Information for general practitioners working in evacuation centres

Common terms and definitions

Common terms and definitions

All-hazard approach

A consistent management approach to all types of emergencies and disasters and civil defence regardless of the hazard type4

Hazards can include natural hazards, such as bushfires and floods, or man-made hazards, such transport incidents and terrorism

Combat agency

The agency identified as primarily responsible for controlling the response to a particular emergency


The internal direction of the members and resources of an agency in the performance of the organisation’s roles and tasks

Command operates vertically within an organisation4


A serious disruption to the functioning of a community or a society at any scale due to hazardous events interacting with conditions of exposure, vulnerability and capacity, leading to one or more of the following: human, material, economic and environmental losses and impacts

The scale of the event is characterised by impacts that overwhelm local capacity and resources and requires external assistance

Note, there are jurisdictional legislative variations4


An event, actual or imminent, that endangers or threatens to endanger life, property or the environment and that requires a significant and coordinated response

The scale of the event is such that can be managed within the capacity and resources of local authorities

Note, there are jurisdictional legislative variations4

Evacuation centre

Physical site providing emergency shelter for people, and sometimes animals, displaced by a hazard. The aim is to provide basic human needs of safety, shelter, warmth, light, food, water and sanitation, and to address immediate healthcare needs. The full range of activities in any evacuation centre will vary according to local community context, including: the availability of local healthcare services, personnel and resources; the particular hazard and disaster(s); the length of operation of the evacuation centre; and political and socioeconomic issues
Evacuation centres are usually run via government agencies but, on occasion, may be set up on an ad hoc basis by individuals and communities

Functional area coordinator

Refers to the nominated coordinator of a functional area whose role is to coordinate the provision of support and resources for an emergency response and initial recovery operations. This person has the authority to commit the resources of participating and supporting organisations within a functional area, if agreed to by those organisations

General practitioner (GP)

A medical doctor who has undertaken specialist training in general practice
GPs are trained to treat a range of medical conditions, focusing on the whole person, ranging from emergency medicine through to chronic disease management. They provide ongoing clinical care in the local community across all phases of a disaster

General practice team

All people who work or provide care within the practice (eg GPs, receptionists, practice managers, nurses, allied health professionals)5

In an evacuation centre setting, this practice team may consist of members from one general practice, or the team may consist of members from multiple different practices

Health services functional area coordinator (HSFAC)

The HSFAC is a local district or state-level coordinator of the functional area of health. Under emergency management arrangements, the local HSFAC is responsible for providing health support in a disaster to the LHD in support of the local emergency plan. There is a corresponding role at the state/territory level. Functional area coordinators also exist for other services, such as welfare

The HSFAC would make the decision that GPs are needed to attend an evacuation centre, and the LHD would then liaise with the PHN

State/territory health services functional area supporting plan (HEALTHPLAN)

State/territory health services functional area supporting plans support the state/territory emergency management plans

Local health districts/local health networks (LHDs/LHNs)

LHDs/LHNs are established to operate public hospital services and institutions and provide health services to communities within geographical areas or a defined patient population, as determined by the state or territory government

In a disaster, LHD/LHNs are responsible for preparation and response to local disasters, including producing the LHD  health services functional area supporting plan (HEALTHPLAN), where PHNs can be incorporated

Primary health networks (PHNs)

PHNs are independent organisations that are funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care to coordinate primary healthcare in their region

PHNs assess the needs of their community and commission and support health services so that people in their region can get coordinated healthcare where and when they need it

In a disaster, PHNs form the linkage between the LHD and GPs and other primary care health professionals in disasters. They are the path to an integrated inclusion of GPs into disasters

PHNs will usually have a disaster and management ‘lead’ role within their organisation. Note, this role is evolving and usually not well defined in emergency response plans

PHN disaster and emergency operations manager (or equivalent)

The PHN officer responsible for disaster management within the PHN

State/territory emergency management plans

All states and territories have their own emergency management plan, which is comprehensive plan detailing how the states/territories will plan for, respond to and recover from disasters and emergencies, as well as the roles and responsibilities of various agencies and organisations

NSW: State emergency management plan (EMPLAN)
Qld: Queensland emergency risk management framework
Vic: State emergency management plan (SEMP)
WA: State emergency management plan
SA: State emergency management plan
Tas: Tasmanian emergency management arrangements (TEMA)
NT: Territory emergency plan (TEP)
ACT: ACT emergency arrangements

This event attracts CPD points and can be self recorded

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