Critical Incident Management - Procedures

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Critical Incident Management - Procedures


Approval authority
Vice-Chancellor and President
Responsible officer
Vice-Chancellor and President
Designated officer
Director, Asset Management Services
First approved
9 September 2008
Last amended
23 June 2016
Effective start date
9 September 2008
Review date
28 August 2012
Active - under review
Related documents
Critical Incident Management - Managerial Policy
Risk Management - Procedures
Related legislation / standards
Counter Disaster Plan

Part A: Preliminary


1. The guidelines and procedures that follow must be read in association with the Critical Incident Management – Governing Policy.

2. The procedures that follow are designed to assist the University in responding appropriately to incidents that may cause trauma or stress to staff and/or students. There are separate guidelines and procedures for critical incidents related to ongoing University operations (refer to Part B, within this document).

3. A Critical Incident means the term used to refer to a particular incident, episode or crisis that may result in a ‘high’ level of risk, directly or indirectly to the core operations of the University. For consistency, the term critical incident is preferred to crisis, emergency or other similar expressions. Critical Incidents are the highest level of incident which may affect the operations of the University. For a full definition, review the related policy. A ‘high’ level of risk would be determined using the risk management process, as outlined in the Risk Management Procedures.

4. Critical Incidents require the creation of a Critical Incident Management Team (CIMT) for special purpose management and recovery under the direction of the designated Critical Incident Director. The Director, Asset Management Services will act as the Critical Incident Director, unless this role is otherwise appointed by the Vice-Chancellor and President.

5. Critical Incidents should be notified to Security personnel or the IT Service Desk (for IT outages during business hours) in the first instance.

6. Security or IT Service Desk personnel must notify the Director, Asset Management Services (or delegate) immediately after notification of a critical incident, unless an initial response, such as notifying emergency services, is necessary.

7. The Director, Asset Management Services (or delegate) is responsible for ensuring that the Vice-Chancellor and President is advised of any critical incident as soon as practicable after initial assessment and/or implementation of any risk treatment.

Part B: Procedures

1. Identifying and reporting a Critical Incident

1.1 If a Critical Incident occurs, staff, students and members of University decision-making or advisory bodies should:

(a) take any action within their capacity to evacuate any area affected by the risk (if necessary); then

(b) contact and advise Security (via +61 7 5430 1168); or

(c) contact and advise IT Service Desk (via +61 7 5430 1237).

1.2 If the Critical Incident is also judged to pose a present or imminent risk to the personal safety, well-being or life of a person, emergency service/s such as the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service, Queensland Police Service or Queensland Ambulance Service should be immediately contacted by telephoning 000. Security will give priority to notifying emergency services in the first instance of any Critical Incident, wherever appropriate.

1.3 In orally reporting the Critical Incident to an emergency service or Security, the notifying party should seek to maintain the confidentiality of personal information related to all individual persons involved in or witnessing the incident unless:

(a) disclosure of such information is required by law or in order to minimise or prevent an imminent threat to the safety or wellbeing of any person; or

(b) the disclosure is warranted and permissible under any protocol previously issued by the Vice-Chancellor and President in relation to disclosure of personal information to specific persons or agencies under specified conditions in the event of a critical incident.

1.4 In orally reporting the Critical Incident the following should be advised:

(a) time of the incident;

(b) location of the incident;

(c) nature of the incident (eg threat, accident, assault);

(d) names and roles of persons involved, if known; and

(e) any known contact details (eg of witnesses, next of kin, hospital a person has been taken to, the police station responding to the incident).

1.5 Security or IT Service Desk must notify Director, Asset Management Services (or delegate) immediately after notification of a Critical Incident, unless an initial response, such as notifying emergency services, is necessary.

After assessing and/or implementing any further risk treatments as the initial response to a Critical Incident, the Director, Asset Management Services will as soon as practicable advise the Vice-Chancellor and President of the Critical Incident.

1.6 The Vice-Chancellor and President will advise the Deputy Vice-Chancellors, Chief Operating Officer and Pro-Vice Chancellors of the Critical Incident, as necessary.

1.7 Security or IT Service Desk will document the initial notification of the Critical Incident via a brief initial report, and provide copies of this report to the Vice-Chancellor and President and Director, Asset Management Services (or delegate), see Appendix A: Critical Incident – Initial Report.

1.8 The Incident Escalation Guide (see Appendix D) offers a guide to the reporting of a Critical Incident.

1.9 To assist understanding the meaning of a Critical Incident, when compared with a Routine Incident or a Significant Incident, an escalation guide is attached, see Appendix F: Business Continuity Management Escalation Guide.

