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Critical Incident Policy


To ensure the safety of all staff, students and school visitors in the event of an emergency situation.

Glen Waverley South Primary School may become directly or indirectly involved in a tragic or traumatic event.

The incident may involve loss of life, serious injury or emotional disturbance. The incident may occur in the school environment or outside. It may involve staff, students or those close to them. The network of those involved in a traumatic event can be wide, especially if it directly involves the school. Feelings of grief and loss can continue over long periods of time.

Counselling should be provided for all those who need it.  This may include many who do not seem to be closely connected to the event or the individuals involved. While school should operate as normally as possible, some degree of flexibility should exist.

It is essential that people be given clear, accurate information at all times. It is essential that a Critical Incident Recovery Team be formed to manage the short and long term effects.

Glen Waverley South Primary School is responsible for:

  • planning for and managing emergencies
  • responding swiftly to emergency incidents including medical emergencies
  • reporting emergencies and incidents
  • liaising with a range of support agencies including the Security Services Unit
  • testing emergency procedures.


Glen Waverley South Primary School:

  • will ensure we have a current emergency management plan that contains the four components of preparedness, prevention, response and recovery. This plan will;
    1. Describe actions to take before, during and after an emergency to ensure the ongoing safety of staff, students and others
    2. Cover all circumstances when the school is responsible for student safety, such as school excursions to ensure staff and student safety and that students are supervised at all times
    3. Be reviewed annually and/or following an emergency or crisis
    4. Be developed in consultation with relevant emergency services and the Security Services Unit.
  • will ensure that staff, students and the school community know what the plan contains
  • will ensure that staff, students and the school community are trained so that they know what they are required to do during an emergency
  • will test emergency arrangements at regular intervals to ensure that procedures work and everyone learns emergency protocols
  • may implement additional security risk management measures
  • may be required to provide WorkSafe notifications. 



Incidents vary in complexity.  These guidelines provide a framework for action and would not necessarily be followed in all cases.

However, the following 4 principles must be followed: 

  1. provide clear, accurate information
  2. describe the actions to be followed
  3. provide help for all affected
  4. maintain a normal school program as close as possible
  • Obtain accurate information.  Deal only with substantiated facts.
  • As soon as possible inform staff, especially those most directly involved.  Inform close friends and family individually. Allow questions and discussion as they arise.  Dispel rumours.
  • Appoint a skilled Critical Incident Recovery Team to assist in the management of the incident.  The team may include staff members, psychologists, counsellors, external DET personnel, support agencies etc.  The size and composition of the team will be related to the nature of the incident.  Distribute names of the Critical Incident Recovery Team members, and inform others of the role of the team.
  • As soon as possible provide information to the community as to what has happened, and what is being done.
  • Appoint a skilled Critical Incident Recovery Team member to respond to media enquiries.  A written press release may be useful.   If necessary, protect others from contact with the media. Advice regarding this may be obtained from the DET Emergency Communications Centre and the DET Media Unit.
  • Establish an open line of contact with the family or families directly involved.
  • Provide out of school hours contact if necessary.  This could be as simple as circulating the Principal’s telephone number.  In more complex situations it may mean maintaining telephone contact at the school.
  • Continue contact with the family/families to identify their expectations of the school, e.g. student participation in funeral or memorial service.
  • Try to identify those most likely to need help, e.g. classmates, teacher, special friends. Some students not directly affected may become distressed.
  • Ensure that counselling help is available.  Contact the Regional Office and/or DET if necessary.  All emergency or criminal activity, in which the safety or well-being of staff or students is at risk, or where there is a threat to property, must be reported immediately to the Department’s 24 hour Emergency and Security Management Branch on (03) 9589 6266.
  • Continue to keep staff, students and parents informed especially about what has happened and what the school is doing about it.
  • As soon as possible call students together and provide information about what has happened and what the school is doing about it.  A follow up letter home may be important.
  • Provide counselling services for all.  Ensure that there are suitable places in which this can take place.  Be prepared to modify the timetable and other arrangements so that people are free to make use of available help.
  • The class teacher may be the person to whom students first turn for help. 
  • Children wishing to attend funerals should do so in the company of their parents.  Provide meaningful participation for those not actually attending the service.
  • Continue normal routines at school but acknowledge the effect of tragedy on the school community.  Be flexible with those in need of help.  Be aware that many people may be deeply affected, e.g. an event may cause a person to recall some traumatic event involving them in the past.  The anniversary may also be a difficult time.
  • Maintain links with the family.  The school and family may wish to develop a memorial garden, erect a memorial plaque, or display a photo in a prominent position in the school.
  • Be sensitive to staff and students’ needs over a period of time.
  • The school may be in a position to help grieving families at difficult times, e.g. through the school’s participation in the funeral service.

