Checking your property after a major incident

After a major incident like earthquake, flood and fire, follow these 5 steps to make your school safe.

Make a plan

  • Decide who is going to check the school to look for damage.
  • Make sure those doing the checking have the right protective clothing – solid footwear, hi-viz vests, hardhats.
  • Contact the Ministry and tell us what you are planning, if we have not already contacted you.
  • Keep other people in a safe area until the school is checked.

Check the buildings and grounds

Take this Emergency Response checklist [PDF, 113 KB] with you. Look at all the items on the list and note areas with damage.

Isolate unsafe buildings and grounds

For grounds:

  • Cordon off with tape, cones or posts
  • Use signs with warnings prohibiting access.

For buildings:

  • Lock the doors and put up signs.
  • Nail boards across doors and windows.
  • Spray paint the building with warnings prohibiting entry.
  • Use barriers, such as tape or temporary fencing. Make sure the perimeter is wide enough to keep the area safe if there is risk of falling masonry or the building toppling.
  • Use security fences if the risk is severe.

Organise urgent repairs

Urgent repairs will be needed for things like:

  • live electrical, mains gas, sewerage or water issues
  • cracking around ceiling beams and/or foundations
  • building movement off piles
  • soil liquefaction
  • damaged stairs/railings.

Talk to your property advisor about remedying immediate hazards. If it’s outside work hours, phone the emergency response coordinator in your area:

See what to do about getting emergency repairs done  to safeguard people and stop further damage.

Organise non urgent repairs

If the damage is not causing an immediate hazard, email your property advisor with details of the damage including:

  • the building or part of the site affected
  • what the building is used for
  • the parts of the building affected
  • whether the building or area have been isolated
  • what has been done to make the building or area safer.

Manage your water supply

  • Post notices ‘Do not drink’, if supply may be contaminated.
  • Shut off all water fountains or tape them up.
  • Have bottled water available or boil any tap water for 2 minutes before drinking; make this accessible to students.
  • Provide chemical hand wash in toilets.
  • Water can also be made safe to drink by using purification tablets and, if no other option is available, by adding 3 drops of bleach to each litre of water.
  • In the longer term your local council or the Ministry of Health’s local health protection officer (HPO) or drinking water assessor (DWA) can confirm your water’s safety if you have any doubts.

Cleaning up broken fluorescence lights

Manage the risk of mercury contamination:

  • Open all windows and leave the room for at least 15 minutes.
  • Turn off heating/air conditioning systems, heat pumps, dehumidifiers and ventilation systems.
  • Wear gloves.
  • Keep other people away during clean up.
  • Don’t use a vacuum cleaner or a broom. This could vaporise and spread mercury through the air and contaminate the vacuum cleaner or broom.
  • Wipe the area with a damp paper towel and put used paper towels and gloves in a plastic bag for disposal with other debris.
  • Dispose of unbroken lights by wrapping them in newspaper and taking them to retail stores which have collection boxes. Don’t recycle these lights.


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