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Category Administration and Management
Type Policy
Approved by University Council
Date Policy Took Effect 4 October 2010
Last approved revision 12 December 2023
Sponsor Chief Operating Officer
Responsible officer Emergency and Business Continuity Coordinator


All emergencies on campus should be immediately reported to the authorities on 111 and/or Campus Watch on (03) 479 5000 or 0800 479 5000.

The Emergency Management Policy specifies how the University shall respond to significant emergency situations, details the responsibilities of key staff and provides a mandate for decisions that may need to be taken.

The Emergency Management Policy is supported by the Emergency Management Plan, which provides more specific information on processes to be followed during an emergency.

Organisational scope



Alert Levels
A measure by which the level of engagement of emergency management is quantified. Depending on the event, the alert levels adopted by the University will align with the alert levels determined by the responsible agency (Civil Defence Emergency Management, Ministry of Health, Metservice, GNS etc.).
Responsible for the overall direction of response activities in an emergency situation supported by the Incident Management Team. Depending on staff availability, type of event or duration, the Controller may be a suitably experienced, trained staff member or at a management level in their normal employment, to be comfortable with the delegated authority for decision making on the responsibility that comes with the position.

Incident Controller (Level 1) can be the manager of the affected area, Campus Local Controller (Level 2) could be a senior manager of the Campus, and the University Controller (Level 3) may be a senior leader i.e., Chief Operating Officer, Director.
Coordinated Incident Management System (CIMS)
A system adopted by Government departments, Emergency Services and other large organisations in New Zealand to better coordinate multi or single agency response and recovery actions during emergencies.
An event, or series of events, that can cause death or significant injuries to staff, students, or the public; or that can suspend business, disrupt operations, create significant physical or environmental damage, or threaten the University’s financial standing or reputation.
Emergency Coordination Centre
An Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) is a Coordination Centre that operates at the University level to coordinate and support one or more activated Emergency Operations Centres.
Emergency Management Plan
The plan that details how the University implements the four R’s of Emergency Management; Reduction, Readiness, Response and Recovery.
Emergency Operations Centre
An Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) is a Coordination Centre that operates at the local (Campus) level to support a response.
Incident Management Team
The designated group of skilled and experienced staff trained in CIMS who implement the response activities under the different CIMS function groupings.

This team is led by the Controller (see Controller) who gives direction for the response activities.

The Incident Management Team is replicated throughout the levels of response from Incident (Level 1), through Local – Campus (Level 2) to University (Level 3).
Infectious Diseases Emergency Planning Group
The designated group of ITS staff responsible for preparedness and response planning for ITS disasters.
Levels of Emergency Event
Level 1: Incident – Affects a person or people in one location (such as a building or campus) and requires an immediate emergency response locally but can be managed without involvement of the campus as a whole and not impacting on normal campus wide business as usual operations.

Level 2: Local Emergency – Affects the operations of a Campus with the result that increased resources or coordination to ensure an effective response is required. This will require the activation of the Campus Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) and Incident Management Team.

Level 3: University Emergency – Either due to multiple campus EOC s activating or a complex event on a single campus, strategic support and coordination is required to be provided to the Campus EOC (s).
Public Information Management
The team responsible for internal and external communications during an emergency, comprising communications staff under the direction of the Controller.
Response Manager
The Response Manager is appointed by the Controller to assist with the management of tasks, the operation of the Operations / Coordination Centre, problem-solving and resolving internal conflicts. Provides approvals in the Controller’s absence and represents the Controller as delegated.
Response Modes
Contingent on the alert level, activity of the University may be based on the potential or actual impact being experienced. Not all activity occurs because an emergency event has occurred or that it even affects the operation of the University directly.

Monitor: Increased communication between senior University leadership, pertinent University staff and governance. Monitor and assess the threat that may lead to an emergency response being required. Examples of this may be a White Alert from the Ministry of Health informing of a potential pandemic where the University evaluates possible future activity or increasing intelligence concerning potential flooding.

Engage: In addition to monitoring there may be some Functions that are required to assist normal University operations. This could take the form of providing Public Information Management services on behalf of another lead or support agency or intelligence updates. Partial activation of the Campus Emergency Operations Centre (EOC).

Assist: In addition to engagement activities, assistance will be provided by coordination of resources, support to University activities and providing liaison services to lead or support agencies. An example of assistance could be provision of accommodation or facilities during a flooding event. Partial to full activation of Campus EOC.

Direct: Total activation of the Coordinated Incident Management System (CIMS) structure. Provide specific direction to the overall University response and recovery activities.
State of Emergency
An announced status that indicates that an emergency cannot be managed via normal operations, and which activates provisions in the Emergency Management Plan.

There are two states depending on the level of emergency event; State of Campus (Local) emergency which is a Level 2 event or a State of University emergency which is due to a Level 3 event.
Strategic Emergency Management Group
The Group responsible for focusing on strategic issues and making high-level decisions during response and recovery. The group is comprised of senior leaders and is led by the Vice-Chancellor or their delegate.


