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Responding to an outbreak

Emergency management

Outbreak preparedness, prevention and management
NDIS guidance to help providers during the COVID-19 pandemic meet registration obligations and minimise the risk to NDIS participants’ health, wellbeing and safety.

First 24 hours: Steps to take in response to a positive COVID-19 diagnosis

First 24 hours: Steps to take in response to a positive COVID-19 diagnosis

Note: This document was developed by SCOPE Australia and reviewed by DHHS (now DFFH) in 2020. It was made available for use and adaption by service providers. NDS wishes to acknowledge and thank SCOPE for making this publicly available. NDS has updated the document with the latest links and requirements for providers in each state.

Accurate as of 25 August 2021. NDS welcomes any information or recommendations from providers to include in this document. Providers are also encouraged to regularly review updates on the State Government coronavirus website.

Operating in a COVID-19 environment

In our COVID 'normal', leaders and Board members of disability services are responsible for ensuring organisations, workers and clients are prepared and ready for sudden COVID-19 lockdowns.

This is a possible scenario in Australia, as we await full rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. This comprehensive checklist covers a wide range of considerations and will assist you to prepare for a sudden State or region-based lockdown. Some recommendations will not be relevant to all services.


Leadership and staff

  • Are Boards aware of the need to ensure their organisations conduct the relevant planning in the event of disruption?
  • Are COVIDSafe, Risk Management and Emergency Preparedness plans up-to-date?
  • What is the nature and frequency of reporting on COVID-19 preparations by the organisation to the Board?
  • Is there a designated Board role to prepare for a lockdown, for example a Risk Committee or a specific COVID-19 Working Group?
  • Do you have an Incident Command and Control System? Is this ready to be activated? Are delegations clear and who on the Board is designated as a conduit from the CEO, Incident Controller etc for communication and decision making? This can be important if actions require urgent approval.
  • Have staff been trained in the Command and Control System?
  • If there was a sudden lockdown, have the roles and responsibilities of all staff been determined?
  • Have the roles and responsibilities been documented and checked with all staff to ensure they are agreed on and understood – particularly by members of the leadership team, functional team managers, OHS managers and supervisors? Has relevant training been provided for all staff, including newer staff, who may need to cover for those unable to work?
  • How well do you know your staff – including what their limitations might be if they are unable to work (for example, if schools suddenly close and staff need to stay at home).
  • Do you have a staff resource backup plan for key roles if some people cannot attend work?


  • Do you have a communications plan in place that outlines processes and protocols to follow in the event of a sudden lockdown? It should include internal (staff), external (clients/families) and other services. 
  • Do you have a medical plan in place?
  • Are delegations clear for action to implement these plans, and known and agreed by the Board?
  • Do you have a call tree to ensure staff keep close communication with relevant people during disruptions?
  • Are staff and client lists up-to-date and readily accessible for key staff at all times?
  • Do you have a plan to ensure that communication are provided in the appropriate way. For example, in plain English, in languages other than English, and in various forms – email, phone calls, text messages, visual communications?


  • Are contingencies in place to move equipment from office to home if necessary?
  • Can staff transition to work from home quickly and effectively?
  • Can IT support be provided to remote users if the main office cannot be accessed?
  • Do you have backup in the event of IT system/s failure? Has it been tested, audited and reported on recently to the Board Risk Committee? If not, a redundancy check may be important.
  • Do you have the correct IT and communications infrastructure in place to manage business operations in an online environment?

Stores and supplies

  • Are your stores up-to-date, especially with PPE?
  • Does this include PPE kits for staff who deliver in-home supports or outreach services?
  • Are there regular inventory checks to ensure adequate supplies of critical items (for example, PPE) and are orders placed well in advance to build or replenish stocks?
  • Are your staff regularly undertaking inventory checks to ensure adequate stores are easily accessible for all staff in the event of a sudden lockdown? Consider additional allocations for people in more remote locations.
  • Do you have other critical items up-to-date and accessible – for example, bushfire kits if a lockdown occurred in a high-risk season?
  • Are alternative supply arrangements in place if your standard supplier/s cannot service your needs?


Leadership and staff

  • How do you manage temporary staff who may be required to cover a surge situation, particularly with worker mobility restrictions?
  • Will your Incident Controller have first line of responsibility and manage contingencies in consultation with the CEO/leadership team?
  • Can responsibilities be delegated across your staff in the event of the lockdown – covering all necessary functions to ensure business continuity during lockdown? Have backups been assigned and trained?
  • Are you able to quickly map out where staff are, whether they are rostered on or off during lockdown, and are able to work?
  • In the event of travel distance restrictions, do your staff know they need to carry their ID when travelling and do they know who to contact if they have any problems?
  • Have you considered the emotional health and stress levels of staff? Do your managers and OHS teams communicate with all staff during lockdown to check on their wellbeing and offer support? Are you conducting regular (daily) check-ins? Do staff have contact details of the EAP consultant (if your organisation uses this service).


  • Have you activated your emergency communications plan for internal and external stakeholders?
  • Can you use consistent messages with base text developed in advance to save time in a crisis?
  • Are staff able to access relevant news updates, NDS briefings or those from the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing website?
  • Have you put in place internal and external virtual regular ‘standup meetings’ to keep staff, participants and other key stakeholders abreast of situation and requirements?


  • What services may be required to change in a further or extended lockdown? Are you prepared for this?


  • Does your business continuity plan have an in-built recovery plan that provides guidance for return-to-normal operations?
  • Have you planned a formal debrief with staff – what worked well, what didn’t and what needs to change to be better planned next time?
  • Who is responsible to make any agreed changes immediately to policies, processes, documentation and training?
  • Do you know the likely financial impact of any changes required as a result of the lockdown, particularly if extended?
  • Were there any new learnings from the lockdown that can be applied for future operations?

Last updated May 2021.

Contact information

For any enquiries, please contact Sarah Fordyce, State Manager Victoria, 0447 441 505, submit enquiry/feedback