Related policies

The policies within this section are:
• Emergency Management Planning
• Medical Emergencies

Links and Appendices (including processes related to this policy)

Links which are connected with this policy are:
• DET Emergency Management Planning
• Emergency and Critical Incident

Appendices which are connected with this policy are:
• Appendix A: Critical Incident Recovery Plan (CIRP)
• Appendix B: Critical or Traumatic Incident Plan – First 24 hour Short Term Tasks
• Appendix C: Emergency Message Record Form – Template


This policy will be reviewed as part of the school’s three-year review cycle.

This policy was last ratified by School Council on:  27/04/16.

Appendix A: Glen Waverley South Primary School
 Critical Incident Recovery Plan (CIRP)

Responsibilities and Procedures

1. Plan Statement

This Plan is an integral part of the Emergency Management processes of the school.

2. Implementation

The Recovery Team will be responsible for coordinating and implementing the Plan

It will need to consider:

  • establishing the facts as soon as possible
  • developing an action plan of short, medium and long term tasks
  • contact with the Department of Education and Training (DET)
  • liaising with external bodies including the media
  • communicating with the whole staff as soon as possible
  • meeting with staff both as a whole and with individuals or groups for debriefing
  • communicating with the student body
  • meeting with students in groups or individually for debriefing
  • contacting parents/guardians
  • short term and long term counselling requirements for groups or individuals

The relevance of each of the above will depend on factors such as the nature and magnitude of the incident, the intensity of the impact on the School community and the number of people affected.

3. Debriefing

Critical Incident Stress Debriefing has three components:

1. initial discussion about feelings and an assessment of the intensity of the stress responses

2. detailed discussion of signs and symptoms of stress responses

3. closing stage - provides overview and information with referral to an outside agency if required

  • The Recovery Team will assist the Principal to facilitate the recovery of staff and students and those of the School community affected by the critical incident.
  • The debriefing meeting of the Recovery Team should include a mental health professional and one peer who were not involved in the incident.
  • The Recovery Team will decide the structure and composition of debriefing meetings; such meetings should be held within eight hours of the critical incident.  These meetings will review the impressions and reactions of the persons involved during or following the incident.
  • Counselling support and referrals for students and their families will be provided initially by the Principal or their nominee and a Regional Guidance Officer.

4. Review

  • As part of the Critical Incident Recovery Plan, the Principal will set up a Recovery Team.
  • The Recovery Team will meet to review the implementation of the Critical Incident Recovery Plan within seventy two (72) hours of the critical incident.
  • Following a critical incident, the Principal will convene the Recovery Team as soon as possible.  The composition of the Recovery Team will be:
    • the Principal
    • the Assistant Principal
    • a Leading teacher
    • a member of the Educational Support staff (first aid trained)
    • other support staff as appropriate
    • psychologists, counsellors and DET personnel as necessary.
  • The Principal will convene the Recovery Team regularly to review planning and strategies for the Critical Incident Recovery Plan. 

Appendix B: Glen Waverley South Primary School Critical or Traumatic Incident Plan (First 24 Hours Short Term Tasks)

Responsibilities and Procedures

1. Emergency Record

Record Information

  • nature of the incident
  • location of the incident, number and names of persons involved
  • name of the person reporting the incident
  • time incident reported
  • contact telephone number if away from school

Verify all Details

  • confirm that the information given about the event is accurate

Record the Incident

  • notify principal
  • ensure emergency services have been called
  • notify the Department’s 24 hour Emergency Communications Centre on (03) 9589 6266

2. Ensure students and staff are safe from harm or injury

  • Principal class staff cordon off any ‘crisis’ area and keep students away from there
  • manage the grounds while staff are briefed and ensure media do not intrude
  • check corridors, toilets etc for stray students - try to prevent students leaving on their own particularly if distressed
  • ensure the school continues as normally as possible

3. Establish Critical Incident Recovery Team

The composition of the Recovery Team will be:

  • the Principal
  • the Assistant Principal
  • the leading teacher
  • member of the Educational Support staff (first aid trained)
  • other support staff as appropriate as necessary, psychologists, counsellors and DET personnel. 

4. Allocate responsibilities

  • emergency message register
  • emergency contact list
  • evacuation and assembly of staff and students
  • cordon off area of ‘crisis’
  • establish a Support Team and Communications Centre to:
    • manage information and phone calls
    • coordinate media requests for information
    • provide information to parents arriving at school
    • coordinate routine school activities – maintain where practical
    • notify students, staff and ancillary about the emergency
    • notify parents first, then siblings in the school
    • establish a recovery room and supervisor for affected students
    • establish a waiting room for parents
    • inform students
    • inform School Council
    • inform School Community by newsletter
    • monitor School Community’s reactions
    • liaise with outside agencies and emergency services
    • brief key personnel and review responses

5. Recovery Room(s)

Set Up Recovery Room

  • screen windows
  • have available pens, textas, paper, scissors, envelopes, tissues

