The purpose of formal emergency management arrangements is to facilitate collaboration between different groups of people who play a role across the PPRR spectrum to manage any type of emergency that could occur.

The EMPLAN provides clarity as to command and control roles and coordination of functions in emergency management across all levels. It is vital to distinguish between these terms to describe roles and responsibilities


  • Means the direction of members and resources of an agency in performing its roles and tasks. Authority to command is established by legislation or by agreement with the agency / organisation
  • Command relates to agencies/organisations only, and operates vertically within the organisation
  • PEOPLE are Commanded


  • Means the overall direction of the activities, agencies or individuals concerned.
  • Control operates horizontally across all agencies, functions and individuals.
  • SITUATIONS are Controlled


  • Means the bringing together of agencies and individuals to ensure effective emergency or rescue management, but does not include the control of agencies and individuals by direction.
  • RESOURCES are Coordinated

Emergencies will be controlled by either:

  1. A Combat Agency, or
  2. An Emergency Operations Controller, if requested by the Combat Agency or where the Combat Agency is not specified.

Emergencies and the Combat Agency controlling response

A Combat Agency is the agency identified in the State Emergency Management Plan as the agency primarily responsible for controlling the response to a particular emergency.


Combat Agency​

Animal, Plant Disease, Rodent or Insect Plague

Department of Primary Industries

Food Industry

Department of Primary Industries - Food Authority


Within a Rural Fire District - NSW Rural Fire Service 
With a Fire District - Fire and Rescue NSW


NSW State Emergency Service

Hazardous materials

On land and inland waters - Fire and Rescue NSW 
In State waters - Relevant Port Authority or Roads and Maritime Services outside of declared port areas

Law enforcement during a declaration

NSW Police Force

Marine oil & chemical spills

Relevant Port Authority or Roads and Maritime Services outside of declared port areas


Department of Health


NSW State Emergency Service


NSW State Emergency Service


NSW Police Force

Major structure collapse

Fire and Rescue NSW where a USAR (Urban​ Search and Rescue) response is required.

Major structure collapse emergencies are likely to require a multi-agency response that may or may not incorporate USAR. The Emergency Operations Controller controls elements of the response operation not directly under the control of the combat agency.

Where a Combat Agency has not been identified, for example, for earthquakes, landslides, heatwave and aviation emergency, the respective Emergency Operations Controller is responsible for the control of the response.

Functional​ Areas

As we've already seen in this module, effective emergency management relies on many different organisations working together in a coordinated way.

Functional Areas are defined in the SERM Act 1989 and EMPLAN as a category of services involved in activities to prevent, prepare for, respond to or recover from an emergency.

They are business units within NSW Government agencies that perform specific emergency management functions.

They are usually in support of Combat Agencies or other Functional Areas during emergency operations. It is therefore critical that they are engaged in all stages of PPRR for those hazard types.

The functional areas are:

  • Agricultural and animal services
  • Telecommunication services
  • Energy and utility services
  • Engineering services
  • Environmental services
  • Health services
  • Public information services
  • Transport services
  • Welfare services

Functional A​​​reas with Combat Agency Responsibilities

Functional Areas are not limited to supporting Combat Agencies in actual emergencies. They may in effect, perform a Combat Agency role in dealing with an emergency event, such as a supply chain crisis or infrastructure failure.

Other examples where Functional Areas perform a Combat Agency role include the Department of Health as the Combat Agency for Pandemic events, and the Department of Primary Industries for agriculture related issues like animal disease outbreak.

Functional Area ​​Coordinators

Functional Area Coordinators maintain overall responsibility for their respective functions. They are also appointed members of Emergency Management Committees to represent their functions.

At State and Regional levels, Functional Area Coordinators may establish sub-committees to assist. These sub-committees comprise representatives of government and non-government agencies.

Emergency Management Committees

Emergency Management Committees are responsible for planning for emergencies.

In keeping with the 'All Agency' approach to emergency management, there are three levels of committees. The SERM Act 1989 governs the structure of these committees and their responsibilities.

