Emergency services and rescue services are organizations which ensure public safety and health by addressing different emergencies. Some of these agencies exist solely for addressing certain types of emergencies whilst others deal with ad hoc emergencies as part of their normal responsibilities. Many of these agencies engage in community awareness and prevention programs to help the public avoid, detect, and report emergencies effectively.
The availability of emergency services depends very heavily on location, and may in some cases also rely on the recipient giving payment or holding suitable insurance or other surety for receiving the service.
Main emergency service functions
There are three main emergency service functions:
- Police — providing community safety and acting to reduce crime against persons and property
- Fire department (fire and rescue service) — providing firefighters to deal with fire and rescue operations, and may also deal with some secondary emergency service duties
- Emergency medical service — providing ambulances and staff to deal with medical emergencies
In some countries such as the UK, these three functions are performed by three separate organisations in a given area. However there are also many countries where fire, rescue and ambulance functions are all performed by a single organisation.
Emergency services have one or more dedicated emergency telephone numbers reserved for critical emergency calls. In some countries, one number is used for all the emergency services (e.g. 911 in the US, 999 in the UK). In some countries, each emergency service has its own emergency number.
Other emergency services
These services can be provided by one of the core services or by a separate government or private body.
- Military — to provide specialist services, such as bomb disposal or to supplement emergency services at times of major disaster, civil dispute or high demand.
- Coastguard — Provide coastal patrols with a security function at sea, as well as involvement in search and rescue operations
- Lifeboat — Dedicated providers of rescue lifeboat services, usually at sea (such as by the RNLI in the United Kingdom).
- Mountain rescue — to provide search and rescue in mountainous areas, and sometimes in other wilderness environments.
- Cave rescue — to rescue people injured, trapped, or lost during caving explorations.
- Mine rescue — specially trained and equipped to rescue miners trapped by fires, explosions, cave-ins, toxic gas, flooding, etc.
- Technical rescue — other types of technical or heavy rescue, but usually specific to a discipline (such as swift water).
- Search and rescue — can be discipline-specific, such as urban, wildland, maritime, etc.
- Wildland fire suppression — to suppress, detect and control fires in forests and other wildland areas.
- Bomb disposal — to render safe hazardous explosive ordnance, such as terrorist devices or unexploded wartime bombs.
- Blood/organ transplant supply — to provide organs or blood on an emergency basis, such as the National Blood Service of the United Kingdom.
- Emergency management — to provide and coordinate resources during large-scale emergencies.
- Amateur radio emergency communications — to provide communications support to other emergency services, such as RAYNET in the UK
- Hazmat — removal of hazardous materials
- Air search providing aerial spotting for the emergency services, such as conducted by the Civil Air Patrol in the US, or Sky Watch in the UK.
Civil emergency services
These groups and organisations respond to emergencies and provide other safety-related services either as a part of their on-the-job duties, as part of the main mission of their business or concern, or as part of their hobbies.
- Public utilities — safeguarding gas, electricity and water, which are all potentially hazardous if infrastructure fails
- Emergency road service — provide repair or recovery for disabled or crashed vehicles
- Civilian Traffic Officers — such as operated by the Highways Agency in the UK to facilitiate clearup and traffic flow at road traffic collisions
- Emergency social services
- Community emergency response teams — help organize facilities such as rest centers during large emergencies
- Disaster relief — such as services provided by the Red Cross and Salvation Army
- Famine relief teams
- Amateur radio communications groups — provide communications support during emergencies
- Poison Control — providing specialist support for poisoning
- Animal control — can assist or lead response to emergencies involving animals
- Forest Service[disambiguation needed]
- St. John Ambulance / Red Cross / Order of Malta Ambulance Corps — Medical & First Aid Support
Location-specific emergency services
Some locations have emergency services dedicated to them, and whilst this does not necessarily preclude employees using their skills outside this area (or be used to support other emergency services outside their area), they are primarily focused on the safety or security of a given geographical place.
- Park rangers — looking after many emergencies within their given area, including fire, medical and security issues
- Lifeguards — charged with reacting to emergencies within their own given remit area, usually a pool, beach or open water area
Effective emergency service management requires agencies from many different services to work closely together and to have open lines of communication. Most services do, or should, have procedures and liaisons in place to ensure this, although absence of these can be severely detrimental to good working. There can sometimes be tension between services for a number of other reasons, including professional versus voluntary crew members, or simply based on area or division.
To aid effective communications, different services may share common practices and protocol for certain large-scale emergencies. In the UK, commonly used shared protocols include CHALET and ETHANE while in the US, the Department of Homeland Security has called for nationwide implementation of the National Incident Management System (NIMS), of which the Incident Command System (ICS) is a part.
A common measurement in benchmarking the efficacy of emergency services is response time, the amount of time that it takes for emergency responders to arrive at the scene of an incident after the emergency response system was activated. Due to the nature of emergencies, fast response times are often a crucial component of the emergency service system.
- Civil Air Patrol
- Civil defence
- Common Alerting Protocol
- Disaster relief
- Emergency management
- Emergency medical service
- Emergency service response codes
- Emergency telephone number
- Incident response team
- Public safety
- Rescue squad
- Network industry
- Davis, Robert (20 May 2005). "The price of just a few seconds lost: People die". USA Today. Retrieved 5 February 2013.