Emergency - Defining An Emergency

Defining An Emergency

In order to be defined as an emergency, the incident should be one of the following:

  • Immediately threatening to life, health, property or environment.
  • Have already caused loss of life, health detriments, property damage or environmental damage
  • Have a high probability of escalating to cause immediate danger to life, health, property or environment

In the United States, it is generally a requirement in most states that there must be a notice be printed in each telephone book requiring that, if a person requests the use of a telephone line (such as a party line) because of an emergency, the other person must relinquish use of said line immediately, if their use is not also in the nature of an emergency. An emergency is also typically defined by those state statutes 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 will not mount an 'emergency' response where it endangers wild animals or environment, although others will 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.

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