About the National Incident Room

The NIR is the Department of Health’s emergency response centre. It coordinates national responses to health emergencies by organising response and recovery operations between:

  • Australian Government, and state and territory government health authorities
  • other Commonwealth operations centres
  • the international health community

The NIR is also responsible for undertaking the duties and responsibilities of Australia’s National International Health Regulations (IHR) Focal Point, as designated by the International Health Regulations (2005).

Why it is important

The NIR ensures a consistent, coordinated response to health emergencies in Australia. This makes best use of our national health resources in crisis situations and minimises duplication of effort across government agencies.

Meeting our goals

The NIR manages the logistics of providing support to affected jurisdictions such as:

  • distributing personal protective equipment (PPE) held by the National Medical Stockpile
  • publishing information on the Health website
  • providing information to help states and territories respond to the situation, including data for contact tracing and public health follow up

We also fund the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre (NCCTRC), based at the Royal Darwin Hospital. The NCCTRC is ready at all times to respond to national health emergencies.

When the NIR is activated

The NIR is activated by the Chief Medical Officer when we identify a significant event or emerging threat.

Emergencies that would lead to the activation of the NIR include:

  • outbreaks of communicable disease, such as a pandemic
  • chemical, biological or radiological incidents, whether accidental or criminal
  • earthquakes or floods causing mass casualties
  • emergencies requiring the deployment of Australian medical personnel

The NIR has been activated since November 2019 in response to COVID-19, the national bushfires, the White Island volcano and Australia’s response to the Samoan measles outbreak.

How it works

Once activated, the NIR:

  • hosts emergency meetings of the AHPPC and other expert health committees
  • provides technical advice to committees and government
  • gathers information to help inform decision making
  • coordinates distribution of the National Medical Stockpile
  • keeps the community informed with health-related news updates
  • carries out health aspects of Australian Government disaster plans
  • coordinates medical response teams
  • monitors and, where possible, supports laboratory capacity and capability to test for emerging communicable diseases
  • liaises with emergency management sectors in other government agencies across Australia
  • provides outcomes, situation reports and ministerial briefings
  • conducts risk assessments and evaluations of national capacity and capability
  • collaborates with other agencies on border health issues
  • anticipates next steps and develops information resources to assist with planning and decision making

Where the NIR is located

The NIR is located within Health’s Canberra buildings. Other strategic locations may also be used as needed.

Who is involved

While active, the NIR draws on staff from a number of areas including:

  • Health
  • the Department of Home Affairs
  • the Department of Defence
  • the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
  • state and territory health authorities

Previous activations

The NIR has been activated in response to many emergencies, including:

  • Queensland and Victorian floods, 2011
  • Tropical Cyclone Yasi, 2011
  • Christchurch earthquake, 2011
  • Pakistan floods, 2010
  • SIEV sinking Christmas Island, 2010
  • Victorian bushfires, 2009
  • Pandemic (H1N1) 2009
  • SIEV explosion Ashmore Reef, 2009
  • Pacific tsunami, 2009
  • Yogyakarta air crash, 2007
  • Java earthquake, 2006
  • Bali bombings, 2005
  • Indian Ocean tsunami, 2004
  • SARS outbreak, 2003

Learn more

Find out more about the NIR by reading:

National Health Emergency Response Arrangements

These arrangements describe how we respond to national health emergencies. It covers how the various Australian health sector authorities work together to respond to these situations. They are part of the Australian Government’s National Security Framework.

National Health Security Agreement

This agreement establishes a framework for clear, quick and informed decision making to support a coordinated national response to public health emergencies.

AUSTRAUMAPLAN – Domestic Response Plan for Mass Casualty Incidents of National Consequence

The plan provides an agreed framework and mechanisms for the effective national coordination, response and recovery arrangements for mass casualty incidents of national consequence that result from trauma.

Contact

National Incident Room contact

Contact us if you have any questions about the National Incident Room.

health.ops [at] health.gov.au

View contact

Last updated: 
15 May 2020