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East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service logo

Health concerns during incidents


We work with health experts at incidents where there may be an impact on public health.  

The information here is of a general nature and we always recommend you check media, social media, local radio and TV stations for advice and information about incidents near you.  (See below for useful links). If there is an immediate danger, an evacuation operation may be considered and this is likely to involve Sussex Police.

We also want to highlight that it is not the role of the Fire and Rescue Service to routinely assess air quality. This is usually undertaken by local authorities.


Advice from Public Health England (PHE) recognises that smoke can irritate air passages, the skin and the eyes, leading to coughing and wheezing, breathlessness and chest pain.  

It can also aggravate asthma, and, in some cases, the acrid smell and air pollution can cause headaches, nausea and dizziness.  

PHE usually advises people in areas affected by the smoke to stay indoors, keep doors and windows closed, and check media, social media, local radio and TV stations for advice and information.  

In simple terms:  

  • stay indoors, keep doors and windows closed 
  • avoid areas affected by any smoke or ash 
  • limit the time spent in them 

In general, exposure to smoke is more likely to affect people who have existing breathing problems, lung or heart conditions. The very young and very old, smokers and people with flu or flu-like illnesses may also be at greater risk after exposure to smoke from fires.  

To minimise your exposure, limit the amount of time you spend outside in the smoke. 

Chemical or Hazardous Material incidents

In a similar way to fires, we will seek specialist advice if there is a chemical or hazardous material (HazMat) incident. This will be shared with members of the public.

A Scientific and Technical Advice Cell, (also known as STAC), can be requested to be “stood up”. This cell is used to provide singular scientific support to Incident Commanders from all agencies.

In the event of an acute chemical incident, you can call PHE on 0300 303 3049 or 0844 892 0555 (emergency out of hours number).  

Seek help

If any symptoms persist seek medical advice by calling NHS 111 or by contacting your General Practitioner (GP). If a medical consultant is already treating an existing health condition, discuss your concerns and symptoms with them. In the case of an emergency call 999.  

Useful links

Latest Update :
11 August 2020
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