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Using digital technology to protect health in prolonged poor air quality episodes: a case study of the AirRater App during the Australian 2019–20 fires


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Campbell, SL, Jones, PJ ORCID: 0000-0002-4880-6711, Williamson, GJ ORCID: 0000-0002-3469-7550, Wheeler, AJ ORCID: 0000-0001-9288-8163, Lucani, C, Bowman, DMJS ORCID: 0000-0003-2215-7685 and Johnston, FH ORCID: 0000-0002-5150-8678 2020 , 'Using digital technology to protect health in prolonged poor air quality episodes: a case study of the AirRater App during the Australian 2019–20 fires' , Fire, vol. 3, no. 3 , pp. 1-12 , doi: 10.3390/fire3030040.

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In the southern hemisphere summer of 2019–20, Australia experienced its most severe bushfire season on record. Smoke from fires affected 80% of the population, with large and prolonged exceedances of the Australian National Air Quality Standard for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) recorded in all major population centers. We examined if AirRater, a free smartphone app that reports air quality and tracks user symptoms in near real‐time, assisted those populations to reduce their smoke exposure and protect their health. We distributed an online survey to over 13,000 AirRater users to assess how they used this information during the 2019-20 bushfire season, and why it was helpful to aid decision‐making in reducing personal smoke exposure. We received responses from 1732 users (13.3%). Respondents reported the app was highly useful, supporting informed decision‐making regarding daily activities during the smoke‐affected period. Commonly reported activities supported by information provided through the app were staying inside (76%), rescheduling or planning outdoor activities (64%), changing locations to less affected areas (29%) and informing decisions on medication use (15%). Innovative and easy‐to‐use smartphone apps such as AirRater, that provide individual‐level and location‐specific data, can enable users to reduce their exposure to environmental hazards and therefore protect their health.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Campbell, SL and Jones, PJ and Williamson, GJ and Wheeler, AJ and Lucani, C and Bowman, DMJS and Johnston, FH
Keywords: air quality, smoke, particulate matter, digital technology, app, smartphone app
Journal or Publication Title: Fire
Publisher: MDPI
ISSN: 2571-6255
DOI / ID Number: 10.3390/fire3030040
Copyright Information:

© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license (

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