Licensing criteria for centre-based ECE services

Section 10 of the Education and Training Act 2020(external link) defines an early childhood education and care centre as a premises that is used regularly for the education or care of 3 or more children (not being children of the persons providing the education or care or children enrolled at a school who are being provided with education or care before or after school) under the age of 6 years by day (or part of a day) but not for any continuous period of more than 7 days.

Centre-based ECE services have a variety of different operating structures, philosophies and affiliations, and are known by many different names – for example, Playcentres, early learning centres, Montessori, childcare centres, Kindergartens, crèches, preschools, a’oga amata, Rudolf Steiner etc.

These centres are licensed in accordance with the Education and Training Act 2020 under the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008(external link), which prescribe minimum standards that each licensed service must meet. Licensing criteria are used to assess how the centres meet the minimum standards required by the regulations.

For each criterion there is guidance to help centres meet the required standards.

The publication of the criteria on its own can be downloaded as a PDF [PDF, 1.8 MB] and printed. 

The licensing criteria were last updated in September 2022. 


HS8 Emergency drills

  • Criteria
    • Criteria

      Health and safety practices criterion 8

      Adults providing education and care are familiar with relevant emergency drills and carry out each type of drill with children (as appropriate) on an, at least, three-monthly basis.

      Documentation required:

      A record of the emergency drills carried out and evidence of how evaluation of the drills has informed the annual review of the service's emergency plan.


      The criterion aims to uphold the safety of children by ensuring that:

      • adults at the service have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to deal with emergency situations;
      • review of the service’s emergency plan and evacuation procedures are part of the service’s regular self review processes; and
      • children are familiar with, and confident in, responding to emergency procedures.

      Amended May 2015

  • Guidance
    • Guidance

      Any examples in the guidance are provided as a starting point to show how services can meet (or exceed) the requirement. Services may choose to use other approaches better suited to their needs as long as they comply with the criteria.

      Centres need to first determine which emergency drills are relevant to their location and carry out each type of drill with children (as appropriate) on an, at least, three-monthly basis.

      Relevant drills to be carried out with children are likely to at least include fire evacuation, earthquake, shelter in place, and tsunami, depending on the services location. Lockdown is a drill that should be practiced by staff without children.

      Why practice emergency drills?

      Research has shown that the factor that most contributes to reducing injuries and fatalities during any emergency situation is regular practice. This ensures that staff and adults at the centre are familiar with procedures and that children also become familiar and comfortable with what is expected of them.

      Regular practice will also ensure that any equipment that will be relied on in an emergency drill will be subject to regular checks, for example, any special equipment that might be used to assist in the evacuation of the non-walking children. It is also recommended that staff have a range of strategies available to manage any children whose behaviour has become disturbed during an emergency drill.

      The following activities will help to ensure all adults are familiar with the emergency drill procedures:

      • Emergency drill procedure briefings for all relieving staff.
      • Training as part of new staff induction.
      • Regular refresher training for all staff.
      • Including emergency plans and procedures as a regular agenda item for staff meetings.
      • Communication with parents and families, via noticeboards and in newsletters.

      Staff/ educators should be able to confidently:

      • talk about the procedures without needing to refer to any documentation.
      • identify the roles they and others will play during an emergency drill.
      • describe how children (walking and non-walking) will be managed during an emergency drill.
      • describe how they will deal with any unexpected circumstance that arises during an emergency drill – ie respond to questions such as "how will you manage if several of your 3-4 year olds refuse to walk independently from the building?"

      You should aim to hold your emergency drills at times when you have typical numbers of children, of varying ages, and adults at the centre. Consider also the timing of emergency drills and whether or not staff will be notified in advance. Holding unannounced emergency drills at challenging times (eg during lunch time or sleep time) may be inconvenient but will give greater assurance that procedures are effective. Roles for adults could be varied during emergency drills so that any key responsibilities are covered even in the absence of a particular staff member.

      Fire evacuation

      The fire evacuation scheme needs to include regular trial evacuations for fire emergencies. Fire Regulations require this to be done at least every six months, and that it is reported to Fire and Emergency New Zealand within 10 days of taking place. There is information about maintaining an approved evacuation scheme on the Fire and Emergency New Zealand website(external link).

      Shelter in place

      Shelter in place is a drill that should be practiced with children in the service and involves children being asked calmly to come quickly inside and play inside for a period of time because of an external “threat” such as a chemical spill, swarm of wasps. The entries and exits to the building are restricted, however normal instructional activities continue as much as possible.


      Lockdown drills should be practiced by staff without children. Drills on what to do in potentially violent situations can be practiced, but at a time that children are not on site as the drills may cause undue fear and anxiety. Especially if the drill involves everyone sheltering in a darkened space such as a sleep room. However, staff should be aware of procedures and able to carry the procedures out if the service has been alerted to an immediate threat. Practices for lockdown drills should be recorded and kept as per other drills.


      Some services are in low-lying coastal areas and therefore would be required to evacuate if there was a tsunami warning. Some of these services may have an evacuation procedure that requires the use of vehicles to get as many children as possible to high ground quickly. It is not expected that these services practice the tsunami drill to the full extent by overloading vehicles with children and travelling to the designated safe space as this is illegal in normal circumstances and poses unnecessary risk to children. These services should still practice their tsunami drill and include children as far as practicably possible eg: drill may include a process that facilitates the movement of children to the proposed exit point as quickly as possible in preparation for getting children into planned evacuation vehicles.
      Services who do not plan to use vehicles for evacuating children in the case of a tsunami should still practice the tsunami drill as per their procedure and in line with their services emergency plan (HS7).

      Record keeping

      Centres are required to keep a record of each emergency drill. At a minimum, this should record:

      • The date and time, number of under 2’s and supervising adults, number of over 2’s and supervising adults, other adults or children present, time taken to complete the emergency drill (for each separate group if appropriate)
      • A checklist of the key steps in the emergency drill, whether or not they were completed, and any comments.
      • For fire drills: A building assessment, eg checking that all appropriate notices were displayed, escape routes were clear, fire fighting equipment serviced etc.
      • Details of any actions that need to be taken to rectify faults discovered or to improve on the planned procedure.

      Keep the emergency drill records for two years.

      Reviewing emergency plans and evacuation procedures should be a regular part of a centre’s self review. Records of each emergency drill, together with emergency training records, should be used to inform that review. If any changes are required to any emergency drills, these should be noted promptly in evacuation plans and any other documentation and notices updated. Remember also to communicate any changes made with staff, parents and whānau as required.

      The National Emergency Management Agency have a What’s the Plan Stan website(external link) which focuses on helping children prepare for an emergency and a special section which aims to support teachers to develop children’s knowledge, skills and attitudes to respond to and prepare for an emergency.

      Additional guidance is available specifically for centres above ground level. Guidance for ECE Services - Evacuation from High Rise Buildings
      [PDF, 394 KB]

      Planning and preparing for emergencies ( link)