Operational and Work Health and Safety


Work Health & Safety

The AISNSW Workplace Management team has compiled a range of documents and resources that are relevant to schools when dealing with natural disaster and emergency situations.

General

  • Appoint a site representative to report to the school executive daily on bushfire impact management
  • Monitor continued fire activity, new and developing fire activity, and as needed report school interruption or closures to AISNSW
  • Prepare a regular parent communication strategy, with a single communication channel, for updates as required.

Buildings and facilities

  • Check all buildings are safe to enter, doors and windows open easily, seal-up and lock; do not force jammed doors.
  • Identify any unsafe buildings and facilities areas and strategies for isolation.
  • Secure rooms or buildings with damaged entry and exits, to prevent further damage by weather or vandalism.
  • Ventilate all rooms for lingering smoke, water damage or mildew. Get the air moving, using fans if necessary.
  • Co-ordinate any required cleaning activity.
  • If in any doubt have buildings, including fire alarms, inspected by local council or Rural Fire Service.
  • Check all perimeter fences and gates for stability and security.
  • Check for loose power lines, power interruptions, circuit breaks, dead power connections.
  • If there has been any interruption to power, empty all fridges and freezers including canteens, staffrooms, science labs.
  • Revisit the Management of Hazardous Chemicals documents, referencing maximum temperatures for safe storage.
  • Run air-conditioning units and, if impacted by heavy ash, debris or extreme heat, request service and filter cleaning.
  • Check glass windows for hairline cracks - an impact of extreme heat.
  • Clean all water tanks and refill as required, run all taps, dishwashers, water-filters and bubblers to clear pipes ready to provide clean drinking water.
  • Flush all toilets.

Yard and Gardens

  • Identify any unsafe playground areas and implement strategies for isolation.
  • Check trees for scorched or dead limbs that need pruning and remove dead trees.
  • Check garden, water tanks, roofs and yards for dead animals, animal debris and sheltering animals such as rodents, snakes and spiders.
  • While small restoration projects in class or playground gardens can be a sign of a return to normality, there are hazards and restrictions for children and staff.
  • High winds can distribute very light ash across playgrounds, so in the first few days back at school it is best for students to be indoors at these times.
  • Removing ash from gardens can be hazardous so allowing as natural a recovery as possible is ideal.
  • Class vegetable gardens (kitchen gardens) are the exception and need to be cleared professionally when possible; current crops should be dug up and discarded.
  • Do not involve any children in this activity.
  • DO NOT ATTEMPT to remove any surface ash without wearing appropriate protective equipment. Long sleeved clothing, gloves and a good quality face mask are all absolutely essential.
  • Cold ash (but not the soil beneath) can be scraped clear and placed in large 44-gallon drums with lids. This is probably the best short-term solution for small spaces in schools and community gardens.

NESA Accreditation during bushfires
Contact NESA for support in relation to annual fees, maintaining accreditation or if critical documentation has been lost.

Insurance

You should contact your insurers as soon as practically possible in the aftermath of a natural disaster if your school has been affected.

One of the difficulties after a natural disaster has devastated large areas of a community is a delay in processing and a shortage of trades people available due to the volume of urgent work.

Moving quickly on insurance claims and assessments means prompt payment to lock in contractors and vendors and commence work.

The two major insurance companies used by independent schools in NSW are:

AON
AON Risk Services Australia
201 Kent Street Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: 02 9253 7000

Willis Towers Watson Sydney
123 Pitt Street
Angel Place,
Level 16 Sydney NSW 2000
Phone +61 29 285 4000

To find out if your school is in a natural disaster-prone area, you can contact your:

You can ask them about flood mapping and the Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) of your school to get a better understanding of your risk of flood and bushfires.

ICT

The recent bushfires in Australia have impacted school ICT operations in a diverse range of ways including: 

  • inability of staff and ICT consultants to work onsite due to road closures 

  • offline systems due to power outages 

  • communication outages 

  • back up failure 

  • the capacity for air conditioning to maintain server temperatures within acceptable limits.  

Efforts to ensure schools have effective business continuity plans pay dividends in times of crisis such as this. In many cases the impact may not be fully realised until access to the site resumes and in some cases until the staff and students return. Some simple considerations in preparation may include:

  • Maintain a safety-first approach. Seek advice before entering building areas to check ICT equipment impacted by fire. 

  • Re-visit your ICT projects and work schedule. Put on hold any unnecessary ICT projects.  

  • Have your server room air conditioning serviced as soon as possible. Be sure filters are clean and systems are working efficiently.  

  • Many ICT staff wisely prioritise testing and validating ICT services before school resumes.  

  • A key priority is to report to the Principal the status of systems and to start preparing work plans to restore services, including temporary arrangements need. Be clear as to what the priorities are, the impacts and costs. Request additional resources. Seek support from the community as needed. 

  • Take the opportunity to explain to the staffstudents and parents what has taken place and the expected impact on ICT functionality and reliability.   

  • Develop an ICT communication plan to manage your community’s expectations during this critical time. Clearly articulate the services that are available and those impacted. Suggest alternatives and work arounds. Give as much notice as possible for any upcoming outages as services and systems get reconnected. Communicate with your preferred vendor(s) about the situation and see what support they can provide.  

  • If your Internet bandwidth is capable, consider switching to cloud alternatives to reduce reliance on local infrastructure. 

  • Keep a priority list of things that come to mind that would have reduced the impact of the current situation or made the restoration of services more efficient. Things that you can attend to in the future once things return to normal. 

  • Useful websites: 
    NBNCo Bushfire recovery and support updates 
    Telecoms operators working to restore bushfire-affected networks 
    NSW to spend $20 Million on bushfire recovery  

ICT Community Support 

The ICT community within the independent sector, and across all of education is very supportive. Opportunities exist to engender support and extra resourcing. These may be facilitated via: 

  • Reaching out to AISNSW to discuss your situation and alternatives 

  • Communicating with your school’s key vendors who may be able to step in and help  

  • Seeking support from experts in your local community.