1. General principles

  1. The University is committed to supporting the safety and welfare of its students, staff, and visitors on all University campuses and will make every reasonable effort to respond to emergencies based on the situation, information and resources available.
  2. The University is committed to its partnership with Kāi Tahu, recognising them as the principal treaty partner through the established Memorandum of Understanding with Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu. Additionally, the University values partnerships with other iwi, as reflected in the relevant Memoranda it holds. The University is committed to upholding the principles of Te Tiriti ō Waitangi and the objectives outlined in the Māori Strategic Framework. Specifically, the University strives to demonstrate manaakitaka through its actions during emergency situations.
  3. The principles of Equity, Inclusivity and Responsiveness described in the Pacific Strategic Framework 2022–2030 will be incorporated into emergency management practice to ensure the safety and support of our diverse staff and student communities.
  4. By invoking the values set in the Equity and Diversity Strategic Framework, the University will focus its readiness, response and recovery efforts to also be cognisant of its disability and Cultural and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities.
  5. The University endorses and adopts the Coordinated Incident Management System (CIMS) and will follow this system when managing campus emergencies.
  6. The University's response to an emergency will be managed by two key groups:
    1. the Strategic Emergency Management Group – responsible for the University's strategic response to an emergency affecting one or more of the University campuses.
    2. the Incident Management Team – responsible for the University's operational response to an emergency on the University campuses of Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill and Wellington.
  7. The University will be an active participant with lead and other support agencies  that have emergency management responsibilities; and will take necessary and prudent steps to assure continuity of operations and restoration of normal activities as quickly as possible following an emergency.
  8. The University will maintain an Emergency Management Plan which will detail Reduction, Readiness, Response and Recovery  processes and management structures, which will be reviewed every three years or after an event to ensure effectiveness and efficiency of the plan.
  9. The University will test the Emergency Management Plan, including the capability of the Incident Management Team and the Strategic Emergency Management Group, with at least one exercise per year.

2. Announcement of a State of Campus or University Emergency

  1. A State of either Campus (level 2) or University (level 3) Emergency shall be announced by the Vice-Chancellor whenever an emergency occurs which cannot be handled by day-to-day operations and management. This announcement of a State of Campus or University Emergency is formalised with the Vice-Chancellor or delegate signing the authorisation for Activation of the University Emergency Management Plan.
  2. Depending on the relevant alert level, the University may initiate a particular mode of response. The decision for escalation will occur in consultation, when possible, with the Emergency Management and Business Continuity Coordinator, Chief Operating Officer and the Vice-Chancellor or their delegates.
  3. Relevant provisions in the Emergency Management Plan shall be activated whenever the University enters an increased mode of response or a State of Campus or University Emergency is announced.
  4. Different communications channels as set out in the Critical Notification Procedure will be used to announce a state of emergency and any updates as the event progresses.
  5. When at the ending of a State of Emergency, the indication of a return to a new business as usual will be indicated by the Vice-Chancellor or their delegate signing the authorisation for Deactivation of the University Emergency Management Plan.

