Aged Care Emergency Planning

Welcome to the Aged Care Emergency Planning website

New emergency evacuation resources

Providers are encouraged to read two new emergency evacuation resources for aged care facilities and review their own procedures. These resources should help providers refine their emergency management plans:


Residential aged care providers and country hospital administrators need to consider the risks posed by our climate and natural environment and plan to minimise the impact of these on their services and residents.

The number and intensity of natural disasters that have recently occurred in Australia has highlighted the potentially devastating impact on residential aged care facilities (RACFs).  Recent illustrations of this were the Victorian bushfires in 2009 and the floods and cyclones in Queensland in 2011.  These events, together with long term knowledge and expertise and the passion of aged care providers, has led to the development of this resource which we are pleased to provide to the aged care sector.

Purpose of this website

This website has been designed to assist aged care facilities’ providers and country hospitals in planning, preparing for and responding to emergency events. The information contained in the website is not intended to be prescriptive or regulatory, rather it is intended as a central repository of resources to assist you in the development of your own local tools and processes.


This website has been developed by the South Australian Department for Health & Ageing (SA Health), Emergency Management Unit in partnership with the following agencies:

Aged and Community Services SA&NT Department of Health & Ageing (DoHA)
SA Country Fire Service (CFS) Department of Planning Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI)
Country Health SA Local Health Network (CHSA) Resthaven Incorporated


The Residential Aged Care & Country Hospital Risk Assessment Review & Planning Activities Project is a collaborative effort with a number of agencies from within the SA Government including SA Country Fire Services, Department of Planning, Transport & Infrastructure, Country Health SA Local Health Network and with the lead role provided by SA Health.  Also included is the Commonwealth Department of Health & Ageing.  Non government partners include Aged & Community Services (SA&NT) Inc and Resthaven Inc.

The Project has been made possible by financial assistance provided by a National Partnership Agreement with the Commonwealth and supported by SAFECOM through the Natural Disaster Resilience Grant Scheme.  Financial and in kind contributions have been provided by  Aged & Community Services (SA&NT), Resthaven Inc., Country Fire Service SA, Commonwealth Department of Health & Ageing, Country Health SA Local Health Network and Emergency Management Unit, SA Health.


Emergency Planning Concepts

Emergency Management – “All Hazards” Approach

When planning for emergencies it is essential that ALL hazards (natural and non-natural) are considered.  Some hazards to consider include (but are not limited to) –

  • Bushfire
  • Storm event
  • Flood
  • Earthquake
  • Infrastructure failure (ie building collapse or major gas leak)

When developing plans and arrangements, they need to be flexible and adaptable to various types of hazards. For example at the time of developing an Evacuation Plan it should focus on more than the threat and impact of a hazard, it should be a broader document that has some degree of flexibility that allows it to be applied during a bushfire, a flood, storm etc.

Emergency Management – The “Comprehensive” Approach

The comprehensive approach covers all aspects in the emergency spectrum and is commonly referred to as the PPRR approach, ie prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.

Prevention Stopping or reducing the effect of an emergency occurring. Strategies might include:

  • Undertake a sound risk assessment and understand all the risks to assist in the planning process
  • Undertake seasonal clean up of vegetation around the facility
  • Consider future planting of vegetation and landscape design around facilities
  • Install flood protection devices, such as levees etc
  • Install back up power generators, uninterrupted power supplies (UPS) for computers and on-site drinking water storage
  • Correct and safe storage of chemicals

Preparedness How to prepare for an emergency. Strategies might include:

  • Develop, review and regularly test all plans, including emergency, evacuation and business continuity
  • Train and exercise all staff and clients in emergency arrangements, including evacuation procedures
  • Maintain any surrounding bushland / grassland in accordance with CFS standards
  • Ensure that all drainage pipes, including gutters and down pipes are cleaned regularly
  • Build relationships with local key stakeholders
  • A useful commonwealth website is –

Response What to do when a potential or actual emergency occurs. Strategies might include:

  • Minimise the impact of an emergency, if possible
  • Provide timely information to all relevant parties, including clients
  • Monitor intelligence, such emergency service warnings on television or radio, twitter and the internet
  • Identify key triggers that require critical decision making
  • Consider whether shelter-in-place or evacuation is required – who is required to make that decision?