2. Coordination of a Critical Incident

2.1 The Critical Incident Management Team (CIMT) will be formed in the event of a Critical Incident. The CIMT will have responsibility for management of the Critical Incident until normal operations have resumed (the recovery phase).

2.2 A Critical Incident Director will form the CIMT. The CIMT is incident-specific and formed each time a new Critical Incident occurs. Membership of the CIMT may vary, depending upon the nature of the Critical Incident, as determined by the Critical Incident Director.

2.3 The Director, Asset Management Services will be the Critical Incident Director, unless the role is otherwise appointed by the Vice-Chancellor and President.

2.4 The CIMT will generally comprise the following University personnel:

Team Member Responsible for Specialist Support Team
Vice-Chancellor and President; Deputy Vice-Chancellors; Chief Operating Officer; and Pro Vice-Chancellors Executive governance of response to Critical Incident. Approval of significant resources. Likely media spokesperson, as determined.  
Director, Asset Management Services Physical response. Will act as the Critical Incident Director, unless the role is otherwise appointed by the Vice-Chancellor and President. Physical Resources Support Team
Chief Financial Officer Director, Capital and Commercial Planning and Financial response. Physical Resources Support Team
Director, Human Resources Staff response. Human Incident Support Team
Director, Student Services and Engagement Domestic student response. Human Incident Support Team
Director, USC International International student response. Human Incident Support Team
Director, ICT Solutions; Director, ICT Performance IT and telecommunications response. IT and Telecommunications Support Team
Director, Marketing and External Engagement Communication response. Communications Support Team

2.5 Specialist Support Teams within the Critical Incident management team will provide expertise relating to the key areas identified as providing the major foreseeable risks to the University’s business continuity. The Specialise Support Teams are the:

  • Human Incident Support Team (HR, Student Services and Engagement, USC International personnel);
  • Physical Resources Support Team (Asset Management Services; Capital and Commerical and Financial Services personnel);
  • IT and Telecommunications Support Team (IT personnel);
  • Communications Support Team (Marketing and External Engagement personnel); and
  • Emergency Control Team (Wardens, First Aid Officers, Security, Asset Management Services personnel).

2.6 Response Leaders within each Specialist Support Team will lead responses to Critical Incidents and report to the Critical Incident Management Team, led by the Critical Incident Director.

2.7 The approach to the coordination of a Critical Incident is summarised in Appendix E: Incident Management Guide.

2.8 The Critical Incident Response Leaders and their delegates contact details are provided as Appendix G: Critical Incident Response Leaders Contact Details. Security will maintain a more detailed up to date contact list of Critical Incident Response Leaders, including mobile phone numbers, home phone and addresses of these personnel.

3. Initial University Response to a Critical Incident

3.1 After being notified of the Critical Incident, initiating any initial response action, and having advised the Vice-Chancellor and President, the Critical Incident Director will immediately arrange for the Critical Incident Management Team to meet at the Command Centre or Fall Back Site.

3.2 The Critical Incident Director will also ensure that:

(a) Emergency Services have been contacted (if appropriate) as soon as it is safe to do so;

(b) Injured and/or traumatised staff, students and members of the public are provided with an appropriate emergency response;

(c) The Vice-Chancellor and President, Chief Financial Officer and relevant Cost Centre Manager/s have been informed of the Critical Incident;

(d) The Director, ICT Solutions/Director, ICT Performance has been informed of a IT or telecommunications Critical Incident;

(e) The CIMT has arranged support for staff, students and members of the public is available in the event an incident is continuing; and

(f) The Specialist Support Teams within the CIMT have considered the circumstances surrounding the Critical Incident and implemented the relevant strategies in response (from their Critical Incident Action Plans, Counter Disaster Plan or as otherwise determined).

4. Critical Incident Management Team Action Plans

4.1 The Response Team Leaders who lead the Specialist Support Teams within the CIMT must ensure that Specialist Support Team Action Plans are developed to support an effective and co-ordinated approach to a Critical Incident and to ensure that other policies, procedures or plans are aligned with those action plans.

4.2 These plans will be preferably simple, plain English statements that direct the Specialist Support team’s (and therein the CIMT’s) response to a Critical Incident.

4.3 Some examples of items that should appear in the Specialist Support Team’s simple plans follow:

(a) Physical Resources Support Team and Emergency Control Team

  • how to deal with a threat to human life;
  • how to prevent/minimise personal injury in a natural disaster;
  • how to protect the environment in a disaster;
  • how to prevent/minimise damage to physical assets, including structures, animals, research data, and library collections;
  • how to procure resources if necessary, requiring large expenditures;
  • how to continue to ensure staff receive salary and wages during a disaster;
  • insurer notification;
  • list of places for potential Command Centres and Fall Back Sites; and
  • necessary emergency contacts (including non-University contacts).

