Plan and prepare
How early childhood education and care services, and OSHC services can plan and prepare for emergencies and natural disasters, such as bushfires, floods and storms.
Emergency management plans (EMP)
- Every education and care service (service) in NSW is required to have an emergency management plan that outlines your service’s emergency management arrangements. For more information, please consult the Guide to Developing your Emergency Management Plan.
Floor plans (also known as evacuation diagrams)
All children, staff and visitors of your service must be able to evacuate safely from its location if required. Evacuation diagrams support effective evacuation in an emergency and are commonly used as key tools in a building’s emergency management arrangements.
The department has created a checklist to assist you in installing and maintaining your emergency diagrams here.
Fire and Rescue NSW has created a Fire Escape Plan template that can be found here.
Emergency agencies recommend having a kit ready with items that will ensure the staff and children at your service will be able to evacuate, withstand and recover from an emergency such as bushfires or floods.
You should keep your emergency kit in an easy to carry bag in an easily accessible location in your service.
Some basic items to include in your emergency kit include:
A battery, solar or wind-up radio (make sure to mark the frequencies of ABC radio or other local stations)
A source of light such as a waterproof torch
Food and water
A first aid kit
Your enrolment records and emergency management plan
The Red Cross has developed a fact sheet on the essential items to consider when packing your emergency kit.
All services under Regulation 97 of the Education and Care National Regulations (the Regulations) are required to undertake risk assessments relevant to their service premises.
Your risk assessment is the cornerstone to your plan. It identifies the hazards and potential threats specific to your service and provide a framework to prepare, manage and reduce those risks.
A hazard is anything that has the potential to harm children or staff at your service. This can include fires, floods or unauthorised intruders.
A risk arises where there is a probability that a hazard can cause harm. For example, a fire or flood hazard at your service may pose a physical or psychological risk to the children or staff at your service.
Emergency Planning Committee (EPC)
You may wish to establish an Emergency Planning Committee at your education and care service.
An EPC is responsible for conducting the risk assessment, consultation, planning and rehearsals of your emergency plans and procedures. Your EPC should consist of at least two people, which may include your approved provider, management staff or their delegates. For very small services, it may be necessary for educators or staff to take more than one role. For example, the director/nominated supervisor might take the chief warden and communications officer role.
In the case of a sole educator operating a service from their residence or an approved venue, such as Family Day Care, an approved provider, nominated supervisor or coordinator can form part of the committee.
The purpose of an EPC is to ensure all the key functions and tasks that need to be undertaken during an emergency are properly allocated and educators and staff know who is responsible for what. This co-ordination is critical during an emergency.
It is possible, in the event of an emergency, that some of the staff or educators that you have assigned emergency roles (such as fire warden) may be away from your service. Therefore, it is important that all staff and educators are familiar with your Emergency Management Plan, so that even new starters know what to do in the event of an emergency.
For more information on EPCs, please refer to our Guide to Developing Your Emergency Management Plan.
Communication is a vital element of any emergency response, whether that be a safety exercise or a response to a real incident. You may want to develop a communication plan and rehearse it to test its effectiveness in an emergency. When preparing communication plans and procedures, you may consider the department’s sample template to decide what is communicated before, during and after an emergency.
Some service directors/coordinators feel that they must retain control of communications. However, in the event of an emergency, communications outside of the service will need to occur simultaneously to emergency services, the approved provider, families etc. This will often require more than one person.
Evacuations and Evacuation Assembly points
We recommend that your plan contain two external (off-site) evacuation assembly areas if reasonably practical to do so. This is in addition to your internal (on-site) identified assembly area (such as a car park).
Assembly areas should be appropriate for all hazards (not just bushfires), such as internal fires, floods and gas leaks.
If the nature of the incident prevents you from relocating to your primary off-site assembly point (such as heavy winds or a fallen tree), then having at least one additional off-site assembly point should be strongly considered in your Emergency Management Plan.
You may wish to consider having one offsite assembly point close by (such as close-proximity school) and another point further away (perhaps in the opposite direction).
- You may wish to consult with your local council to ﬁnd out where the pre-determined assembly areas are in the event of a large-scale emergency such as a bushﬁre or other area-wide natural disaster. Please visit the Office of Local Government website for to find your local council contact information here.
The NSW Rural Fire Service recommends developing a bushfire survival plan. Share the plan (including communication procedures) with families and ensure their contact details are up-to-date and correct.
Contact the service’s local council to determine if they are in a bushfire-prone area. Find more information for bushfire emergency responses in this fact sheet.
Services should have a dedicated fully charged emergency mobile phone. If possible, it is recommended to have two: one for incoming and one for outgoing calls.
- NSW State Emergency Services (SES) have developed a suite of resources and information to assist you:
- Find your local flood risk and access local guides and plans on floods, storms and tsunamis relevant to your service location
- Receive real time information, notifications and evacuation orders on floods, storms and tsunamis from NSW SES in your local area, to implement in your communication plan
- Access evacuation maps in the event of a tsunami and download your local flood/storm plans
- Develop an emergency plan or business continuity plan to address risks during storms and flood emergencies
- Identify what to pack in your emergency kit
- Find SES local community events to assist your service prepare for a storm, flood or community event
There are resources and templates on what to include in the continuity section of your emergency management plan available at:
Education and Care Service Emergency Management Resources
The department has collaborated with emergency management and crisis consultants to develop a suite of emergency management resources for education and care services here.
These resources can assist you in developing your Emergency Plan, including developing your emergency procedures and floor plans, your communication plan, conduct quality emergency rehearsals and more.
