FEBRUARY 13, 2020

UPDATES

Firefighters in New South Wales reported today that fires in the region are either extinguished completely or under control, due in large part to recent rains. The country has shifted into rebuilding and recovery mode. To learn more about how you can help and to see how IFSA is contributing to the cause, read our story “Helping Australia Recover from the Bushfires.”

JANUARY 13, 2020

UPDATES

All students scheduled for arrival are onsite and the teaching term has begun; UNSW and University of Sydney are operating as normal and have released messaging to address smoke haze concerns.

The IFSA onsite staff have completed orientation, to include a comprehensive safety orientation and have worked with individual students to address any student-specific concerns about the current situation.

Classes will be only be canceled by hosting universities under hazardous conditions, but students with respiratory issues should ensure they exercise necessary caution and consult the host university if they require special accommodations.

Local institutions are guided by national and local health care experts and have emergency plans in place that are accessible on their websites.

The situation for students on the ground in Australia remains largely unchanged since our last report despite the upgrade of the U.S. State department travel advisory from Level 1 to Level 2: “Exercise Increased Caution.”  There is minimal threat from fires themselves and the greatest concern is fluctuating air quality.

The upgrade recognizes the unprecedented nature of the current bushfire season and the corresponding need to monitor air quality in various locations, which changes daily, and the U.S. State Department guidance matches IFSA’s.

The location of fires has not changed since our last update. Fires are located over 65 km from Sydney.

The state of emergency declared in NSW last week has concluded.

1 – 2 brief, controlled power outages occurred west of Sydney. The Australian Energy Market Operator released a notice on 4 January notifying consumers of this possibility.

On 8 January, CNN reported that the executive director of the Tourism Industry Council had compiled a list of places safe to visit during the bushfires and encouraged travel to Sydney, Melbourne, the Gold Coast and the Barrier Reef.

The University of Sydney and University of New South Wales have stated that there remains no threat from bushfire and that while there has been some smoke haze, the overall air quality remains good.

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s Air Quality Index has forecast an air quality of “fair” for 14 January.

Smoke conditions vary daily, and air quality has ranged from “poor” to “good” in the past week. Rain is forecast four days in the next week, which may further improve conditions.

MITIGATING ACTIONS

All students were offered P2 masks at orientation and given guidance on how to appropriately use them.  These filter 95% of particulate matter.

Students have participated in a comprehensive health and safety orientation and have been strongly discouraged from travel outside their host city during states of emergency. Students have been instructed to report all travel outside the city.

A new requirement is that all students are required to have a local phone number. This will enable them to receive any emergency alerts sent by local or national government and facilitate ease of communication with IFSA staff. However, telecommunications in rural areas may be spotty, reinforcing the need for students to refrain from travel during states of emergency.

In addition, IFSA will continue to look to the University of Sydney and University of New South Wales as well as the Sydney emergency services and the U.S. State Department for guidance.

JANUARY 6, 2020

SUMMARY

Spring 2020 January-start students without pre-arranged late arrival have all arrived safely and have participated in a detailed orientation in which there were targeted health and safety conversations on wildfires and related hazards. Late arrival students will receive the same orientation. The situation in Sydney surrounding bushfires remains largely unchanged since our last update.

Smoke conditions vary daily, and air quality has ranged from fair to poor in the past week. On 3 January, it rained in Sydney and additional rain is forecast today and at points throughout the next five days, which may lead to a slight improvement in conditions.

There remains no threat to Sydney from the fires themselves, the nearest of which is located at least 65 miles west of the city. Air quality varies daily; the forecast on 7 January is “fair.”

The Australian Energy Market Operator released a notice on 4 January asking consumers in in New South Wales to reduce energy usage and notifying them that controlled power outages may ensue.

The University of New South Wales and the University of Sydney will operate normally and do not anticipate an interruption to academics.

U.S. Department of State travel advisory for the region remains at Level I, the lowest risk level.

UPDATES

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s Air Quality Index has forecast an air quality of “fair” for 7 January. As noted, air quality fluctuates daily, and students are advised to monitor air quality reports and recommendations by official sources listed below.

Areas in which the University of New South Wales and University of Sydney campuses are located have often fluctuated between “good” and “fair” over the past 24 hours.

The New South Wales Government declared a state of emergency on 3 January in Australia which is scheduled to end in three days. As with the previous state of emergency, this has been put in place to give the fire services resources and flexibility in fighting constantly changing fire and weather conditions.

Sydney’s interior, where IFSA students are located, is unlikely to be significantly impacted by the state of emergency.

A state of emergency was also declared for seven days on November 11 of this year, but it did not have any impact on our Fall 2019 students, due to the students’ location in Sydney’s interior.

