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Emergency Management School Forum Report

Event date: 23 February 2012
Location: Pymble Ladies’ College
Written by: Cheryl Hambly, Senior Consultant, Emergency Management

Download PDF version: Emergency Management School Forum Report 230212


While all schools are unique, the high risk, complex nature of the school environment creates many shared challenges for managing an emergency incident. These challenges are exacerbated by the number of students, age of students, size of school premises and difficulty completing emergency training in school timetables.

A unique opportunity to share information and discuss these challenges was provided by RiskLogic during a recent inaugural Emergency Management School Forum. Held on the 23rd February 2012 and hosted at Pymble Ladies’ College, the forum encouraged interaction amongst representatives from 8 of Sydney’s leading schools with the aim of building stronger emergency response capabilities between its participants.

This report provides a summary of the Forum outcomes, including:

  • An overview of School compliance requirements
  • Identification and discussion of emergency management challenges
  • Discussion of solutions for the identified challenges

“I enjoyed hearing other schools’ experiences and hearing that we all have common issues/challenges” (School Forum Participant)

Forum Attendees

Schools that attended the Forum included:

  • Loreto Normanhurst
  • Saint Ignatius College Riverview
  • Monte Saint Angelo Mercy College
  • St Andrew’s Cathedral School
  • Pymble Ladies’ College
  • St Catherine’s School
  • Ravenswood School for Girls
  • The King’s School

RiskLogic facilitators included:

  • Cheryl Hambly
  • Grant Ziarno
Summary of emergency management requirements

Complying with best practice emergency management is important in ensuring staff and students remain safe during emergencies. The emergency management requirements are outlined in Australian Standard 3745 Planning for Emergencies in Facilities. These requirements include:

  • Formation of an emergency planning committee (EPC)
  • Formation of an emergency control organisation (ECO) – wardens
  • Development of an emergency response plan
  • Development and placement of evacuation diagrams
  • Conducting of emergency response training:
    • Bi-annual chief warden training
    • Bi-annual ECO training
    • Annual staff awareness training
    • Annual EPC training
    • Annual evacuation drills
    • Annual lockdown drills
Identified challenges

“I enjoyed the willingness for all participants to be open and discuss issues at their schools” (School Forum Participant)

To identify the existing emergency management challenges within schools, participants brainstormed the issues they presently face at their school. These included:

  • Staff not understanding the evacuation process
  • Staff not responding to alarms
  • Difficulty in securing the school premises during an emergency
  • Difficulty in accounting for all persons on site
  • Non-compliance of third party tenants
  • Suitability of evacuation assembly areas
  • Poorly documented out of hours procedures (for example Saturday sport)
  • Implementing partial evacuations and lockdowns
  • Lack of knowledge of emergency equipment on-site
  • Evacuation and accounting for a large number of persons
  • Minimal practice of evacuation process for boarding houses
  • Managing emergencies during break periods
  • Emergency services familiarisation with the school
  • Controlling social networking communications from students during emergencies
  • Communicating emergency information to all persons on site

Given the duration of the forum, it was decided that two challenges would be explored in more detail. Participants discussed in greater detail the challenges around out-of-hours emergency procedures and evacuating large numbers of people.

Out-of-hours procedures

  • Assumption that wardens will be present at a Warden Intercom Phone (WIP)
  • External persons on-site without warden training
  • Not knowing who is on the school premises
  • Lack of persons to take responsibility of each area after hours
  • Communicating emergency details during functions and events
  • Securing the school premises with limited resources
  • Induction of external parties (for example coaches)

Evacuating large number of persons

  • People on-site lacking knowledge of emergency procedures, equipment, alarms sounds, and out-of-hours assembly points
  • Lack of space at the assembly point
  • Lack of control at the assembly point
  • Difficulty in securing the school premises
  • Reduced capability of communications to outside areas
  • Lack trained emergency response staff
  • Keeping emergency procedures simple
Identified solutions

The following were discussed as potential solutions or actions to reduce the challenges around both the out-of-hours response and evacuating large numbers of people.


  • Document out-of-hours procedures
  • Document emergency procedures for large events
  • Keep procedures simple. The same process can usually be followed, just applied to the different circumstances


  • Train all wardens and all staff in the emergency response processes
  • Provide safety instructions to external persons using parts of the school (may be dependent on the parts of the school they are using)
  • Induct new contractors – provide them with maps and instructions on what to do and who to report to during an emergency
  • Train boarding staff in responding to an emergency. This training may need to be conducted after hours to capture all staff
  • Conduct after-hours evacuation and lockdown drills for boarding staff and residents


  • Communicate out-of-hours procedures to relevant people
  • Control communications to parents. Think about setting up systems to SMS parents, direct lines to radio stations for broadcasting messages, internet and website messages
  • Communicate to staff the existing emergency communications and processes
  • Place a sticker on phones with the security response number. This would be a speed dial number and mobile number, that phones the appropriate person, and acts as one point of contact for staff
  • Investigate if messages can be sent to nominated persons from the fire monitoring company when an alarm has been activated

ECO structure:

  • Establish a specific warden team for large events
  • Appoint whoever is in charge of the activity/event as the person to step up to the Chief Warden role if required
  • Utilise non-teaching staff as wardens
  • Assign people to take on the role of chief warden out-of-hours and for events. Some schools have a roster of key management personnel who are located near the school to take on this role
  • Utilise security staff (if your school has them) to assist during an emergency
  • Appoint two reserves for the chief warden and communications officer role
  • Appoint and train regular out-of-hours staff to warden roles
  • Contain the emergency early to avoid panic and secondary incidents by liaising with emergency services and controlling outside communications


  • Establish a sign in system for contractors – some schools have a dual sign-in system for accounting for both during-hours visitors, and out-of-hours visitors/contractors
  • Establish an evacuation kit with communications equipment, emergency procedures and other equipment that may be required at an assembly area.

The forum was a valuable learning and networking experience for all participants. Participants shared experiences and built networks, and will further enhance their existing emergency management programs by implementing some or all of the discussed solutions. Future forums will explore the remaining challenges with the aim of continued emergency resilience within schools.

Should you have questions, feedback or suggestions, please contact Cheryl Hambly or Grant Ziarno on 02 9037 1888.

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