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9 January 2015

From the Chair

Chair message, RACGP's Disaster Management Network

Welcome to the January 2015 edition of the Emergency Response Planning Tool (ERPT) newsletter. The beginning of a year is an ideal time to get started on the right track by creating or updating an emergency response plan using the RACGP’s ERPT.


Australia is often hit hard by natural disasters, many of which are devastating. They have, however, taught us that planning ahead of time is crucial and effective recovery is not spontaneous – it requires thorough planning.  


Australia’s size means the country experiences a variety of weather conditions. While bushfire and cyclone season traditionally occurs from November to April, and flood season from May to August, disasters can strike at any time. When I hear someone say, ‘my general practice is not in a bushfire-, cyclone- or flood-prone area, so I don’t need a plan’, I quickly remind them all practices can be adversely impacted by a disaster or emergency. An emergency can be any incident (small or large) that disrupts routine business operations.


Creating or updating your emergency response plan in January will give you peace of mind for the year ahead, should an event occur. The RACGP recommends practices review and monitor their emergency plan on a quarterly basis. This will ensure the information is up-to-date, supporting practice staff to respond effectively. After all, a plan with incorrect or out-of-date information is of no use at all.


I congratulate those practices that have completed and published their emergency response plan in 2014. You have taken the right steps to ensure your staff will know how to respond during an unexpected event. Practices that published their plan earlier in the year are encouraged to review and update them to make sure all of the information is still relevant. For the practices that have commenced planning but have not yet finished, I strongly recommend you do so as a matter of priority.


The RACGP is very happy to support you during your emergency planning efforts and has friendly and helpful staff on deck to assist. For further assistance, please call Nathan Fell, Project Administrator – Emergency Management on (03) 8699 0315.

Feature Article

The Australian bushfire season is here

Bushfire is a significant threat in many areas around Australia during the summer period.


Predictions to date suggest this year’s fire season will be longer than usual, meaning more general practices and their staff will be threatened by bushfire.


General practices in fire-prone areas will play a significant role in the community’s overall response but, to be effective, your practice and staff need to be prepared. A completed plan using the ERPT will ensure that your practice has a current emergency response plan so staff will know what actions are required to resume services as quickly as possible in the event of an event.


It is also recommended that you contact your local community response coordination organisation to ensure you are part of community planning processes.


Your state-based response organisation are the best source of fire-specific planning for your practice. For example, the Country Fire Authority (CFA) in Victoria.


However, staff can also undertake a range of activities to help protect the practice’s infrastructure and contents. Some of these activities include:

  • removing excess rubbish, leaves, litter and shrubs from around the practice
  • removing any unnecessary flammable materials, such as paint, from the premises
  • clearing guttering surrounding the practice
  • cutting the grass and disposing of trimmings regularly
  • ensuring there is a wide firebreak around the practice
  • removing all tree branches so the building is clear from overhanging branches
  • installing a sprinkler system around the practice.


Further information regarding the overall emergency planning process can be accessed at

Business continuity planning

Why have a business continuity plan?

Emergencies are undesirable and, despite our best efforts, cannot always be avoided. In order to minimise the problems associated with a crisis, it is recommended emergency response plans include a business continuity component. The ERPT was upgraded in September 2014 and now features a comprehensive business continuity section. Having a business continuity plan will allow you to:

  • outline steps to continue operations during an interruption  
  • list steps to fully restore services after an interruption
  • identify and prevent risks where possible

What should your business continuity plan contain?

The size and complexity of your business continuity plan will depend on the structure of your individual practice. However, as a minimum, your business continuity plan should include critical business information vital to the continuation of business operations should an emergency occur. This may include:

  • a list of crucial business systems and services
  • a list of staff required to fulfil key functions
  • clinical equipment and consumables required to fulfil service functions
  • IT services required to fulfil function
  • priorities for restoring utility and technical support services
  • site security, including offsite premises.

Business continuity planning within the ERPT

Section 14 of the ERPT helps you to plan for the loss or non-availability of key staff members. This is a crucial area to consider as it may change the way you manage your practice workload. This is especially the case for smaller practices. If your practice has regular locum GPs or nurses, it is also recommend that you record their contact details in the staff contacts list found in Section 1 of the ERPT.


Section 1 records information about locum agencies, and also looks at:

  • succession arrangements during an emergency or event
  • the impact of major incidents, such as pandemics, on staffing levels
  • emergency access to secure systems
  • the management of patient load with reduced staffing capacity.


Business continuity is not just in relation to emergencies and may be required in a range of circumstances. For example, if a key staff member became seriously ill or involved in an accident.

Planning in advance

If you decide to start your business continuity plan during a crisis or emergency, you have left it too late. Planning will, at the very least, ensure your practice has steps outlined to allow your key business functions to remain operational.   

What is coming up?

Free webinars

The RACGP is pleased to provide you with the opportunity to participate in a range of free webinars.





Thursday 5 February 2015

1.30 pm (AEDT)

Register here

Introduction to ERPT

Tuesday 10 March 2015

10.00 am (AEDT)

Register here

Introduction to ERPT

We want to hear from you

ERPT feedback

There are currently 1790 registered ERPT users and the RACGP’s ERPT team would love to hear from all of you.

Tell us:

  • if or how much you like/dislike using the ERPT
  • if your practice has experienced a disaster
  • if the ERPT has helped during an emergency or event
  • what should be included in future ERPT updates
  • what resources were useful/not useful.

Email the ERPT team at

ERPT Support

The RACGP offers over-the-phone assistance and support to practices using the ERPT. For assistance in creating an emergency plan using the ERPT, contact Nathan Fell, Project Administrator – Emergency Management, on (03) 8699 0315.

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