 to 7 January 2024. The Library website has information about opening hours outside of the shutdown period.

Cooling down on campus

If you need to cool down, you can visit one of our air-conditioned study spaces. The following spaces are open 24/7: 

  • Abercrombie Learning Hub
  • Brennan MacCallum Learning Hub
  • Carslaw Learning Hub East
  • PNR Learning Hub
  • Camden Access Lab

In the event of extreme heat or poor air quality, the University may make alternative arrangements for classes and learning activities, including remote learning, to ensure the health and wellbeing of students and staff, and to minimise disruption.

Fire danger

The University regularly meets with emergency services to test and refine our planning and response to emergencies, including fires at or around all of our campuses. Familiarise yourself with what to do in the event of an emergency on our campuses.

The NSW Rural Fire Service has many resources online to help you understand bushfires, know your risk, and how to prepare in case of an emergency.

Prepare and plan

Find out if you are at risk of bushfires in your area and more information on how you can plan and prepare for bushfire season.

Fire alerts

Check up-to-date fire alerts and warnings to see if you are in immediate risk.

Fire Danger Rating

The Fire Danger Rating system helps you understand bushfire dangers and what you should do to mitigate risk.

Fire bans

A total fire ban is declared to limit the potential of fires developing. View an interactive map showing where there is a total fire ban due to conditions.

The Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council has resources online to help get your mob bushfire ready.

You can also download the Hazards Near Me NSW app for current information and alerts about local emergencies provided by emergency services.

Air quality

In the event of bushfires and hazard-reduction burning, the resulting smoke affects the quality of the air. Bushfire smoke can travel quite far, so even when the fire is not in your immediate area, your wellbeing may be impacted and you may experience eye irritation, a sore through or a cough. There are several steps you can take to protect yourself from bushfire smoke during times when there is poor air quality.

To view the latest information on air quality in the Greater Sydney Metropolitan region, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment provide hourly updates along with a daily air quality forecast at 4 pm each day. You can also visit Air Quality NSW, a new dedicated air quality website from the government with real-time air quality data and information.

Smoke from bushfires can also set off building fire alarms. It is extremely important that all fire alarms are treated as real emergencies and evacuation procedures are adhered to. 

Your health and wellbeing

Visit the NSW Health website to learn the signs of heat-related illness and when you might need to seek medical help.

If you develop symptoms related to extremely poor air quality or severe heat and are concerned about your health, please call the 24-hour HealthDirect helpline on 1800 022 222 or in an emergency call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.

Our student wellbeing team offer a range of confidential and free health, wellbeing, and personal support, and are available 24/7.

Read more about our recommendations to beat the heat and keep cool.

Last updated: 20 November 2023

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