Diagram of Structure of committees under SERM Act 

State Emergency Managemen​t Committee (SEMC)

Area of R​​esponsibility: Statewide


  • Principal committee for emergency management in NSW
  • Oversees and maintains the State EMPLAN
  • Review, monitor and advice the Minister on the adequacy of the provisions of the SERM Act 1989 relating to emergency management.
  • Provides strategic policy advice to the Minister in relation to emergency management
  • Review, monitor and develop emergency management policy and practice at a State level and disseminate information
  • Endorse any sub plans or supporting plans established under EMPLAN
  • Facilitate strategic State level emergency management capability through inter-agency coordination, cooperation and information sharing arrangements
  • ther functions assigned to the Committee under or related to the SERM Act 1989 from time to time by the Minister

Representatives of relevant government and non-government agencies as determined by the Minister:

  • Ambulance NSW
  • Fire and Rescue NSW
  • NSW Police Force
  • NSW Rural Fire Service
  • NSW State Emergency Service
  • NSW Volunteer Rescue Association
  • Marine Rescue NSW
  • Agriculture Functional Area
  • Telecommunications Functional Area
  • Energy & Utilities Functional Area
  • Engineering Functional Area
  • Environmental Functional Area
  • Health Functional Area
  • Public Information Functional Area
  • Transport Functional Area
  • Welfare Services Functional Area
  • Department of Premier & Cabinet
  • Division of Local Government
  • NSW Treasury

The role and functions of the SEMC are translated as appropriate at Regional level through Regional Emergency Management Committees (REMC) and at Local level through Local Emergency Management Committees (LEMC).

The SERM Act 1989 established Regions, as well as REMC roles, functions and relationships to SEMC. The local level is based on Local Government Areas (LGAs) or a combination of LGAs. Emergencies need to be managed at the lowest effective level.

Diagram of SEMC Members  

Regi​​onal Emergency Management Committee (REMC)​

Area of Responsibility: ​Emergency Management Regions


  • Prepare and review plans relating to the prevention of, preparation for, response to, and recovery from emergencies in the region for which it is constituted
  • Review and monitor emergency management policy and practice across the region
  • Develop and conduct regional emergency management training exercises
  • Facilitate regional emergency management capability through inter-agency co-ordination, co-operation and information sharing

NOTE: The Regional Emergency Management Officer (REMO) is not a member of the Committee but is the principal executive officer

In the exercise of its functions, the REMC is responsible to the State Emergency Management Committee.

Diagram of Regional Emergency Management Committee 

Local Emergency Management Commit​tee (LEMC)

Area of Responsibility: Local Government Authority, or a combination of LGAs where the Minister agrees.


  • Prepare and review plans relating to the prevention of, preparation for, response to, and recovery from emergencies in the local government area for which it is constituted
  • Give effect to and carry out emergency management policy and practice
  • Review and monitor emergency management policy and practice across the region
  • Develop and conduct local emergency management training exercises
  • Facilitate local emergency management capability through inter-agency co-ordination, co-operation and information sharing

NOTE: The Local Emergency Management Officer (LEMO) is not a member of the Committee but is the principal executive officer.

In the exercise of its functions, the LEMC is responsible to the Regional Emergency Management Committee.

Diagram - Local Emergency Management Committee 

Roles and Responsibilities of EOCON​s

As mentioned in the previous pages, the SEOCON, REOCON and LEOCON all sit on their respective Emergency Management Committees to contribute to planning for emergencies. The Emergency Operations Controller (EOCON) concept is a key part of the New South Wales approach. They are members of the NSW Police Force who are well versed in emergency management arrangements.

EOCON roles are appointed and performed at State, Regional and Local level. Emergency Operations Controllers assist the Combat Agency by coordinating support to them when requested to do so. EOCONs are supported by the relevant Emergency Operations Centre.

While Combat Agencies are authorised and equipped to control most emergencies, the Combat Agency may request that control or coordination is assigned to a designated authority. The SERM Act 1989 recognises that the EOCON will assume responsibility for operations where no specific Combat Agency is nominated, or where the Combat Agency requests the EOCON assume control.

Emergency Op​​erations Controller (EOCON)

The Emergency Operations Controller (EOCON) is responsible for the following at either State, Regional or Local level for which they are the designated controller: • Controls operations for which no combat agency has been identified and coordinates resources at the level (state, regional or local) • Carries out functions at the request of the combat agency responsible for controlling the response to an emergency or assumes control if required to do so • Activates the Emergency Operations Centre to an appropriate level whenever there is an emergency operation and resources and support are required • Ensures Impact Assessments are conducted to inform recovery arrangements

State Emergency Operat​ions Controller (SEOCON)

At STATE level the SEOCON: Is a member of the NSW Police Force senior executive service and provides advice to the Minister regarding emergencies, including whether or not a declaration of a 'State of Emergency' may be necessary.

