Get access

Preparedness for short-term isolation among Queensland residents: Implications for pandemic and disaster planning


  • Peter Aitken, Senior Staff Specialist, Associate Professor, Senior Medical Coordinator; Peter A Leggat, Professor and Head of School; Lawrence H Brown, Senior Principal Research Officer; Richard Speare, Director.

Associate Professor Peter Aitken, c/- Anton Breinl Centre, James Cook University School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences, Townsville, Qld 4810, Australia. Email:


Objective:  Short-term isolation might occur during pandemic disease or natural disasters. We sought to measure preparedness for short-term isolation in an Australian state during pandemic (H1N1) 2009.

Methods:  Data were collected as part of the Queensland Social Survey (QSS) 2009. Two questions related to preparedness for 3 days of isolation were incorporated into QSS 2009. Associations between demographic variables and preparedness were analysed using χ2, with P < 0.05 considered statistically significant.

Results:  Most respondents (93.6%; confidence interval [CI] 92.2–94.9%) would have enough food to last 3 days, but only 53.6% (CI 50.9–56.4%) would have sufficient food and potable water if isolated for 3 days with an interruption in utility services. Subpopulations that were less likely to have sufficient food and potable water reserves for 3 days' isolation without utility services included single people, households with children under 18 years of age, people living in South-East Queensland or urban areas, those with higher levels of education and people employed in health or community service occupations.

Conclusions:  The majority of Queensland's population consider themselves to have sufficient food supplies to cope with isolation for a period of 3 days. Far fewer would have sufficient reserves if they were isolated for a similar period with an interruption in utility services. The lower level of preparedness among health and community service workers has implications for maintaining the continuity of health services.