Schools as rest centres
A rest centre is set up to provide temporary accommodation for people who have been affected by an emergency and is intended to provide basic care for a short period while the incident is dealt with. In some situations school buildings and/or facilities may be requested to act as rest centres. This is an opportunity for schools to play a major role in supporting their community during a crisis situation.
The rest centre guidance provides an introduction and practical guide to the setting up, staffing and management of local authority rest centres within Kent.
Your questions answered
Q – What sort of premises are used as rest centres?
A - Kent County Council maintains a rest centre directory for the county. Premises include secondary schools, leisure centres and village/community halls.
Q - In an emergency, how is the rest centre chosen?
A - Normally, district councils (in consultation with Kent County Council Emergency Planning) will take the lead in selecting premises. Where a school is to be used as a centre, Kent County Council Education, Learning and Skills must be consulted and formally requested to facilitate its opening and operation.
Q - What happens if the emergency is in school hours or when examinations are taking place?
A - Use of premises as a rest centre is negotiable depending on the severity of the emergency and the needs of the local community, a decision will be made in consultation with the school. The rest centre directory includes details of alternative premises in the area which may be used if necessary.
Q - How is the school activated as rest centre?
A - The rest centre directory is updated annually and includes contact details for use during working and out of school hours. Clearly emergencies can occur at any time and a rest centre may be required during the early hours of a weekend day. Where applicable, PFI contractor's details are also listed in the directory. If use of the school as a rest centre is being considered, the key holder will be telephoned.
Q - What does the school need to do if used as a rest centre?
A - Provide immediate access to the school or the part of the school which is to be used as the rest centre. It may be possible for the school to continue as normal while the hall is used as a rest centre, depending on the number of evacuees and facilities available. Heat and light may be required. A site manager or similar member of staff who can represent the schools interests can be valuable at this stage.
Q - Who provides the staff?
A - District councils, Kent County Council directorates and the NHS have Major Emergency Plans that set out how their response will be organised. Key staff who will lead the response are identified within these plans. Each agency is responsible for mobilising responding staff to the rest centre. They will be supported by members of the Kent Voluntary Sector Emergency Group. The police will be present where possible.
Q - What are the financial implications for the school?
A - Records will be kept by local authority staff which will enable expenses to be recouped – for example telephone calls, fuel and cleaning materials. Kent County Council public liability insurance covers injury to evacuees and staff residing and working within schools utilised as rest centres and any damage which may occur to the premises. It is worthy of note that rest centre managers are tasked with returning any rest centre within their charge to the condition in which they found it and will arrange for all necessary cleaning and repairs to take place
Q - Am I required to provide rest centre facilities?
A - No, there is no compulsion to do so. However schools are recognised as part of the community they serve and are a natural choice as a rest centre. Generally the facilities they offer are suitable for medium and large scale evacuations and cannot be matched by community and village halls.