Regional Emergency Operations ​​Controller (REOCON)

At REGIONAL level, the REOCON: • Is appointed by the Commissioner of Police and is a police officer holding the position of Region Commander (Assistant Commissioner).

Local Emergency Op​erations Controller (LEOCON)

At the LOCAL level, the LEOCON: • Is appointed by the Regional Emergency Operations Controller (REOCON) • Is a police officer stationed within the region in which the local government area is located, and, in the opinion of the REOCON, must have experience in emergency management.

Emergency Operation Centres

An emergency Operations Centre (EOC) can be established at State, Region or Local level by the relevant Emergency Operations Controller. It is the established centre of communication from which the Emergency Operations Controller either coordinates support to the Combat Agency or Functional Area or controls an emergency operation.

The State Emergency Operations Centre (SEOC) is the centre from which the SEOCON monitors the emergency management environment in NSW and either controls an emergency operation, or coordinates recovery arrangements to the Combat Agency or Functional Area.

An Emergency Operations Centre:

  • Monitors emergency management activity and commitment of resources
  • Coordinates operational support requirements
  • Processes requests for assistance from Combat Agencies, Functional Areas
  • Coordinates the provision of external resources to support emergency operations as requested
  • Disseminates information to relevant levels of Government, Emergency Management Committees and relevant stakeholders.

When supporting an EOCON controlled operation, the EOC is also the focal point for operational planning, allocating response priorities by the Combat Agency, Emergency Service Organisations, Functional Areas and other Organisations. The centre collects, interprets and disseminates information and intelligence to stakeholders involved in the response.

Local and Regional Emergency Operation Centres are expected to keep the SEOC informed of their activities.

State of E​​​mergency​

You may have heard the term 'State of Emergency' announced in the media. Did you know, though, that the vast majority of emergencies are actually managed without any declaration at all, and a 'State of Emergency' is extremely rare.

The SERM Act 1989 provides for the Premier of New South Wales to declare a 'State of Emergency' for up to 30 days over parts of, or the whole State when significant and widespread danger to life and/or property exists.

Declarations are rare because many of the Combat Agencies already have sufficient powers under their own specific legislation to enable them to perform their role. When it is in place however, it affords additional powers to emergency services officers.

Recovery Arrangements in NSW

"Disaster Recovery is the coordinated process of supporting disaster affected communities in the reconstruction of the physical infrastructure and the restoration of emotional, social, economic and physical wellbeing." 
Australian Emergency Management Handbook 2: Community Recovery, 2011

Disaster recovery is part of emergency management. Planning for recovery is integral to emergency preparation and mitigation actions may often be initiated as part of recovery.

The NSW Recovery Plan is a Supporting Plan of the EMPLAN. It outlines the strategies, authorities and the mechanisms for disaster recovery in NSW.

Recovery aims, as far as possible, to assist the affected community to manage its own recovery, while recognising that there may be a need for external technical, physical and financial assistance.

Principl​​es for Disaster Recovery

Successful recovery is based on

  • Understanding the community CONTEXT
  • Recognising COMPLEXITY in the dynamic nature of emergencies and communities
  • Using COMMUNITY-led approaches. It is responsive and flexible, engaging communities and empowering them to move forward
  • Ensuring COORDINATION of activities
  • Built on effective COMMUNICATION with affected communities and stakeholders
  • Recognises, supports and builds on community, individual and organisational CAPACITY

Roles and responsibilities

  • The Department of Justice, Office of Emergency Management is responsible for preparing and coordinating recovery functions including disaster welfare.
  • The State Emergency Recovery Controller (SERCON) is responsible for the overall coordination and for controlling recovery operations at State level (unless otherwise prescribed in hazard specific plans).
  • The Recovery Coordinator is the public face of the recovery operation, providing leadership to the Recovery Committee and coordinating the recovery effort
  • Local Government is a key player and provides recovery services and community development
  • Recovery Consultation Groups may be formed to represent community groups

A recovery committee

  • Is formed when a formal recovery operation is required.
  • A strategic decision making body for the recovery. This can be set up at the local or regional level
  • Provides visible and strong leadership
  • Represents and meets local needs
  • Has a key role in restoring confidence to the community
  • Determines priorities, resource allocation & management

Examples of recov​ery activities

  • Community Information Points in affected areas
  • Outreach programs
  • Disaster Recovery Centres
  • Grants and assistance for individuals, families, communities, small business, primary producers, personal hardship, local tourism industry
  • Appeal funds e.g. Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund raised $392M