Department EMP templates
The department Emergency Management Plan (EMP) template has been developed in conjunction with Australian Standard AS3745- 2010. It is not a department requirement that you use these templates. If you choose to use your own template, please ensure that it is consistent with the Australian Standard for emergency management planning.
The department EMP template was designed to be adapted to your service’s geographic area and specific risks.
For more information on emergency planning, please consult the department guides and resources on emergency and incident management here.
Services on school grounds
- The OSHC, preschool or holiday program must have a separate EMP that applies specifically to that service.
- An Emergency Management Plan (EMP) template for early childhood services can be found here.
- If your service is co-located on a school site, you should ensure that the school has an up-to-date copy of your service’s EMP. Services located within school grounds should remain in contact with school Principals and follow their advice.
- Services co-located on school grounds should be included in the school’s EMP and have representatives on the school’s emergency planning committee. We encourage services to contact their collocated school for more information.
- It is important that your risk assessments are undertaken carefully, as the risks attached to an OSHC program, for example, may differ from that of a school (I.e. reduced staff on site or access to facilities if an emergency occurs after 5:30pm).
Reviewing my service’s EMP
Your service’s Emergency Management Plan (EMP) should be reviewed at least once per year. However, it is best practice to conduct regular reviews to ensure all contact information is up-to-date, and any building works/site modifications or new staff or children with additional needs are commencing during the year.
Following an emergency that required the use of your EMP, you should always undertake a review of your plan and consider any amendments, i.e. what worked well or what could be done differently.
Emergency and evacuation rehearsals should be undertaken at least every three months. The department has created a rehearsal debrief template that can be used to document any lessons learned and actions to improve your EMP response procedures here.
Sharing your EMP
Your Emergency Management Plan (EMP) should be shared with your service’s staff to ensure they are aware of their roles and responsibilities in the event of an emergency (e.g. first aid and communications).
It is important to remember that contractors, gardeners, cleaners, parents and families should also be aware of your service’s emergency planning procedures.
You should seek feedback on your plan from relevant authorities, such as local emergency services, where appropriate.
It is further recommended that you make your EMP available to your local council to ensure the local government emergency management coordinator is aware of your evacuation locations that are located off the site of your service.
It is not necessary for services to employ a paid third party for emergency management advice or to develop your EMP. However, services are accountable for their policies or procedures to comply with Regulation 97, whether developed by the service or through a third party.
If you choose to engage one of these services, ensure that they are aware of your requirements under the National Law and Regulations.
Note: to ensure adherence to the provisions of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth), make sure you remove any information of a private or confidential nature, such as ‘Staff and Children with Additional Needs’ and the ‘Parent/Family Contact information’ sections of your EMP, prior to sharing copies to non-staff members or organisations outside of your service.
Determining your service risk
The NSW Rural Fire Service has developed a Bush Fire Prone Land Mapping Tool that can be found on their website. The tool has been designed using NSW Local Council maps to determine if your service is located in bush fire prone areas.
You can access the NSW SES website to determine your local flooding, storm or tsunami risk, as well as receive real time community advice and notifications in your local area.
The NSW SES website also has information on your local area’s flood/storm/tsunami risks, information on major road closures, your local emergency contacts (including finding your local SES unit) and local plans and guides.
You should also consider contacting relevant emergency authorities to seek advice on the strategies you have put in place to reduce your risks regarding bushfire preparedness, response, evacuation points and locations of shelter in place options.
Some of things you may wish to consider is reducing vegetation around your service, ensuring the roofs and gutters are clear and monitoring the FiresNearMe App and local radio stations on higher fire risk days.
At risk areas
If your service has determined that there is considerable risk to the safety of children or staff due to the threat of a potential emergency such as bushfires or floods, or poor air quality as a result of bushfires, it may be that the best course of action is to choose to not operate that day. The triggers that may determine whether or not you temporarily cease operations should be considered in your emergency plan and procedures. Emergency services (police, RFS and SES) can instruct your service in certain circumstances, and may direct services to close when the risk cannot be appropriately managed. You should always follow the instructions of emergency services.
In a bushfire event, if you are in an at-risk area and the ﬁre danger is extreme, you may wish to consider closing your service.
In an extreme weather event, monitor the NSW SES website for community advice and notifications of floods/storms in your local area and consult your emergency plan to consider whether your service should close.
If your service is in an at-risk area and plans to remain open, contact your local emergency authorities and advise that you will be operational and will have children on-site. A collated list of NSW emergency contact details can be found here.
- Families and staff should be encouraged to avoid travel if possible. Vehicles are among the most dangerous places to be in bushﬁres, and severe weather events, such as flash flooding, may result in major road closures. Contact your local council or visit the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) website for more information on major and local road closures in your area.
If your service is located above the ground floor it is strongly advised that you remain closed until the danger has passed.
Family Day Care providers should contact individual educators to ensure they are aware of the risk and are adequately prepared.
Ensure that you are aware of safe locations, including shelter-in-place and evacuation centres in your area and that you have access to transport should you need to evacuate.
Keep in close contact with staff and families as required utilising social media and SMS (please see communication plans).
Hawkesbury/Nepean Flood Risk
The Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley (the valley) covers around 500 square kilometres from Bents Basin, near Wallacia, to the Brooklyn Bridge. The valley has the highest flood exposure in NSW because of its unique landscape and large existing population.
If your service is located in this area you must include flood risk in your emergency management plan. The NSW SES has developed guides, videos and resources to assist your service:
- Determine your suburb’s flood risk in the valley
- Find key evacuation routes to incorporate in your EMP
- Find key contacts to incorporate in your communication plan
- Learn about the warning signs of flooding in the valley.