School evacuation and temporary closures in emergency circumstances
The regional director (as delegate of the Minister) has the power to close a school for a period of time or allow students to be dismissed early in response to an emergency which involves a risk to the health or safety of students or staff.
Schools should enact their Emergency Management Plan in response to incidents and emergencies based on the best available information. Schools must contact their senior education improvement leader (SEIL) to seek permission to temporarily close the school for a period of time or to dismiss students early in response to an emergency. The SEIL will advise and seek approval from the regional director. To inform the decision, schools should seek additional advice from regional emergency management staff, Incident Support and Operations Centre (ISOC), and emergency services agencies, where appropriate.
On-site or off-site evacuation of the school in response to emergencies
In some circumstances, a school’s emergency response procedures may require staff and students to evacuate a site in response to a specific incident or threat.
When students and staff need to be evacuated in response to an emergency, students should be:
- supervised for the duration of the emergency and until the normal dismissal time, provided that it is safe for students to travel home or
- dismissed into the care of parents or carers during the evacuation and the details must be recorded.
Schools must obtain regional director approval (by contacting their SEIL) to dismiss students early from an on-site or off-site evacuation (or due to any other emergency).
Extreme weather conditions
With the exception of the arrangements for schools most at risk of bushfire and/or grassfire, schools are not automatically closed on days of forecast extreme heat or heavy rain.
If extreme weather conditions are impacting a school site:
- midday recess may be reduced to no less than 30 minutes
- dismissal time may be adjusted accordingly.
Students should only be sent home early when there is appropriate supervision. Teachers must remain on duty until the normal time to supervise those students who remain at school.
Schools most at risk of bushfire and/or grassfire must follow department policy and guidance on days of elevated fire danger based on their respective risk profile and categorisation. Refer to Bushfire and Grassfire Preparedness.
Loss of essential services
Essential services disconnection is not considered to be an emergency (unless there are extenuating circumstances) and as such, schools should not close in these circumstances. Schools should consider alternative arrangements and suitable workarounds for essential service disruption as part of their Emergency Management Plan. Refer to Emergency and Critical Incident Management Planning.
When there is prior notice of disconnection of an essential service, such as water, electricity and or telecommunications, principals must:
- enact their business continuity plan in their Emergency Management Plan
- contact their SEIL to make arrangements that will ensure the health and safety of students and staff
- report the incident via eduSafe Plus or to ISOC. Refer to Stage 2 – Reporting an incident (Report for Support)
- ensure the school community is aware of the anticipated disconnection.
When a disconnection occurs without prior notice, students may only be sent home early with the approval of the regional director (obtained by schools contacting their SEIL), and when all of the following apply:
- the school has enacted their business continuity plan in their Emergency Management Plan
- it is not reasonably practicable for students to be safely taken to public toilets such as at sports grounds, church yards, railway stations
- remaining at the school would pose a health and safety risk for students
- the students can safely travel home (based on the age and maturity of the students and the location of the school)
- where it is not safe for them to travel home independently, a parent or carer can be contacted to collect the students
- there is a parent or carer at home to look after them.
Whenever faced with a situation that might necessitate the temporary closure of the school, the principal must report the incident via eduSafe Plus or to ISOC in accordance with the requirements for managing and reporting school incidents outlined in this policy and guidance.
Reviewed 20 June 2022