(b) Human Incident Support Team

  • how a student or staff members can receive counselling or other similar support in relation to a Critical Incident;
  • where to lodge a report of a Critical Incident for inclusion on the student file of each student affected by an incident and concerning whom any follow-up action was taken;
  • list of places for potential Commend Centres and Fall Back Sites; and
  • necessary emergency contacts (including non-University contacts).

(c) IT and Telecommunications Support Team

  • access to an up to date Disaster Recovery Plan;
  • procedures to respond to a telecommunications failure;
  • how to access recovery sites;
  • list of places for potential Command Centres and Fall Back Sites and
  • necessary emergency contacts (including non-University contacts).

(d) Communications Support Team

  • clarity on who will be the University’s public spokesperson and will have final authority on any action required in relation to a Critical Incident;
  • a communication plan in relation to a Critical Incident. (A sample communication plan is provided as Appendix C);
  • how to access a copy of any operating procedures and guidelines on communication with the media, in the event of a Critical Incident;
  • ensure that staff must direct all media inquiries concerning a Critical Incident to the Communications Support Team;
  • process to notify the most appropriate media (local, state, national) of the Critical Incident in the most appropriate method, location and timing for any press conferences or releases;
  • list of places for potential Command Centres and Fall Back Sites and
  • necessary emergency contacts (including non-University contacts).

5. Assessment and Response of a Critical Incident

5.1 The CIMT will gather and verify information on a Critical Incident, and record that information on the Critical Information Fact Sheet (provided as Appendix B).

5.2 The CIMT will then make an assessment of the mitigating strategies to urgently address the Critical Incident, and the Specialist Support Teams will consult their Action Plans or other procedures.

5.3 To inform the CIMT’s response strategies, the Response Leaders of the Specialist Support Teams will consult with their team as necessary. The Response Leaders assessment of the response should identify:

  • what immediate action should be taken to reduce the significance of the Critical Incident;
  • the current needs of the people involved or affected;
  • what resources may be required to address the incident;
  • any other risk factors;
  • agencies that need to be notified;
  • in the case of a human incident: if any referrals requires, (such as to a counsellor) additional services required (such as interpreters) or next of kin to be advised; and/or
  • other University staff that need to be contacted.

5.4 The CIMT will consider the Response Leader’s (of a Specialist Support Team) assessment and develop a response plan.

Possible CIMT responses and considerations include:

  • organisation of a task timetable for the responses and delegation or responsibilities;
  • initiation of pastoral care, including personal contact with victims and other persons affected by the incident;
  • contact with next of kin/significant others;
  • most appropriate arrangements for informing staff and students, including guidelines to staff about what information to give students;
  • briefing relevant contacts staff and delegating a staff member to deal with telephone/face-to-face inquiries;
  • managing media/publicity;
  • identification of students and staff members most closely involved and therefore most at risk, eg those involved can include personal friends/family, others who have experienced a similar past trauma and other students, staff, supervisors;
  • provision of a quiet area for the use of victims and/or their families (area should be protected from intrusion by anyone not immediately affected in the incident);
  • arranging a time and place for an initial group/individual debriefing session with relevant Counsellor/s (Counselling can provide an opportunity to share the impact of the event, discuss various interpretations of the event, including in relation to cultural impact and sensitivities in the case of international students and domestic other students from various cultural groups, the resultant reactions and the normalisation of reactions); and/or
  • plan for ongoing feedback and regular meetings so that the CIMT members are continually informed and working together.

In the event of serious impact in relation to an international student, the CIMT should also give consideration to such matters as the need for:

  • notification or liaison with the student’s family, any host family, any sponsor, any agent, the relevant consulate or embassy, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Department of Education and Training;
  • interpreting and translating services;
  • support services form appropriate cultural community organisations;
  • arrangements for visits to/from the student’s family;
  • any financial assistance available for families of victim;
  • liaison with police, medical practitioners, hospital staff;
  • action in relation to death certificates and notices, funeral/memorial services;
  • insurance matters and Overseas Student Health coverage;
  • arrangements concerning the student’s personal items and affairs (household and academic);
  • any refund of student’s fees;
  • repatriation or associated expenses;
  • liaison with relevant academic staff or supervisors;
  • formal interventions in relation to tuition or assessment, eg release from classes, leave, rescheduled assessment deadlines or examinations; and/or
  • any legal issues, including assisting students to access to legal assistance.

