How we respond to outbreaks

​​​​​​​​​​​​When a pest or disease outbreak occurs (sometimes referred to a biosecurity incident), arrangements are in place to allow for a rapid nationally-coordinated response.

Role of governments

Outbreaks are managed on the ground by the department of agriculture or primary industries, in the state or territory in which they occur.

When a pest or disease is found that is exotic to Australia or occurs in more than one state or territory, the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources takes the lead in coordinating the national response to the outbreak.

There are a number of plans, groups and processes that come together to stage an effective response, but importantly, there is just one nationally agreed system used to respond to all pest or disease outbreaks. This system is used consistently throughout the country by the Australian, state and territory governments, Plant Health Australia, Animal Health Australia, Wildlife Health Australia and the CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory.

Role of industry groups

Industry groups have a critical role in preventing, preparing for, and responding to outbreaks that affect them. In response to specific outbreaks they have the opportunity to take part in decision making processes as signatories to the relevant deed or agreement.

More detailed information about Australia’s biosecurity incident response arrangements is provided below.

The Biosecurity Incident Manage​​​​ment System (BIMS)

The Biosecurity Incident Management System (BIMS) has been developed to provide guidance on contemporary practices for the management of biosecurity incident responses and initial recovery operations in Australia. Although adapted for the biosecurity environment, it is based on the same system used by other Australian emergency response service agencies, including the State Emergency Service. The structure of an Incident Management Team that comes together to respond to an incident is based on BIMS.

BIMS takes an ‘all hazards’ approach, meaning it can be used in response to pests and diseases that affect animals (including aquatic), plants, the environment (including the marine environment) or in response to vertebrate pest incursions.

BIMS co-exists with and complements current jurisdictional response and sector specific arrangements as described below on this page. It is flexible, scalable and uses common terminology.

The Biosecurity Incident Management System consists of six sections and a supporting liaison section. All the sections work under direction of the Incident Management section.   The liaison section consists of: Support agencies, Industry, and Other.     The other five sections are Public Information, Planning, Operations, Logistics, Finance and Administration.     The Public Information section consists of the following teams: Media Liaison, Social Media, Website, Advertising, Call Centre, Community Engagement, Internal Communication.    The Planning section consists of: Technical Analysis, Response Planning, Resource Planning, Situation Assessment, Legal, Information Systems, and Mapping & GIS.    The Operations section consists of: Investigations, Restricted Area Movements, Infected Premises Operations, Other Field Operations.    The Logistics section consists of: Facilities, Staffing, Catering, Transport, Accommodation, and Supply    The Finance & Administration section consists of: IMT Secretariat, Records Management, Finance, Human & Industrial Relations, and Procurement.   

Diagram of the Biosecurity Incident Management System

Response Deeds and Agreem​ents

The Emergency Animal Disease Response Agree​ment

The Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement (EADRA) is an arrangement bringing together the Commonwealth, state and territory governments and livestock industry groups to significantly increase Australia’s capacity to prepare for and respond to emergency animal disease incursions. It provides for emergency animal disease responses to be cost-shared between governments and the affected industries.

As its custodian, Animal Health Australia has more information about EADRA.

The Emergency Plant Pe​st Response Deed

Plant Health Australia is the custodian of the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed (EPPRD). This is a legally binding agreement between Plant Health Australia, the Australian Government, all state and territory governments and national plant industry bodies.

The EPPRD covers the management and funding of responses to emergency plant pest incidents, including the potential for owner reimbursement costs for growers. It also formalises the role of plant industries’ participation in decision making, as well as their contribution towards the costs related to approved responses.

The key advantage of the EPPRD is more timely, effective and efficient response to plant pest incursions. It also minimises uncertainty over management and funding arrangements.

Plant Health Australia has further information on the EPPRD.

National Environmental Biosec​​urity Response Agreement

The National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement (NEBRA) was delivered under the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity. It sets out emergency response arrangements, including cost-sharing arrangements, for responding to biosecurity incidents that primarily impact on the environment and/or social amenity and where the response is for the public good.

The Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has further information about the NEBRA.

Response pl​​​ans

AUSVET​​​​PLAN

For all diseases listed in EADRA, there is a preferred approach to how an outbreak is managed. These preferred approaches have been developed and agreed upon by governments and relevant industries, and are captured in the Australian Veterinary Emergency Plan (AUSVETPLAN) disease strategies and response policy briefs.

AUSVETPLAN is a comprehensive series of manuals that sets out the various roles, responsibilities and policy guidelines for agencies and organisations involved in the response to the disease outbreak.

