How early childhood education and care (ECEC) services, including outside school hours care services, can plan and prepare for emergencies and natural disasters, such as bushfires, floods and storms.
Guidance on writing your service's emergency and evacuation policy
Under the Education and Care Services National Regulations, an approved provider must ensure that policies and procedures are in place for emergency and evacuation (regulation 168) and take reasonable steps to ensure those policies and procedures are followed (regulation 170).
For family day care (FDC), this requires the principal office and every family day care residence to consider and plan for the individual nature of each premise. Each premise should have individually considered risk assessments, emergency plans and diagrams.
To assist you in writing your emergency and evacuation policy, ACECQA has developed policy guidelines that can help inform you of what you need to include in your emergency and evacuation plan and procedures.
We have also developed an Emergency Management Plan (EMP) template (DOCX, 508KB) and guide (DOCX, 3.3MB).
Every education and care service (service) in NSW is required to have an emergency management plan that outlines your service’s emergency management arrangements.
The Guide to developing your Emergency Management Plan (DOCX, 3.3MB) contains important information and step-by-step instructions to completing the EMP template.
The guide and template should be used together to assist you in developing and maintaining your EMP and procedures. If you choose to use the template, you will need to review the information provided and pre-populated sections and make necessary adjustments to ensure the plan is relevant to your service.
Using the guide and template together will give your service an indication of the levels of planning, assessment and actions required in developing an effective emergency management plan and robust emergency and evacuation procedures for your service.
You are not required to submit your emergency management plan to the department. It is also not mandatory for services to use the department EMP template, and you may prefer to use your service’s existing templates.
- Guide to developing your Emergency Management Plan (DOCX, 3.3MB)
- Emergency Management Plan template (DOCX, 508KB)
The department engaged NSW FDC Association to develop a useful resource booklet for FDC services.
- All children, staff and visitors at your service must be able to evacuate safely from the service 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 .
- Fire and Rescue NSW has created a Fire Escape Plan template.
- There is no requirement for floor plans to be created by an external company. If your service has engaged an external company, review the floor plan prior to display to ensure it is correct and relevant. You may wish to use the resources above to check the accuracy of your floor plan.
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 EMP.
The Red Cross has developed a checklist with suggested items to include in your emergency kit.
- All approved providers are required to undertake risk assessments relevant to their service premises (regulation 97).
- Your risk assessment is the cornerstone of your plan. It identifies the hazards and potential threats specific to your service and provides a framework to prepare, manage and reduce those risks.
- FDC service providers should complete a risk assessment specific to each residence, venue and principal office. This assessment should consider the unique location of each premise to identify hazards and their associated risk levels. The risk assessment should be conducted on all proposed emergency evacuation routes and assembly areas.
- 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.
- The department has created a video resource to assist with developing and maintaining risk assessments that identify and address hazards relevant to your service.
You may wish to establish an Emergency Planning Committee at your 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 2 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 FDC), 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.
In the event of an emergency, it is possible 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, even new starters, are familiar with your EMP so they know what to do in the event of an emergency.
- Communication is a vital element of any emergency response, whether you are conducting a safety exercise or responding 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.
- Complete the Communicating your Emergency Management Plans and Emergency Response Communications online training module.
- Some service directors/coordinators may 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.
- FDC services should consider plans for communication when one or multiple residences are responding to an emergency simultaneously.
- We recommend that your plan contain 2 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.
- Emergency evacuation routes are required to be kept clear at all times while children are being educated and cared for at the service. This includes routes which egress through areas of a premise that are not part of the approved learning space.
- At FDC residences and all centre-based services where emergency routes are not part of the approved learning space, you are required to conduct risk minimisation activities as part of your emergency response procedure. You should consider any hazards which may cause risk of harm to children. These may include medications or dangerous items.
- In case the nature of the incident prevents you from relocating to your primary off-site assembly point (such as heavy winds or a fallen tree), having at least one additional off-site assembly point should be strongly considered in your EMP.
- You may wish to consider having one offsite assembly point close by (such as a school within close-proximity) 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 to find your local council contact information.
- We have developed a suite of resources to assist you rehearse and debrief your emergency and evacuation procedures.
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 you 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 2: one for incoming and one for outgoing calls.
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 State Emergency Service (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 actions you may wish to consider include reducing vegetation around your service, ensuring the roofs and gutters are clear, and monitoring the Hazards Near Me App and local radio stations on higher fire risk days.
- NSW SES has 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.
The Education and care service site bushfire/grassfire readiness review checklist (DOCX, 176KB) lists actions and considerations to prepare your service’s buildings, equipment and surrounds for any bushfire or grassfire. The actions and considerations relate to fire and safety equipment, vegetation management, emergency communications, evacuation/relocation, site access and surrounds, shelter-in-place, flammable substances/materials, and site rubbish.
This checklist can be used as part of your service’s annual bushfire and grassfire preparation. To assess the readiness of your service’s buildings, equipment and surrounds, and identify any further required action to be taken.
Ensuring your service’s buildings, safety and communications equipment, and surrounds are as bushfire and grassfire ready as possible is critical to reducing the consequences of any bushfire or grassfire risk to children and staff.
Disclaimer: The Education and care service set bushfire/grassfire readiness review checklist is for reference and should be used as an aid to develop and supplement your education and care service’s existing emergency plan and procedures. For additional information on bushfire and grassfire readiness, contact your local RFS Fire Control Centre.
- The Incident Response Plan (Crash Card) is based on emergency colour codes commonly used in healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, to prepare, plan, respond to and recover from a range of internal and external emergencies
- The Crash Card can be used as a reference tool for displaying the procedures to be used by staff at your service when responding to emergencies. It is not designed to be a replacement of your service’s detailed emergency plans and procedures. Rather, it is a quick-reference tool that can be displayed prominently next to your exits as way to help support the staff at your service enact the appropriate emergency procedure.
- Download the Sample Incident Response Plan (DOCX, 40KB).
- Services including OSHC and preschool co-located on a school site must have a separate EMP that applies specifically to that service.
- 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 co-located 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. For example, there may be reduced staff on site or access to facilities if an emergency occurs after 5:30 pm.
- Share your EMP with your staff to ensure they are aware of their roles and responsibilities in the event of an emergency, for example 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.
- FDC principal offices and residences should share their EMP with one another.
- 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 a third party, 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.
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, including the 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. Refer to our list of relevant authorities in NSW and Australia.
- 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 livetraffic.com.au 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.
FDC 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. You may wish to use the department’s sample communications plan develop a plan specific to your service.
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 EMP. 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.
You should contact your local council to determine how flooding can affect your service premises.
Please refer to the department’s dedicated COVID-19 webpages for guidelines and information on preparing for and managing COVID-19.