Recovery What happens when the immediate phase of an emergency has subsided or passed. Strategies might include:

  • Monitor the health and well-being of staff and clients
  • Ensure that client medication is available
  • If evacuated during an emergency, assess the facility prior to returning evacuated clients

Liaise with Recovery Organisations and facility management as to future / ongoing physical and emotional needs

Rationales for Developing Policies and Procedures

When facilities are developing policies and procedures it is necessary to take into account the following:

Increased scrutiny post emergencies

The aged care sector has been referred to in recent Royal Commissions and it has been identified that there are deficiencies in their preparedness and ability to respond to emergencies. With recent events including; 2009 Victorian Bushfires, 2010 / 2011 cyclone events in Queensland and associated flooding in Queensland and Victoria, 2011 Quakers Hill Nursing Home fire in NSW.

Accreditation Bodies

There is an increasing expectation and requirement being placed upon the Aged Care industry to provide evidence of Emergency Management Plans.

Insurance Premiums

Through the implementation and evidence of sound risk management, emergency management and business continuity plans, there is the possibility that your Insurance Provider may reduce premiums or offer greater coverage.

Occupational Health Safety & Welfare

There are provisions within existing OHS&W Legislation for employers to provide a safe workplace. This should not be simply viewed on a granular, micro level but also from a larger perspective. Ensuring that there are adequate plans in place and that all staff are familiar with their role and responsibilities during emergencies will succeed in achieving much of this.

Duty of Care

An Aged Care provider and its personnel owe a Duty of Care to its residents and those who visit the property.

Community and Resident / Client Expectation

With a growing number of people seeking to engage with the RACFs for their services, there is an increased expectation from consumers regarding the level of holistic services provided. Both residents and their families alike, have an expectation that RACFs will have suitable emergency and business continuity plans in place to support and safeguard their loved ones.

While care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of material contained in this website, no responsibility will be accepted for any errors or omissions.

First Response

The following first response notification flowchart is for Commonwealth funded RACFS only.  All other entities using this website need to follow their own local procedures.  In the event of any immediate emergency always ring 000.


Emergency Management Planning Templates

A number of templates have been developed to assist staff managing aged care facilities with planning and preparing their emergency management plans.  Their purpose of the templates is to provide you with items to consider when developing your plans.

These templates have been published in MS Word to enable you to customise the documents to your requirements

Are You Prepared?

Do you and your staff know what to do?

What plans and arrangements do you have in place?

How do you get more information?

Who do you need to contact and what actions do you need to take?

Case Scenario 1

You are the on-call manager of a 55 bed aged care facility on the outskirts of a town with a population of approximately 3 000 people situated 1 hour from your capital city. The town is in a medium to high bushfire risk area and has a volunteer CFS station based within the town.

It is 0305 hours on a Saturday morning when the RN in charge telephones you to tell you that she can smell smoke and that the 0300 hours radio news report has said that there is a fire burning uncontrollably approximately 20 km away and moving toward the town in which your facility is located. She also states that the radio report suggested that the Power Supplier was about to shut power off to the region affecting approximately 20 000 to 25 000 residents.  This means that not only does your RACF has to deal with the potential threat of a bushfire, but it is now about to be without power and is in the middle of the night with minimal staffing on-site.

Case Scenario 2

You are the manager of a 20 bed low care RACF on the outskirts of a town with a population of approximately 5 000 people situated 20 minutes from your capital city. The town is in a medium bushfire risk area and has a volunteer CFS station based within the town

It is 1100 hours on a Tuesday morning when several staff have informed you that there is a loss of water pressure at several taps in the facility. The same staff now inform you that there is no pressure and that toilets are unable to be flushed

Upon investigation, you discover that there is a 15 m high eruption of water from the roadway approximately 50 m down the road of your facility.

After an hour, Water Supply representatives approach your facility and inform you that a significant mains pipe has ruptured in several places and that water will be lost to all properties along your street for at least 36 – 72 hours.

