Compliance focus – Emergency planning and management
Effective emergency planning and management ensures the health and safety of children, families and staff in early childhood education and care services.
13 November 2023
Potential emergency situations will be different for each early childhood education and care (ECEC) service. It is important that you take the time to understand what emergency situations may arise at your service and what actions need to be taken in the event of an emergency.
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 ECEC services to effectively manage incidents and emergencies and to plan for these in consultation with relevant authorities.
A risk assessment to identify potential emergencies is essential (regulation 97(2)) and should be the first step in your emergency management planning process. This risk assessment should guide the other elements of your emergency management plan (EMP). Risk assessments enable you to identify all probable threats, hazards and incidents that can result in an emergency at your 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, you 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.
Visit our Plan webpage for more information and resources to support you to develop a risk assessment relevant to your service.
Requirements for services in multistorey 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 multistorey 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 multistorey building in relation to the evacuation of the multistorey building.
Information sheets, templates and tools for centre-based services located in multistorey 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, you will need to have a corresponding emergency procedure.
Where possible, involve or consider information made available by your local emergency services, council or other relevant authority who is able to provide expert advice about your 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 (DOCX 508 KB) for services to use if they choose. Services can also download the Guide to developing your Emergency Management Plan (DOCX 3.3 MB), which contains important information and step-by-step instructions to completing the EMP template.
Rehearsing your emergency procedures
Potential emergency and evacuation procedures should be reviewed regularly and must be rehearsed at each service every 3 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 your service has more than one emergency and evacuation procedure, all procedures must be rehearsed every 3 months. For example, if you have identified both a lockdown and evacuation response procedure in your risk assessments and incorporated them in your emergency plan, you will need to rehearse both procedures every 3 months.
- Visit the department’s Emergency Planning, Management, Response and Recovery page for information and resources designed to assist you to identify, plan, prepare and manage emergencies at your service.
- Download ACECQA’s Emergency and evacuation policy guidelines available on its Preparing NQF policies and procedures page.