6. Monitoring the Response to a Critical Incident   

6.1 The Critical Incident Management Team will monitor responses and liaise with appropriate areas to:

  • ensure access to factual information for all those affected by the incident;
  • assess the need for any additional counselling by consulting the University’s counselling service or, where appropriate, maintaining contact with those affected by the incident;
  • assess the need for any additional support from outside agencies or services; and
  • assess the need for, and organise debriefing sessions for, all those involved in the incident, including, if appropriate, the wider University community.

6.2 Various types of debriefing sessions may be held, depending on circumstances and the need, including:

  • technical debriefing (e.g. of security or emergency staff);
  • critical incident stress debriefing and/or initial defusing, conducted by professional counsellors trained in Critical Incident Stress debriefing, for those affected by the incident; and/or
  • Critical Incident Management Team debriefing.

7. Completion of Critical Incident Reporting Documentation

7.1 When CIMT considers that the University has finalised its response to a Critical Incident, and is in recovery stage, the appropriate CIMT Response Leader, or Critical Incident Director will immediately:

(a) complete the Critical Incident Fact Sheet and ensure that it contains details of the actions taken to return the Critical Incident to the recovery stage;

(b) prepare a summary of the Critical Incident which includes detailed explanations of any opportunities to improve the University’s response to a similar incident in future and any systems that may have failed in response to the Critical Incident;

(c) provide copies of the Critical Incident Fact Sheet/s with the summary for approval by the Critical Incident Director;

(d) place the originals of all documentation relating to the Critical Incident in the relevant confidential file and this file shall be recorded on the University’s official recordkeeping system;

(e) send copies of the final Critical Incident Fact Sheet and summary document to the Vice-Chancellor and President and Chief Financial Officer who have the responsibility to report a Critical Incident rated as ‘high’ to the Audit and Risk Committee. A ‘high’ level of risk would be determined using the risk management process, as outlines in the Risk Management Procedures.

8. Recordkeeping and management

8.1 The CIMT will establish a confidential file on each Critical Incident and ensure that the file contains all incident reporting and facts documentation, including details of the responses taken, copies of related emails and letters, records of significant interactions, and contact details for all people involved in the response process.

8.2 Critical incident files will be made, kept and managed in accordance with the University's approved records management policy and system.

9. Evaluation of response

9.1 As soon as possible after a Critical Incident, the CIMT will meet to review the implementation of procedures and the effectiveness of the responses.

9.2 In light of the review, CIMT will initiate any changes to procedures or protocols in order to improve the University’s Critical Incident management.

9.3 A copy of the review findings will be placed on the file for the relevant Critical Incident.


Appendix A: Critical Incident - Initial Report

Date of contact: ………/………/………

Reported to:

Reported by:

Relates to: staff or student(s)

Affected Parties:

Description of incident:



Others involved:

Relevant contacts:

Police (name):



Ward #:


Others (eg next of kin)



Copy sent to:

Vice-Chancellor and President

Director, Asset Management Services



Appendix B: Critical Incident Fact Sheet

Responsible CIMT Response Leader:



Full description of the incident:

Date the incident occurred:

Location where incident occurred:

Summary of events prior to the incident:

Responses made to date (if no action, then the reason):

Completed by:



Sent to:

Vice-Chancellor and President

Chief Financial Officer

Appendix C: Sample Critical Incident Communication Plan

1. The Director, Marketing and External Engagement and/or the Media Relations Officer immediately confer with the Vice-Chancellor and President or nominee and the Critical Incident Director.

2. An immediate meeting, either face to face or by phone will be conducted with relevant personnel assessing the exact situation, what has happened and who is affected, etc.

3. From this information a brief initial response to the media will immediately be formulated.

4. Marketing and External Engagement will work with emergency services and/or other agencies to assist in the formulation of a response, if appropriate.

5. Dot points will be prepared and given to the key spokesperson for approval.

6. The media will then be notified of a press conference, either by phone, fax or in person if they are already on campus.

7. A spokesperson will be briefed by Marketing and External Engagement prior to the press conference and the most up-to-date confirmed information delivered.

8. The press conference will be arranged at the earliest possible time to deliver the facts to the media and will be timed to align with major news bulletins and updates.

9. A media release will be prepared and forwarded to those media unable to attend and phone interviews organised with the spokesperson following the press conference.

Appendix D

Incident Escalation Guide (PDF 63KB)

Appendix E

Incident Management Guide (PDF 49KB)

Appendix F

Business Continuity Management Escalation Guide (PDF 52KB)

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