3. Roles and Responsibilities

  1. The Chancellor is responsible for acting as conduit between University Council, management, and other critical stakeholders.
  2. The University Council has a legislative responsibility, in part, to maintain the long-term strategic direction of the University and to ensure:
    1. the University operates in a financially responsible manner that ensure the efficient use of resources and maintains the University’s long-term viability.
    2. the reputation of the University is upheld.
    3. the wellbeing of students attending the institute is maintained.
    4. that appropriate emergency management systems, processes, and resources (physical and financial) are in place and appropriately tested and exercised.
  3. The Council Committee for Audit and Risk has the responsibility to monitor the adequacy of arrangements in place to ensure that risks are effectively managed across the University, its Business Continuity Plan processes, and its monitoring and implementation of appropriate testing and exercise programmes.
  4. The Vice-Chancellor or their delegate is responsible for:
    1. announcing a State of Campus Emergency (level 2) at any University of Otago Campus or a State of University Emergency (level 3) depending on the scale, complexity or risk of the event.
    2. making key executive decisions such as those pertaining to closure of part or all of the campus, evacuation of non-essential personnel, suspension of business activity, and business continuity.
    3. leading the Strategic Emergency Management Group during a State of Campus or University Emergency.
    4. Liaising with and keeping the Chancellor informed.
  5. The University Controller, when activated, shall be a Senior Leader (Chief Operating Officer, Director or Operations Head) and is responsible for:
    1. establishment of a University Emergency Coordination Centre.
    2. supporting Campus EOCs in response and recovery activities.
    3. acting as the communication pathway to the Vice-Chancellor.
    4. coordinating with lead and support agency Controllers as required.
    5. development of the consolidated Incident Action Plan.
  6. The Local Controller shall be:
    1. a Senior Leader / Manager or other delegated authority in Dunedin.
    2. the Senior Managers, Divisional Services and Administration, in Christchurch and Wellington, or other nominee selected by the Dean of the relevant campus, and/or
    3. the Operations Coordinator in Invercargill.
  7. The Local Controller is responsible for:
    1. activating a Campus Emergency Operations Centre (physical or virtual) and assembling an Incident Management Team when a State of Campus Emergency is announced.
    2. managing the response to an emergency including making decisions around local operational priorities and resource allocation.
    3. overseeing and directing the Incident Management Team in response activities.
    4. coordinating with the University Controller, and lead and support agency Controllers as required.
    5. coordinating all communications with staff, students, the broader University community, the media and the public on behalf of the University
  8. The Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Health Sciences) (or their delegate) is responsible for:
    1. providing planning and intelligence information as the Technical and Scientific Advisory Group chair to the Controller during an emerging infectious disease, and
    2. chairing the Technical and Scientific Advisory Group – Pandemic Planning.
  9. The Chief Operating Officer is responsible for coordinating appropriate operational planning to ensure University-wide readiness for an emergency, including the successful implementation and maintenance of the Emergency Management Plan and related plans.
  10. The Head of Risk, Assurance and Compliance is responsible for reviewing the Emergency Management Plan on an annual basis, with input from the Emergency Management and Business Continuity Coordinator, Proctor's Office and the Director of Health, Safety and Wellbeing, and reporting findings and recommendations to the Chief Operating Officer.
  11. The Emergency Management and Business Continuity Coordinator is responsible for:
    1. arranging the annual testing of the Emergency Management Plan.
    2. providing training on the Emergency Management Plan for key staff.
    3. collating/updating contact information for key staff, including all staff on the Strategic Emergency Management Group and the Incident Management Team.
    4. assume the initial position of Response Manager during an event.
  12. All Heads of Departments, Directors and Managers are required to:
    1. be aware of the contents of the Emergency Management Plan, and meet any responsibilities they have as detailed within the Plan.
    2. have appropriate plans in place for their area of responsibility in case of emergency.
  13. During an emergency staff in the Strategic Emergency Management Group and the Incident Management Team shall be released from their normal duties to take up their prescribed roles.

4. Delegation of Authority

  1. In a University emergency event (level 3), the University Council delegates the Vice-Chancellor or their delegate to take all steps possible to prevent loss of life, prevent or limit further injury to staff, students and visitors, prevent or reduced the impact on infrastructure, assets and environment and to protect core University functions during the response and recovery phases.
  2. During a Campus – Local emergency event (level 2), the authority is delegated by the Vice-Chancellor to the Local Controller of the Campus EOC, supported as required by the Vice-Chancellor or their delegate. The importance of early notification and escalation of an emergency event to the Vice-Chancellor must be made at the earliest, practical opportunity.
  3. It is acknowledged that due to the 24/7 nature of Campus Watch, the initial coordination to an event in Dunedin will be undertaken by Campus Watch. The Campus Watch team leader will assume the role of Dunedin Campus Controller until the establishment of the Campus EOC. At the point of activation of the Campus EOC a formal handover of control between Controllers will occur.
  4. For an Incident emergency event (level 1), it is acknowledged that the first response actions will most likely be carried out by the senior department manager. The Vice-Chancellor delegates the authority to this level of management as the need for a rapid intervention to prevent loss of life and infrastructure.

5. Emergency Financial Delegation

  1. During an increased Alert Level or State of Campus Emergency the following financial delegations apply:
    1. The Chair of the Strategic Emergency Management Group (the Vice-Chancellor, or in their absence the nominated Deputy Vice-Chancellor who is acting Vice-Chancellor) -$10m for operating or capital expenditure per transaction, independent of budgeted amounts.
    2. The Recovery Manager (the Chief Operating Officer, or their delegate) - $5m for operating or capital expenditure per transaction, independent of budgeted amounts.
    3. The Campus Controller (a Senior Leader / Manager (or their delegate) in Dunedin; the Senior Managers, Divisional Services and Administration, in Christchurch and Wellington (or other nominees of the Dean of campus); the Operations Coordinator (or delegate) in Invercargill) - $50,000 for operating or capital expenditure per transaction, independent of budgeted amounts, and subject to relevant Office of Risk Assurance and Compliance and Financial Services procedures.
  2. These emergency delegations may only be exercised where it is not practicable to seek Council approval through a meeting of Council or Standing Committee of Council.
  3. It is required that Council be consulted if at all practicable before any emergency delegation is applied; such consultation may be through the Chancellor or, if unavailable, the Pro-Chancellor.

Related policies, procedures and forms

Contact for further information

If you have any queries regarding the content of this policy or need further clarification, contact:

The Emergency Management and Business Continuity Coordinator

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