While there have been many articles and seminars on the Ash Wednesday bushfire and Port Arthur shooting disasters, the role, responsibility and support structure of general practitioners (GPs) and the effect of the disaster on them, have received little attention. This paper looks at the role of the GP as the first responder in a disaster in rural and semi-rural Australia. Hopefully, a structured involvement, with adequate preparation and recovery, will minimise harm to these respondents. This article was written after a local GP response to disasters had been incorporated into the local Displan of one region. This response was successfully activated by Victorian State Displan during the Dandenong Ranges bushfire disaster of January, 1997.
Definitions: A disaster is said to have occurred when normal community and organisational arrangements are overwhelmed by an event, and extraordinary responses need to be instituted. First responder has become the generic term for those who arrive at the scene during the early phase of the response, that is, before centralised coordination is in place. Displan is the abbreviation for the State Emergency Response Plan. The phases of emergency management consist of: prevention; preparation; response; and recovery.