Disaster resilience embodies the ability of communities to better prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters, minimising the impacts of future events.

Age service providers have a particularly important role in this regard given the vulnerable groups they provide care for such as the aged, frail, incapacitated and oxygen dependent who require additional support during times of disaster.

As such, the risk of emergencies is heightened in aged care. Extreme weather conditions in some parts of Australia, like heat and the threat of bushfires, can increase this risk further.

Emergency management plans in aged care services and facilities may need to contend with:

  • Evacuations
  • Staff shortages
  • Power and system failures
  • Restricted access to essential supplies

Recent bushfire activity across Australia has demonstrated the importance of robust emergency plans to ensure both aged care recipients and staff feel supported and safe during emergency events.

Funding agreements and grants often require age services to have an emergency management plan in place. Local Government Authorities may also require age services to assess risks and report to them on threat levels.

Communicating with relevant agencies in your area and taking part in emergency management forums and groups can also help your preparation.

KEY CONTACTS

National Bushfire Recovery Agency
In January 2020, the National Bushfire Recovery Agency was established to lead and coordinate a national response to rebuilding communities affected by bushfires across large parts of Australia.

The Agency is responsible for administering a National Bushfire Recovery Fund which is supporting recovery efforts across Australia over the next two years. An initial $2 billion has been allocated to this fund, which is in addition to other services and support available under existing natural disaster support mechanisms.

The Agency will work shoulder to shoulder with and for communities and collaborate with all levels of government, industry experts, business and charity sectors.

Department of Health State or Territory Office
Aged care service providers can call the Australian Government Department of Health in their state or territory if they need help to find vacancies or resources to manage an emergency. These numbers are monitored at all times.

  • New South Wales / Australian Capital Territory 1800 852 649
  • Northern Territory 1800 355 348
  • Queensland 1800 300 125
  • South Australia 1800 288 475
  • Victoria / Tasmania 1800 078 709
  • Western Australia 1800 733 923

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS TO SUPPORT BUSHFIRE/DISASTER RESPONSE AND RECOVERY

Q: What is the best practice regarding the physical logistics of evacuating a high number of non-ambulatory residents in an aged care facility?

A: Aged Care Providers responsibilities include having in place appropriate processes for the management of emergencies that may include natural disasters. These need to be relevant to each site and care recipient. Useful resources to guide this could be:

  • Aged Care Quality Standards (Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission)
  • Evacuation Decision Guidelines for Private Health and Residential Care Facilities (NSW Ministry of Health, Health emergency Management Unit)
  • Preparing for emergencies – A reference guide for organisations in the Health and Community Services Sectors (Victorian Government Department of Health and Human Services)
  • We suggest that you also check with the relevant disaster management authority in your state.

Q: In the event that an aged care facility did have to evacuate temporarily, how does this effect funding payments to the age service provider?

A: Where care recipients are relocated, the Government will continue to pay subsidies to the provider responsible for their ongoing care. Normal claiming applies, and not as if on ‘leave’. It is the relocating provider’s responsibility to arrange to reimburse the receiving facility’s incurred costs. Please refer to the DoH website – “Service continuity and emergency events in aged care

The most common scenario is for the approved provider of the evacuating service to set up a brokerage agreement with the providers of other services (the admitting aged care home) that are willing and able to provide care to their residents.

Q: How will age service providers be supported in identifying alternate facilities where evacuees can be accommodated?

A: The Department of Health State Offices can assist services to identify suitable accommodation for the relocation of aged care residents during an emergency.

Q: Aged care facilities may receive advice to “be ready to evacuate”, but do not have a clear mechanism to follow up how their local emergency situation is progressing. What is the procedure for an age service provider/facility manager to get local updates during an active “prepare to evacuate”?

A: For the reference of organisations, please check with your relevant state-based emergency management authority. Information about current and forecast conditions is also available from a variety of media sources, including radio, television and the internet. Agencies such as the Bureau of Meteorology, State Emergency Services, fire services and police monitor forecast hazards and provide advice and warnings.

The Department of Health is working to provide more clarity in guidance materials around this issue.

Q: When considering Bushfire Action Plans or facing imminent evacuation, how can access to transport such as ambulances and buses be secured?

A: Providers have a responsibility under the Aged Care Quality Standards to plan their own methods of client transportation where appropriate. Combat Agencies (emergency services) and the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) will rely on Local Emergency Management Plans to have a current list of facilities where vulnerable people are likely to be situated. In the case of transporting non-ambulatory residents during an emergency, the local Operations Centre will coordinate ambulatory services through a patient transport hub.

For the reference of organisations, please check with your relevant state-based emergency management authority.

Q: Who is responsible for housing elderly normally living within the community who had lost their home, post an incident?

A: As for any other vulnerable community member, the State Government has responsibility for community housing post an incident.

Q: What resources or solution is available to help monitor localised air quality in the context of an age service provider’s bushfire response?

A: There are resources available in each State:

Q: What resources are available to support age service providers in drawing up Bushfire Action Plans?

A: Country/rural fire services in all states/territories provide advice and information on bushfire management planning, while state/territory health agencies provide information on disaster preparedness and emergency management. There are also opportunities for the sector to share better practice information.

There are numerous agencies and websites that can be used to assist in drawing up Bushfire Action Plans, and it is the providers’ responsibility to ensure Bushfire Action Plans are appropriate and current for the situation at their services.

Some suggested resources are:

FURTHER ADVICE

LASA is actively engaged in national coordination forums being convened by the National Bushfire Recovery Agency and will provide Member updates on related activities or announcements from the Agency as required.