Preparation disaster and emergency response
The Queensland Department of Education (DoE) is responsible for delivering educational services to approximately 515,000 Queensland students through about 1,234 State Schools. This is supported by over 81,000 employees throughout Queensland.
The department is a pillar within all communities and for significant periods has responsibility for our most valuable and vulnerable resource - our children. That responsibility includes their safety and security along with the safety and security of staff and other stakeholders engaged within educational precincts.
DoE disaster and emergency management arrangements follows the direction set by the Disaster Management Strategic Policy Framework (QLD Government) and it applies to those disasters and emergencies (natural hazards and threats from human-caused events) that occur, or are likely to occur, within or impact on:
- state schools including state primary, secondary and special education schools, state environmental education centres and outdoor education centres
- Department of Education workplaces including state schools and (Regional and Central Office accommodation) sites.
The department has developed this approach and arrangements to meet the challenges of disasters which span the planning, preparation, response and recovery phases of disaster management.
Disaster management legislation
Queensland's disaster management arrangements are outlined in the Disaster Management Act 2003 and the State Disaster Management Plan.
This legislation and its supporting plan applies to any natural hazards or human-caused event that causes, or has the potential to cause, serious community disruption that requires a significant coordinated response by the State and other entities to help the community recover from the disruption.
There is a range of legislation, key policies and procedures which direct and support DoE activities in planning, preparing for, responding to and recovering from disasters and emergencies including:
DoE Disaster and Emergency Management Framework
The department has adopted a framework which outlines the system applied to manage disasters or emergencies. The system includes people, processes and structures to deliver outcomes.
The framework has three levels which are the:
- Disaster and Emergency Management Arrangements
- Structure (which includes the tiers, entities, leaders and core response plans).
The department’s response framework identifies three internal levels of command and control, being the strategic (Executive), operational (Regional) and tactical (School) levels. An additional level, the State level, also exists and this is the interface into the Queensland Disaster Management Committee (QDMC). This structure is consistent with the State arrangements, particularly the emergency services response structures and allows for alignment with other agencies as well as providing delegated decision making authority at each level for operational efficiency.
Principles of disaster and emergency management
Underpinning the department’s approach to disaster and emergency management are a set of general principles:
- being prepared for action
- all hazards approach
- tiered command and control structures
- tested Emergency Response Plans
- understood roles and responsibilities
- using a Common Operating Picture
- managing risk and uncertainty
- action learning.
The adherence of these principles during the management of responses has an underlying effect of supporting staff to lead and take action.
The Prevention Phase involves conducting an assessment to identify potential hazards and develop procedures and policies designed to mitigate or prevent damage. Prevention activities include:
- identifying and assessing hazards and associated risks presented by the natural or built environment
- reviewing and improving work practices
- addressing Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) issues
- reviewing relevant policies
- reviewing and improving security including signage, fences and sign in for visitors
- undertaking any school modification
- planning and preparing School Emergency Response Plans (ERP).
Emergency and School Security (ESS) is responsible for developing state-wide emergency management policy for the department, providing emergency advice and assistance to state schools and DoE workplaces, including operational response services until they move into the Executive Response Team. It also provides advice to assist state schools and DoE workplaces review response and recovery procedures for their ERP.
Every government workplace and state schools in Queensland is required to have a documented ERP as part of its normal operational activities. The purpose of the ERP is to:
- provide details of roles and responsibilities, tasks and contacts for response activities
- minimise the impact of these events on students, staff, volunteers and visitors
- facilitate the return of the state schools or DoE workplace to normal operations as soon as safely possible.
Emergency Response Plan template—schools
As ERP’s contain sensitive and confidential information, under no circumstances are they to be placed onto your school public facing website including social media platforms. To do this, would be a breach of departmental policy and the
Information Privacy Act 2009.
Preparedness involves the taking of preparatory measures including final development or testing of plans and procedures to ensure that, if an event occurs, state schools and DoE workplaces can make decisions and assign resources to cope with the effects of the event. Preparedness activities include:
- implementation of controls to mitigate risks identified
- communicating the ERPs to all stakeholders
- undertaking Business Continuity Planning (BCP) that considers disruption due to a disaster or emergency
- practice the establishment of response teams and centres
- conducting table-top or functional exercises
- conducting evacuation, lockdown and other scenario exercises regularly, ensuring outcomes are recorded in MyHR WHS.