Due to fires burning in regions of New South Wales outside of Sydney, emergency services and the Australian Energy Market Operator requested on 4 January that residents of the state conserve power.  This means the IFSA students should avoid running multiple appliances at once and take care to turn off power sources that they are not using.

Although there is currently no impact on power, controlled outages may be implemented.  Students have been notified and instructed to keep their pones charged.

MITIGATING ACTIONS

All students were offered P2 masks at orientation and given guidance on how to appropriately use them.  These filter 95% of particulate matter.

Students have participated in a comprehensive health and safety orientation and have been strongly discouraged from travel outside their host city during states of emergency. Students have been instructed to report all travel.

All students are required to have a local phone number. This will enable them to receive any emergency alerts sent by local or national government and facilitate ease of communication with IFSA staff.

IFSA staff postponed a scheduled trip to the Blue Mountains pending better conditions.

In addition, IFSA will continue to look to the University of Sydney and University of New South Wales as well as the Sydney emergency services and the U.S. State Department for guidance.

DECEMBER 20, 2019

SUMMARY

The situation in Sydney surrounding bushfires remains largely unchanged since our last update and Spring 2020 January start programs will proceed as planned.

Smoke conditions vary daily, and air quality has ranged from good to hazardous this week.

There remains no threat from the fires themselves, the nearest of which is located at least 65 miles west of the city.

Consultation with the University of Sydney and University of New South Wales as well as correspondence with the U.S. Consulate in Sydney on 18 December indicate support for continued and uninterrupted programming.

The University of New South Wales and the University of Sydney have released formal notifications that they will operate normally and that they do not anticipate an interruption to academics.

U.S. Department of State travel advisory for the region remains at Level I, the lowest risk level.

UPDATES

The State of Emergency declared by the New South Wales Government on 19 December is scheduled to end on 26 December, prior to the students’ arrival. This has been put in place to give the fire services resources and flexibility in fighting constantly changing fire and weather conditions.

Sydney’s interior, where IFSA students are located, is unlikely to be significantly impacted by the state of emergency.

A state of emergency was also declared for seven days on November 11 of this year, but it did not have any impact on our Fall 2019 students, due to the students’ location in Sydney’s interior.

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s Air Quality Index has forecast an air quality of “poor” for December 20. Of note, air quality standards and ratings in Australia are stricter than those in the U.S., with lower thresholds for acceptable levels of potentially hazardous atmospheric particulate matter.

Areas in which the University of New South Wales and University of Sydney campuses are located have generally fluctuated between “good” and “fair” over the past 24 hours.

Students should nonetheless monitor air quality and take recommended precautions, included leveraging IFSA-provided P2 masks.

MITIGATING ACTIONS

As noted in the prior report, students will have the option to receive P2 masks which filter 95% of particulate matter and will receive a comprehensive and targeted safety orientation.

In addition, IFSA will continue to look to the University of Sydney and University of New South Wales as well as the Sydney emergency services and the State Department for guidance.

Students are currently located in a place where most people would be evacuated to, however, IFSA will work with onsite resources to move students to alternate housing locations if necessary. This would be unprecedented.

DECEMBER 16, 2019

Students studying on IFSA programs in Sydney may face challenges due to air quality, however, there is little threat posed from the fires themselves which are generally located over 60 miles from campus. Air quality has been rated hazardous at times, however it continues to fluctuate daily. It is advisable to monitor reports and to respond accordingly by remaining indoors, reducing activity levels, and / or wearing P2 masks provided by IFSA when necessary.

Despite a body of alarming international news reporting from December, the Guardian reported on December 13 that the Australian fire services expects to make slow progress in fighting the fires this season, despite the lack of rain and heat. The bushfire season generally lasts through March.

Of note, there is currently no state of emergency declared and the US Department of State travel advisory for the region remains at Level I, the lowest risk level.

All programs are currently proceeding as planned for the Spring 2020 semester which begins in January 2020.

CURRENT SITUATION

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s Air Quality Index has forecast an air quality of “fair” for December 17. However, as temperatures are expected to rise in the next week with no rain, thus fires may prompt some days of poor or hazardous air quality. Conditions change regularly.

The University of New South Wales and University of Sydney are both operating as normal and have not expressed any intention of cancelling classes or halting activities for the coming semester.

MITIGATING ACTIONS

IFSA will provide P2 masks to all interested students. These masks are endorsed by the fire services and filter 95% of particulate matter when worn correctly.

Spring semester 2020 students will receive targeted orientations about bushfire and smoke haze safety.

Spring semester 2020 students will be reminded they are required to fill out IFSA travel forms each time they leave Sydney and to remain in contact with and able to be reached by the IFSA resident office.