Evacuation schemes

Changes to Regulations on trial evacuations and training programmes during the COVID-19 restrictions

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, modifications to the Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fire Safety, Evacuation Procedures and Evacuation Schemes) Regulations 2018 came into effect on 22 May 2020.  The modifications were made by the Fire and Emergency New Zealand (COVID-19—Fire Safety, Evacuation Procedures, and Evacuation Schemes) Amendment Regulations 2020.

The modifications mean that:

  • The requirement to conduct trial evacuations, or evacuation training programmes, while the Epidemic Preparedness (COVID-19) Notice 2020 (the Epidemic Notice) is in force is suspended, effective from 22 May 2020 until the Epidemic Notice expires or is revoked.
  • The ‘timer’ for calculating the 6-month period within which those requirements need to be satisfied has also been temporarily halted (‘the clock stopped’), effective right back to 25 March 2020 (when the Epidemic Notice came into force). The clock will remain stopped until the Epidemic Notice expires or is revoked.

Building owners who were required to undertake a trial evacuation, or evacuation training programme, between the Epidemic Notice coming into effect (25 March 2020) and the modifications coming into force (22 May 2020) will not be absolved by the suspension. These building owners will technically be in breach of their duty under the regulations.  However, given the changes brought about by the modifications, Fire and Emergency does not intend to take enforcement action against building owners who have breached their duty since the Epidemic Notice came into force, unless that is justified on the basis of risk to life or safety.

For those buildings where the date has passed, they do not skip a trial evacuation cycle nor do they become ‘overdue’; instead the period during which the Epidemic Notice is in force must be excluded from the calculation of the 6-month period since their last evacuation/training programme notification (as the case may be).

By way of example, if a trial evacuation of a building was ordinarily due to be conducted by 10 April 2020:

  • The 6-monthly interval for the conduct of the trial evacuation is considered suspended from 25 March 2020, 17 days before the 6-month period would otherwise have ended (i.e. the number of days between 25 March to 10 April).
  • To calculate the 6-monthly interval, time will start running again when the Epidemic Notice expires or is revoked.
  • The 6-month period will end 17 days after time starts running again.

This avoids the situation where all trial evacuations or evacuation training programme notifications become due immediately after the Epidemic Notice expires or is revoked.

If you have any questions, please contact the Fire Information Unit on 0800 347 346 or email fireinfo@fireandemergency.nz


Building owners are legally responsible for taking fire safety precautions in their buildings. This includes implementing fire evacuation procedures to ensure people can be evacuated in the case of a fire or alarm of a fire.

Some buildings must have their evacuation scheme approved by Fire and Emergency New Zealand. When this is the case, the building’s owner must apply to us in writing through the Online Services website.

Building evacuation schemes must be submitted to Fire and Emergency New Zealand for approval prior to, but no more than 30 days prior to, occupation of a new building or of an existing building being used as a relevant building.

See also: Fire safety and evacuation procedures information sheet

Who needs their evacuation scheme approved?

Commercial, public, and industrial buildings that meet the conditions set out  in section 75 of the Fire and Emergency Act 2017 must submit their evacuation scheme for approval. You can find a comprehensive list of conditions on the Online Services website to determine if you must develop an evacuation scheme and submit it for approval.

Under the Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fire Safety, Evacuation Procedures, and Evacuation Schemes) Regulations 2018, owners of these buildings:

  • must maintain their approved evacuation scheme by carrying our regular trial evacuations or implementing a training programme – noting that false alarms can now be treated as trail evacuations;
  • reporting the results to Fire and Emergency within 10 days of a trial evacuation;
  • must provide for people who may require assistance to safely evacuate using the buildings means of escape, or have a fully compliant place of safety inside the building if they, or any other person, are to remain inside;
  • notify Fire and Emergency of certain events, under section 35 of the Regulations, including if the owner, or building contact person is going overseas for more than 21 days.

Under the Regulations 2018, Fire and Emergency may revoke or require a variation to an approved evacuation scheme. There are penalties for not providing or maintaining evacuation schemes, and Fire and Emergency may apply to the court to close down a building that does not comply with the Regulations.