Emergency planning and management advice from NSW Department
Emergency situations are, by nature, unpredictable. While it’s impossible to plan for and predict every situation and its outcome, there are some common aspects and situations which all services can prepare for, and the New South Wales Department of Education has released some information to assist.
As defined in the Education and Care Services National Regulations (2011), an emergency includes any situation or event that poses an imminent or severe risk to the persons at the education and care service premises.
Element 2.2.2 of the National Quality Standard requires early childhood education and care (ECEC) services to effectively manage incidents and emergencies and to plan for these in consultation with relevant authorities.
Under Regulation 97(2), a risk assessment to identify potential emergencies is essential and should be the first step in the emergency management planning process, the Department said.
This risk assessment should guide the other elements of the emergency management plan (EMP). Risk assessments enable services to identify all probable threats, hazards and incidents that can result in an emergency at the service. Assessments also help to determine the level of each identified risk and assist in the development of mitigation plans to reduce and manage the risk.
For every potential emergency identified in the risk assessment, a service will need to have a corresponding emergency procedure.
Risk assessments must be reviewed annually and after becoming aware of any circumstance that may affect the safe evacuation of children from the service.
The NSW Department of Education has a plan webpage which offers more information and resources to support services to develop a risk assessment relevant to your service.
Requirements for services in multi-storey buildings
Information that centre-based services located in multi-storey buildings must include in their emergency and evacuation procedures is now outlined in the National Regulations.
From 1 October 2023, regulation 97(1)(c) requires centre-based services within multi-storey buildings, that do not have direct exits to an emergency assembly area, to include the following information in their emergency and evacuation procedures:
- All possible evacuation routes from each storey on which the premises is located
- The evacuation routes that are proposed to be used in an evacuation
- How all children will be safely evacuated from the premises, including non-ambulatory children
- The stages in which an evacuation will be carried out
- The identity of the person in charge of an evacuation
- The roles and responsibilities of staff members during an evacuation
- The arrangements made with the other occupants of the multi-storey building in relation to the evacuation of the multi-storey building.
Information sheets, templates and tools for centre-based services located in multi-storey buildings are available under Children’s health and safety on ACECQA’s NQF changes overview webpage.
Policies and procedures
Approved providers must ensure that policies and procedures are in place for emergency and evacuation (regulation 168), and then also take reasonable steps to ensure those policies and procedures are followed (regulation 170).
Service policies and procedures must:
- Be informed by a risk assessment that identifies potential emergencies that are specific and relevant to each service context and environment
- Set out clear instructions for what must be done in the event of an emergency
- Contain an emergency and evacuation floor plan
- Be well understood so that all staff can react confidently in an emergency.
As previously mentioned, for every potential emergency identified in the risk assessment, a service will need to have a corresponding emergency procedure.
Where possible, involve or consider information made available by local emergency services, council or other relevant authority who is able to provide expert advice about procedures.
Emergency management plan (EMP)
Every early ECEC service in NSW is required to have an EMP that outlines the service’s emergency management arrangements.
The Department has developed an EMP template for services to use if they choose. Services can also download the Guide to developing your Emergency Management Plan which contains important information and step-by-step instructions to completing the EMP template.
Rehearsing emergency procedures
Potential emergency and evacuation procedures should be reviewed regularly and must be rehearsed at each service every three months. Conducting emergency and evacuation rehearsals will assist educators and staff to respond calmly and effectively in the event of an actual emergency, reducing the risk of harm or injury.
It’s important to note that if a service has more than one emergency and evacuation procedure, all procedures must be rehearsed every three months. For example, if a service has identified both a lockdown and evacuation response procedure in risk assessments and incorporated them into an emergency plan, they will need to rehearse both procedures every three months.
- Visit the Department’s Emergency Planning, Management, Response and Recovery page for information and resources designed to assist them to identify, plan, prepare and manage emergencies at their service.
- Download ACECQA’s Emergency and evacuation policy guidelines available on its Preparing NQF policies and procedures page.