Case Scenario 3

You are the on-call manager of a 110 bed aged care facility in a large metropolitan suburb situated 10 minutes from your capital city. There is a Metropolitan Fire Service (salaried) station based 10 mins away. You are driving into work at 2350 hours to deal with a situation where a resident has assaulted the RN in charge. She is being treated for some minor wounds by a SA Ambulance Service crew

As you pull into the car park, you smell smoke and go to investigate and observe that the row of 10 shops next door to your facility is on fire, with smoke issuing through several shop roof tops. There is a large paint store as well as a supermarket and several fast food outlets in the complex. You hear a multitude of sirens getting closer and closer.

Upon arrival the first MFS fire truck crew requests that all power be cut to the site to protect fire fighters whilst fighting the fire. From your experience, you know that the shops are on the same feeder as your facility, which means you will lose power in the next 10 minutes.

Case Scenario 4

You are the on-call manager of a 75 bed residential aged care facility approximately 5 minutes out of a smaller regional centre situated 50 minutes from your capital city. There is a volunteer CFS station based 10 minutes away.

Today has been declared a day of catastrophic fire danger with temperatures to be 42o+ and strong northerly winds and humidity <10%. It is 1030 hours and you are in a meeting in the capital city and receive a telephone call from the RN in charge at your facility informing you that the CFS have issued an Emergency Warning Message for an uncontrolled bushfire that is threatening the facility and surrounds

All roads accessing the facility have been closed. The RN tells you that the CFS have 2 fire trucks outside the facility and the fire is expected to impact within the next 30 minutes.

Phone Apps

CFS FireApp

CFS has launched a new smartphone application which provides users with bushfire alerts and safety information at their fingertips, wherever they are in South Australia. The official CFS FireApp is now available for download in the iTunes and Android app store and enables the users to assess their own preparedness for bushfire.


Features of the FREE app include:

  • An interactive map showing all current CFS Incidents
  • Incidents table including CFS incidents and Prescribed Burns
  • Current fire ban information and Fire Danger Rating information
  • What to do and what not to do on days of high fire danger and fire ban
  • Integration with location services to centre maps based on your current location
  • Information on Bushfire Safer Places near you;
  • Call 000 function;
  • Email friends function to keep them informed of your intentions in the event of a bushfire
  • “How Bushfire Ready are you” checklist
  • Listen to the Standard Emergency Warning Signal (SEWS) used to alert the public before broadcast of warning messages

Workshop Presentations

A workshop Stepping UpAll Hazards’ Emergency Management Planning for Residential Aged Care Facilities and Country Hospitals Workshop was held on 16 October 2013. Presentations available for download below:


Fact Sheets & Resources

General Information

Alert SA website brings together social media messages from South Australia’s emergency services via Twitter, Facebook and RSS in one place. AlertSA
CFS. A list of Frequently Asked Questions to assist with Bushfire Preparedness for Residential Aged Care Facilities and Hospitals faq-for-bushfire-preparedness-cfs-2011
CFS.  List of media outlets that broadcast vital warning information during bushfires through partnership with CFS. Emergency Broadcast Partners
CFS. Explanation of meaning of emergency warning messages. Bushfire Warning Messages
CFS. Emergency Alert is a telephone warning system that emergency services can use to send warning messages to communities via landline telephones based on the location of the handset, and to mobile phones, based on the billing address. Emergency Alert Messaging
CFS. Lists – dates for the fire danger season, fire ban districts, and the meaning of fire danger ratings.  Also lists weather conditions assessed by the Bureau of Meteorology used to calculate the fire danger index which is the basis for declaring a total fire ban. Days of High Fire Danger
CFS. Discusses the effect of varying vegetation, weather conditions and topography on fire, and also the behaviour of fire.  It also details the three stages of fire. Days of High Fire Danger_behaviour
CFS. An on-line tool which walks the reader through a comprehensive assessment process that delivers the reader with a risk assessment of their facility. Bushfire Household Self-Assessment Tool
CFS. Comprehensive booklet covering many topics including keys to survival, an annual maintenance schedule and actions in and around the facility to improve safety, fire ban districts, and contact details for the CFS regions. Your Guide to Bushfire Safety
CFA Victoria. Useful background information on understanding grassfires, their risk, and ideas on protecting yourself, home or facility from grassfires. Grassfires fact sheet