The AUSVETPLAN documents are available on the Animal Health Australia website.

AQUAVET​​​PLAN

Similar to AUSVETPLAN, AQUAVETPLAN sets out the preferred to approach to diseases that affect aquatic animals, including finfish, crustaceans and molluscs.

The Aquatic Animal Health Program in the Department of ​Agriculture and Water Resources  develops and maintains the AQUAVETPLAN manuals.​

AQUAVETPLAN is available on the department’s website​.

PLANT​​PLAN

PLANTPLAN is the agreed technical response plan used for emergency plant pest incidents. It provides nationally consistent guidelines for response procedures under the EPPRD, outlining the phases of an incursion, as well as the key roles and responsibilities of industry and government during each phase. It incorporates best practice in emergency plant pest responses, and is updated regularly to incorporate new information or address gaps identified during previous incidents.​

PLANTPLAN is an appendix to the EPPRD and is endorsed by all signatories.

Emergency Mari​ne Pest Plan

The Emergency Marine Pest Plan (EMPPlan) has been developed to respond to pest emergencies in Australia’s marine environment. 

This plan sets out the roles, responsibilities and actions that must be undertaken when a new pest is detected.

The EMPPlan is consistent with the emergency response model in place for animal and plant emergencies in Australia. It sets out the cost-sharing arrangements for marine eradication programs, and has been agreed between the Australian Government, the states and the Northern Territory.

The decision to activate the EMPPlan is based upon an assessment that the pest concerned is likely to have a significant impact on Australia's marine environment, economy, amenity or human health. 

See the Keeping marine pests out of Australian waters website for more information on EMPPlan.

National committees and g​​roups

Consultative comm​​ittees

Consultative committees are coordinating bodies that provide the technical link between the Australian, state and territory governments (responsible for agriculture/biosecurity), and industry for decision making during biosecurity incidents. Consultative committees are formed in response to specific incidents and involve people with relevant technical expertise. For example, responses to Avian Influenza outbreaks include people who specialise in bird health and/or the disease. Their activities are undertaken in accordance with the relevant Deed/Agreement and response plans as described above. For example, there is an Avian Influenza AUSVETPLAN.

The core membership of a consultative committee includes Chief Veterinary Officers or Chief Plant Health Managers from each of the jurisdictions, representatives from the affected industries (that are signatories to EADRA or the EPPRD), and the CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory. Animal Health Australia or Plant Health Australia participate as custodians of the respective Agreement or Deed.

The committee is chaired by the Australian Chief Veterinary Officer or Australian Chief Plant Protection Officer.

Consultative committees determine whether or not it is technically feasible to eradicate a pest or disease. It then provides a recommendation to the National Management Group.

The consultative committees for sector specific incidents:

National Manag​​​ement Group

The National Management Group (NMG) makes decisions on whether or not to support national eradication programs through the cost-sharing arrangements, as set out in EADRA or the EPPRD.

NMG considers the recommendations provided by the relevant consultative committee when making its decisions.

NMG is made up of the Chief Executive Officers of the Australian, state and territory governments responsible for agriculture/biosecurity, and affected industry organisations. It is chaired by the Secretary of the Australian Government Department of Agriculture. Animal Health Australia or Plant Health Australia are observers.

Biosecurity Incid​​​ent National Communication Network

The Biosecurity Incident National Communication Network (NCN) produces nationally consistent public information in response to pest and disease outbreaks.

The core network consists of communication managers from the Australian, state and territory governments (responsible for agriculture/biosecurity), Plant Health Australia, Animal Health Australia, the CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory, Australian Government Department of Health, and the Australian Local Government Association. Wildlife Health Australia, the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions, and the National Farmers’ Federation are NCN observers.

The network allows for rapid and consistent dissemination of information that people need to respond to a pest or disease outbreak. Audiences may include affected producers/growers and their local communities, trading partners, the general public, media, and stakeholders such as exporters.

The National Biosecurity Response Team

The National Biosecurity Response Team (NBRT) is a group of trained and experienced people who can be deployed to assist other states and territories during a major biosecurity incident. The team is made up of personnel from the Australian Government, and state and territory agencies responsible for agriculture/biosecurity. Team members have skills and the expertise required to respond to any type of biosecurity incident.  They can fill positions in a State Coordination Centre or Local Control Centre – as described in the Biosecurity Incident Management System.

The NBRT also includes a mentor cohort which can assist in establishing response arrangements, and mentor less experienced response personnel.

The NBRT is a joint initiative of the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Animal Health Australia, and Plant Health Australia. 
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