Emergency management, disaster planning and business continuity in primary care

Primary care is an essential service that is relied on by the community. Planning ahead for how to continue to provide services during any circumstance is essential; whether it be a disruption to a single practice (such as a fire) or a wider-scale event that impacts on a whole region (such as an earthquake).

In addition, primary care may experience an increased demand for their services during emergency events, and find they are faced with providing services beyond their ‘business as usual’.

This page includes information on:

  • support and resources to help prepare for an emergency
  • who to coordinate with during a disaster
  • practical tips that will help you keep running in an emergency.

Support for emergency planning

Support is available for primary care organisations and general practices to assist them in planning. Primary Health Emergency Planners are available in the Northern, Central and Southern regions to provide advice and support. In Midland region this function is funded through the primary health organisations and supported by the DHB Emergency Managers. 

A primary care-specific business continuity planning template has been developed in the Southern and Central region whilst practices in Northern region have access to an electronic planning tool which assists them in completing their business continuity plan.

A generic template based on that used in Southern and Central region is available below but it is recommended that any practice using this contact their Primary Care Emergency Planner or DHB Emergency Manager to ensure that they are linked in and supported.

General resources are available for organisations to help plan for emergencies, including resources on the Ministry of Civil Defence Emergency Management website.

Primary health organisation emergency planners contact details

Southern region (all of the South Island)
Contact name John Coleman, Emergency Planning Coordinator
Email john.coleman@siapo.health.nz (this is the preferred contact option)
Phone 03 378 6690
Mobile 027 213 8157

John is able to provide Emergency and Business Continuity Planning Templates and Workbooks. (Electronic versions can be posted or emailed, singly, or with a workbook) and one-on-one support, Business Continuity Workshops and training.

The template on this website will appear to differ slightly from those which are provided by John. If you choose to use this version, please contact him to ensure the plan is linked to your PHO and DHB response.

Central region
Contact name Barry Simpson, Central Region Primary Health Emergency Planner
Email barry.simpson@midcentraldhb.govt.nz
Phone 06 350 8969
Mobile 027 235 5388
Northern region
Contact name Andy Wisheart, Northern Region Primary Care Emergency Planning Manager
Email andy.wisheart@ndsa.co.nz
Phone 09 589 3923
Mobile 021 450 219

During a disaster

District health boards lead local health planning and response activity and are responsible for working with primary care organisations to ensure that their response is effectively coordinated in an emergency. It is important that there are clear linkages between a DHB Emergency Operations Centre and the primary care sector in an emergency.

DHB Emergency Managers can be contacted via the DHB switchboard or via the Ministry of Health Emergency Management Team.

Practical tips


  • Check the services that would need to run off a generator (vaccine fridge, several computers, ECG) and have an electrician determine the power and cabling requirement.
  • Larger practices will need an electrical engineer to install a socket to route power in from a large generator.
  • Get on the list at a hire company to ensure the correct generator can be obtained in a crisis. Check in with the company annually.


  • Install storage tank or pre-arrange hirage of tank and pump.
  • Ensure the hire company knows the practice’s needs.

Critical supplies

Business continuity plans for individual practices will include long lists of products, such as:

  • water stored in plastic containers
  • detergent
  • disinfectant
  • radio
  • torches
  • analogue phone
  • extra first-aid type products
  • extra prescription products (consult with practices in neighbourhood to plan stock holdings)
  • plastic bags.


  • Ensure data is backed up daily (eg, onto an external drive that is taken off the premises).
  • Check the ‘restore’ function and currency of the back-up data.
  • Keep hard copies of database of contact persons from all emergency, health and social services in your district, and include names and home phone numbers.


  • Arrange relocation options in case they are needed: one for short term, one for long term.
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