Event preparedness timeline
The timeline shows a full calendar year from January to December with the following events marked:
- End of January: bushfire season ends
- End of April: cyclone storm season ends
- End of July - bushfire season starts
- End of August - review ERP and update contact details
- Early-mid September - storm season starts
- End of October - cyclone season starts
- A period of three months from May to July - allocated exercise scenario period to test ERP.
With a focus on summer weather events, the above representation is effective. However, when considering the broad nature of disasters or emergencies, this becomes less useful as responses (and subsequent recoveries) need to be ready for year-round implementation and so the prevention and preparation phases are actually concurrent activities. This poses some additional challenges for the department to be ready 24/7 and for 365 days per year.
Planning your disaster or emergency response
When the department's disaster management arrangements are enacted at the school level, it is referred to as the tactical level within the tiered departmental structure.
Within a school, the principal assumes the role of the School Response Controller (SRC) and leads the School Response Team (SRT). The SRC directly controls the school's resources at the incident and implements direct actions that will achieve the objectives of the school's Emergency Response Plan.
The key role of the SRC is to:
- lead the School Response Team
- be on site whilst the school response is functioning
- implement tactical actions and coordinate resources
- connect with the emergency services or LDMG's as required.
The school's disaster and emergency response will be guided by:
All schools must upload an Emergency Response Plan into the department's Central storage repository.
quick reference guide—storing general documents in BEMIR.
In planning your response through your ERP, the following information, tools, documents and links could prove useful.
During a disaster or emergency, a school or buildings or areas within a school may be used to provide safer locations or facilities for students, staff or the community.
quick reference guide—use of DoE facilities in a disaster or emergency provides principals with information regarding their role and responsibilities.
Principals with Cyclone Shelters need to be familiar with the local Memorandum of Agreement with their LDMG for the facility.
Under exceptional circumstances, the Principal may be approached by a Local Disaster Management Group (LDMG) or the Emergency Services to use a non-designated facility during a disaster or emergency as an Assembly Point or Evacuation Centre. Principals should consult with the Regional Director on the matter. Where circumstances may preclude the Principal from consulting, the Principal may verbally authorise the use of the facility to support the disaster or emergency operations.
Memorandum of Agreement—Public Cyclone Shelter and Evacuation Centres ensures venue hirers accept that the agreement may be suspended if the venue is required for disaster management and operations by the Local Disaster Management Group (LDMG) or the Department of Housing and Public Works (DHPW).
Schools should be prepared to follow instructions regarding evacuation of their area, if advised to do so by the LDMG.
Student education and wellbeing
The department is committed to supporting Queenslanders affected by natural disasters and provides range of resources to support students, staff and parents. Access the department's
natural disaster resources to locate information including facts sheets, key messages following traumatic events and hyperlinks to supporting agencies.
Students should be recorded as absent with a reason code 'N' when an extreme weather event or natural disaster means they cannot attend school. 'N' code absences will not be counted on school report cards or in school absence data. For further information, refer to the
roll marking procedure.
Staff information and support
Staff should be familiar with the school's Emergency Response Plan including the School Response Team members and communication strategies to disseminate information during the response and recovery phases.
Counselling and support
The department provides all employees and their family members affected by a disaster or emergency with counselling services. Visit the
Employee Assistance Program (EAP) webpage or for external counselling services phone 1800 604 640 for more information.
General health and safety - prepare for, respond to and recover
natural disasters and severe weather events website provides information to help Queenslanders prepare for, respond to and recover from natural disasters and severe weather.
- Get prepared and stay connected - provides information on how to stay safe during a disaster event
- Storms, cyclones and floods, bushfires - provides information preparing for these natural disasters and dealing with the impact
Disaster event case studies
These four small videos explore the real experiences of various Queensland schools in the planning for, responding to and recovering from natural disasters.
- Review the disaster and emergency management site for changes and updates.
- Identify and assess risks for the upcoming season.
- Develop, review, update your
Emergency Response Plan template—schools.
- Refresh roles and responsibilities with key staff.
- Test your Emergency Response Plan.
- Document key decisions on Decision Log.
Emergency and School Security
- Phone: (07) 3034 6011 (disaster and emergency management)
- Phone: (07) 3034 6012 (disaster and emergency management)
- Phone: (07) 3034 6013 (school security)
- School Watch Phone: 13 17 88
Employee Assistance Program