Preparing your Facilities

CFS. List of decisions to make prior to the fire season, and actions to take in response to the daily fire danger ratings that will assist you to survive a fire. Prepare. Act. Survive
CFS. Hints for preparing your facility throughout the year in order to increase the chance of surviving a bushfire.  Factors addressed are vegetation management, structural modifications for ember reduction, water supply and reticulation and maintenance activities. Preparing Your Property
CFS. Discusses physical and emotional aspects of making the decision to either shelter in place or to evacuate.  It also addresses the effects of both leaving early and staying to defend. Preparing Yourself for Bushfires
CFA Victoria. Building and renovation ideas to better prepare your facility in a bushfire situation. Bushfire – Home Retrofit

Managing Vegetation

CFS. List of introduced trees and shrubs with low flammability levels. Fire Retardant Plants
Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources. Provides a list of plants with low flammability levels and helpful hints to landscape to minimise fire risk Reducing fire risk in gardens
CFS. Comprehensive guide on native vegetation and bushfire safety. native_vegetation_management_guide_reducing_the_impact_of_bushfires
CFS. Rules for Native Vegetation Native Vegetation Management Decision-Making Matrix
CFS. Activities to reduce the overall fuel hazard through strategic reduction of native vegetation and benefits of developing a Bushfire Buffer Zone. Managing Native Vegetation – Reduce Fuel Strategically
CFS. Activities that assist to manage vegetation around your facility.  Provides advice as to which activities do or do not require approval. Managing Native Vegetation – To Protect a Building
CFS. A ready reckoner that provides information to calculate the minimum distance required between native vegetation and buildings to achieve a defendable space for your facility. Managing Vegetation – Information collection
CFS. Information on the location and maintenance of selected plant species around a building to improve its chance of surviving a wildfire. Landscaping for Fire Protection
CFS. Discusses the benefit of establishing an asset protection zone, and how to develop and maintain one. Creating an Asset Protection Zone

Extreme Heat

SA Health. A guide to assist a carer to develop a plan to assist an older person cope during extreme heat. Caring for an older person
Department of Health, Victoria.  A comprehensive guide that assists RACFs prepare and plan for extreme hot weather events. Residential aged care services heat wave ready resource

Emergency Management Plan

Department of Health, NSW.  The document is available in Word format to enable to reader to adapt for use in their own residential aged care facility.  There is no requirement to use this template nor is it suggested that it is best practice.  It is offered only as a guide. (NB This document was developed in NSW and may not comply with SA standards.) Disaster Management Plan Incorporating Emergency Evacuation Procedures and Business Continuity Plans
Department of Human Services, Victoria.  A checklist of issues to be considered to assist RACFs when preparing an emergency management plan. Issues to consider when developing or reviewing emergency management plans
Standards and Accreditation Agency. A resource to assist RACFs preparing for an emergency. Checklist – Questions to consider when developing an emergency management plan
Resthaven Inc. Learnings gained from a trial evacuation exercise held at Resthaven Bellevue Heights in August 2011. Resthaven Inc is acknowledged for sharing their document and giving their permission for it to be published on this website. Resthaven Trial Evac-Transport observations Aug 2011
Resthaven Inc. Policy for Urgent Evacuation. A sample of policy developed on emergency management in a residential aged care facility environment.Resthaven Inc is acknowledged for sharing their document and giving their permission for it to be published on this website. Resthaven Authorised Directive for Urgent Evac draft policy
Blue Care, Qld. This is a sample of business continuity considerations to consider when preparing your Emergency Management Response Plan. Blue Care, Qld is acknowledged for sharing their document and giving their permission for it to be published on this website. Bluecare Emergency Respone


Queensland Health. A guidance document to assist health care facilities with Emergency Preparedness & Continuity Management. Qld Health. Emergency Preparedness & Continuity Management – guidance document

Contacts & Resources

Here are some links to a variety of agencies that may be useful in your emergency planning.

Emergency Services

Other useful links