Appoint Recovery Room Supervisors

  • First Aid staff

Recovery Room Supervisors’ Responsibilities

  • keep calm
  • monitor students for shock reactions, provide first aid if necessary
  • encourage students to gather in small friendship groups rather than bigger ones
  • keep a list of students attending the recovery room
  • give the students a task to undertake such as making a card or writing a letter
  • contact parents of students who remain in the recovery room and alert them to possible concerns 

6. Informing Staff

  • provide teachers and ancillary staff with a brief outline of the incident
  • restate to ensure that staff understand
  • outline recovery management arrangements
  • discuss procedures to be followed by staff during the day
  • discuss the general procedures that Critical Incident Team will be following
  • discuss guidelines for informing students and ways of answering questions from them
  • give staff time to discuss this among themselves
  • provide a brief factual outline to others in the community on a need to know basis
  • inform staff as soon as possible about a serious emergency involving death or injury which occurs after hours, on the weekend or during the school holidays
  • inform staff as soon as possible about arrangements for holding a brief meeting before informing students at the start of the next school day
  • review with staff afterwards any issues and needs
  • provide staff with contact numbers for counselling or support services for themselves

7. Informing Students

Principal or senior staff

  • contact the bereaved family or police to ascertain what information may be released within the school
  • prepare a written factual statement, without graphic detail, for use as a reference by teachers when discussing the incident with students
  • determine whether to tell students about the incident at a whole school assembly, by year levels or individual classes, depending on the nature of the incident
  • discuss with teachers who feel uncomfortable raising the event with students and arrange for support from another teacher or a member of the recovery team
  • identify staff who may be too distraught to take classes and arrange replacements
  • inform students soon after briefing staff
  • ask teachers to mark a roll to identify who has been informed and who has not


  • provide a factual account of the incident at the beginning of the first class in a way that ensures all students hear the same information
  • limit speculation and rumours
  • inform students about arrangements of counselling and recovery rooms
  • inform students about arrangements for services, and appropriate ways to express condolences
  • outline the arrangements for the day

Notifying close friends

  • take these students aside when they arrive at school and inform them privately
  • contact their parents prior to the start of the day
  • ensure individual attention is given to intimate friends who are likely to have special needs beyond those of other students 

8. Communication Centre

Organise the following to be on hand:

  • telephone - dedicated line in case of jamming by incoming calls
  • telephone message if necessary
  • message records
  • phone lists
  • rolls
  • excursion list
  • timetable
  • maps
  • computer and printer
  • photocopier
  • EMP instructions

9. Media Coverage

  • contact DET Media Unit on 9637 2871 or 9264 5821
  • nominate a media coordinator, prepare the School Council President and Principal to provide on camera interviews
  • prepare a three paragraph report:
    • briefly outline the facts
    • outline what the school has done to assist those affected
    • outline support and recovery arrangements
    • include a name and contact number for the school media coordinator
  • liaise with the family about any statements made to media
  • exclude discussion of policy matters, limit comment to the emergency and the school response
  • set rules for persistent media
  • keep a record of media enquiries
  • offer scheduled interviews in return for media commitment not to seek uninvited access to staff, students, parents
  • negotiate accepted areas for filming e.g. school/church  boundary and not within
  • check that information provided does not conflict with court requirements or police proceedings
  • anticipate renewed interest arising from anniversaries, court proceedings

10. Long Term Actions

  • monitor and support members of the school community, particularly on significant dates such as anniversaries
  • consider longer term intervention activities such as counselling or specialist support
  • consider establishing an area within the school as a place of remembrance
  • reconvene key people at regular intervals to review the school response and effectiveness of planning arrangements
  • review the school emergency management plan in light of experience gained
  • consider a ritual of marking significant dates
  • prepare for legal proceedings if necessary
  • remove students name from the roll if deceased
  • consider article in school magazine

11. Reference: 

DET’s Managing School Emergencies - Minimising the impact of trauma on staff and students

Appendix C: Glen Waverley South Primary School Emergency Record Form - Template

Date: ____/____/____
Time of notification:   : am/pm
Name of person taking the call 
Name of person reporting the incident 
Contact telephone number

Details/ Describe:
Where everyone is now:
What action is being taken to help?
Nature and extent of injury: 
Immediate Actions Required
Principal notified?  Yes • Time: :  am/pm
Other school staff? Yes • Time: :  am/pm
Emergency Services notified? Yes • Time: :  am/pm
Emergency & Security Management notified? Yes • Time: :  am/pm
(03) 9589 6266

Emergency Contact Telephone Numbers
POLICE      000  
AMBULANCE     000   
FIRE BRIGADE     000   

Appendix C: Glen Waverley South Primary School Emergency Message Record Form

Time:   : am/pm
Message from 
Action required?  Yes / No

If ‘YES’, please detail:

Message taken by