While some emergencies are self-evident (such as a natural disaster that threatens many lives), many smaller incidents require that an observer (or affected party) decide whether it qualifies as an emergency. The precise definition of an emergency, the agencies involved and the procedures used, vary by jurisdiction, and this is usually set by the government, whose agencies (emergency services) are responsible for emergency planning and management.
An incident, to be an emergency, conforms to one or more of the following: if it:
Poses an immediate threat to life, health, property, or environment
Has already caused loss of life, health detriments, property damage, or environmental damagehas a high probability of escalating to cause immediate danger to life, health, property, or environment
In the United States, most states mandate that a notice be printed in each telephone book that requires that someone must relinquish use of a phone line, if a person requests the use of a telephone line (such as a party line) to report an emergency. State statutes typically define an emergency as, "...a condition where life, health, or property is in jeopardy, and the prompt summoning of aid is essential."
Whilst most emergency services agree on protecting human health, life and property, the environmental impacts are not considered sufficiently important by some agencies. This also extends to areas such as animal welfare, where some emergency organisations cover this element through the "property" definition, where animals owned by a person are threatened (although this does not cover wild animals). This means that some agencies do not mount an "emergency" response where it endangers wild animals or environment, though others respond to such incidents (such as oil spills at sea that threaten marine life). The attitude of the agencies involved is likely to reflect the predominant opinion of the government of the area.
Dangers to life
Most agencies consider these the highest priority emergency, which follows the general school of thought that nothing is more important than human life.
Dangers to health
Some emergencies are not necessarily immediately threatening to life, but might have serious implications for the continued health and well-being of a person or persons (though a health emergency can subsequently escalate to life-threatening).
The causes of a health emergency are often very similar to the causes of an emergency threatening to life, which includes medical emergencies and natural disasters, although the range of incidents that can be categorised here is far greater than those that cause a danger to life (such as broken limbs, which do not usually cause death, but immediate intervention is required if the person is to recover properly). Many life emergencies, such as cardiac arrest, are also health emergencies.
Some emergencies do not immediately endanger life, health or property, but do affect the natural environment and creatures living within it. Not all agencies consider this a genuine emergency, but it can have far reaching effects on animals and the long term condition of the land. Examples would include forest fires and marine oil spills.
Most developed countries have a number of emergency services operating within them, whose purpose is to provide assistance in dealing with any emergency. They are often government operated, paid for from tax revenue as a public service, but in some cases, they may be private companies, responding to emergencies in return for payment, or they may be voluntary organisations, providing the assistance from funds raised from donations.
Most developed countries operate three core emergency services:
Police – who deal with security of person and property, which can cover all three categories of emergency. They also to some extent deal with punishment of those who cause an emergency through their deliberate actions.
Fire service – who deal with potentially harmful fires, but also often rescue operations such as dealing with road traffic collisions. Their actions help to prevent loss of life, damage to health and damage to or loss of property.
Emergency Medical Service (Ambulance / Paramedic service) – These services attempt to reduce loss of life or damage to health. This service is likely to be decisive in attempts to prevent loss of life and damage to health. In some areas "Emergency Medical Service" is abbreviated to simply EMS.
In some countries or regions, two or more of these services may be provided by the same agency (e.g. the fire service providing emergency medical cover), and under different conditions (e.g. publicly funded fire service and police, but a private ambulance service)
There may also be a number of secondary emergency services, which may be a part of one of the core agencies, or may be separate entities who assist the main agencies. This can include services providing specialist rescue (such as mountain rescue or mine rescue), bomb disposal or search and rescue.
The Military and the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) or Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) help in large emergencies such as a disaster or major civil unrest.
1. Health and safety. Uchebnik./E. A. Arustamov, A. E. Voloshchenko, G. V. Guskov, etc. - M.: Dashkov and To publishing House, 2001. - 678 pages.
2. Health and safety. The textbook for vuzov./S. V. Belov, A. V. Ilnitskaya, A. F. Kozyakov, etc.; Under a general edition of S. V. Belov - M.: Vyssh. шк., 2001. - 468 pages: silt.
3. Health and safety. Production safety and protection truda./P. P. Kukin, V. L. Lapin, N. L. Ponomarev, etc.; Studies. benefit for students of average special studies. institutions. - M.: Vyssh. шк.; - 2001. - 431 pages: silt.