School operations

Emergency and Critical Incident Management Planning


This policy outlines the school planning required to effectively respond to emergencies and incidents. This planning is documented in the school’s Emergency Management Plan.


Schools must:

  • have a current Emergency Management Plan (EMP) that addresses site specific hazards and threats which have the potential to result in emergencies and critical incidents which include:
    • circumstances that pose a critical risk to the health, safety or wellbeing of one or more students or staff
    • incidents requiring school closure, lockdown, or affecting the school’s ability to operate fully
  • develop and maintain their plans using the Online EMP Portal.
  • inform their school community how they will communicate with parents and carers in an emergency, and of any relocation/closure arrangements (for schools at bushfire risk) contained in their EMP.
  • test emergency response procedures by conducting drills at regular intervals, at least quarterly per annum.
  • review the EMP at least annually by 1 September, and/or following an emergency or critical incident.


Schools must have a current Emergency Management Plan (EMP) signed off by the principal that is reviewed at least annually by 1 September and following an emergency or critical incident.

The Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA) under the Guidelines to the Minimum Standards and Requirements for School Registration requires schools to have policies and procedures in place to provide students with a safe environment where the risk of harm is minimised and students feel safe, a component of which is evidence of an ‘emergency management plan’.

The EMP must:

  • be completed by government schools using the Online EMP Portal
  • be informed by a site-specific comprehensive risk assessment relating to:
    • circumstances that pose a critical risk to the health, safety or wellbeing of one or more students or staff
    • incidents requiring school closure, lockdown, or affecting the school’s ability to operate fully
  • describe actions to take before, during and after an emergency or critical incident to ensure the ongoing safety of staff, students and others, and for restoring school operations/continuity of education

A comprehensive site-specific risk assessment and corresponding response procedures are essential components of an EMP.

Schools are encouraged to seek advice from their regional manager operations and emergency management or emergency management support officers, local municipal councils and emergency service providers where possible, to inform the content of their EMP and their risk assessment.

Schools must:

  • ensure that staff who have a nominated role in the EMP have a clear understanding of, and have practiced their role in the EMP
  • ensure that all staff, students and regular users of the school site, such as out of school hours care, have an understanding of the EMPs response procedures
  • inform their school community how they will communicate with parents and carers in an emergency situation, or any other information that the school considers essential to prepare the school community for action during an emergency
  • inform their school community of any relocation/closure and other pre-emptive arrangements (if their site is at bushfire or grassfire risk)
  • take all preparatory steps identified in the EMP to prevent negative consequences from an emergency or critical incident, including any staff training
  • test emergency arrangements for core emergency response procedures (as listed in your EMP) for a variety of emergency scenarios such as fire in the neighbourhood, intruder, or loss of an essential service, at least quarterly per annum

Emergency drills

Practicing emergency response procedures through drills:

  • ensures widespread familiarity with emergency response procedures and the capacity to efficiently and effectively implement them in a live emergency
  • promotes more effective emergency response procedures, by ensuring that evacuation locations and pathways are practical and workable in different emergency scenarios and that safety will be maintained throughout the response procedure

Fire services and police may be willing to assist schools with emergency testing by acting as observers or by reviewing school emergency procedures.

Emergency drills should be followed by a debriefing of all staff and the school’s incident management team (IMT) — refer to the Guide to developing your Emergency Management Plan – Government schools 2020-21 for details on establishing an IMT.

Schools must document outcomes and lessons from the drill, with any required changes to response arrangements, incorporated into their EMP.

An emergency response drill observers’ record is available at Emergency response drill observers record (staff login required). 

Support with completing the EMP


Schools requiring assistance with their EMP or the Online EMP Portal may contact their regional Manager, Operations and Emergency Management or Emergency Management Support Officer.

Questions about emergency management arrangements and advice from the Department may be directed to

Questions about school business continuity and advice from the Department may be directed to

Emergency management planning for excursions and camps

Schools are required to undertake emergency management planning for certain excursions, overseas tours or camps — refer to Excursions for guidance.


As defined in section 3 of the Emergency Management Act 2013 (Vic.):
'The actual or imminent occurrence of an event which in any way endangers or threatens to endanger the safety or health of any person in Victoria or which destroys or damages, or threatens to destroy or damage, any property in Victoria or endangers or threatens to endanger the environment or an element of the environment in Victoria including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing:

  • an earthquake, flood, wind-storm or other natural event
  • a fire
  • an explosion
  • a road accident or any other accident
  • a plague or an epidemic or contamination
  • a security threat
  • a hi-jack, siege or riot
  • a disruption to an essential service

These events ordinarily require a coordinated whole of school response.

An incident is any actual or alleged event or situation that:

  • requires police notification; and/or
  • causes harm or creates a risk of causing harm to student or staff health, safety or wellbeing either directly or indirectly; and/or
  • affects or risks affecting the continuity of school operations

Critical incidents requiring planning include, but are not limited to:

  • child abuse
  • medical emergency
  • mental stress
  • data or privacy breach
  • missing student/person


To report an emergency or other incident to the Incident Support and Operations Centre (who will arrange for an IRIS report to be made) call 1800 126 126.

For support in completing the school online EMP or general queries or feedback in relation to this policy or guidance, contact the Policy and Intelligence Unit, Security and Emergency Management Division on email: or ph: 03 7022 0015.

Department policy outlining the school planning required to effectively prepare for and respond to emergencies and incidents

Reviewed 11 October 2021

Policy last updated

15 June 2020


  • Schools


Security and Emergency Management Division There are multiple contacts for this topic. Refer to the contacts heading at the bottom of the page for details.

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