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:
- Law enforcement —enforcing the law to prevent crime, investigate crime, reach out to the community and write reports.
- Fire departments — protecting life and property through the provision of firefighting.
- Emergency medical services— providing ambulances and staff to deal with medical emergencies
In some countries such as the UK, these three functions are performed by three separate organizations in a given area. However, there are also many countries where fire, rescue and ambulance functions are all performed by a single organization (fire service based EMS).
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 U.S., 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.
- Coast guard — Provide coastal patrols with a security function at sea, tasked with maritime law enforcement and search and rescue functions.
- 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 firefighting — to size-up, contain, extinguish, and mop-up wildfires.
- Bomb disposal — to render safe hazardous explosive ordnance, such as terrorist devices, unexploded wartime bombs and other, explosive materials.
- 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 co-ordinate resources during large-scale emergencies.
- Amateur radio emergency communications — to provide communications support to other emergency services, such as RAYNET in the UK.
- HAZ-MAT — 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 organizations 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 facilitate 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
- 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.
Disaster response technologies
Smart Emergency Response System (SERS) prototype was built in the SmartAmerica Challenge 2013-2014, a United States government initiative. SERS has been created by a team of nine organizations. The project was featured at the White House in June 2014 and described by Todd Park (U.S. Chief Technology Officer) as an exemplary achievement.
The SmartAmerica initiative challenges the participants to build cyber-physical systems as a glimpse of the future to save lives, create jobs, foster businesses, and improve the economy. SERS primarily saves lives. The system provides the survivors and the emergency personnel with information to locate and assist each other during a disaster. SERS allows to submit help requests to a MATLAB-based mission center connecting first responders, apps, search-and-rescue dogs, a 6-feet-tall humanoid, robots, drones, and autonomous aircraft and ground vehicles. The command and control center optimizes the available resources to serve every incoming requests and generates an action plan for the mission. The Wi-Fi network is created on the fly by the drones equipped with antennas. In addition, the autonomous rotorcrafts, planes, and ground vehicles are simulated with Simulink and visualized in a 3D environment (Google Earth) to unlock the ability to observe the operations on a mass scale.
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 defense
- Common Alerting Protocol
- Emergency management
- Emergency service response codes
- Incident response team
- Public safety
- Rescue squad
- Collins dictionary
- Federal Emergency Management System: About NIMS
- Federal Emergency Management System: Incident Command System
- Smart Emergency Response System , team website.
- SmartAmerica Challenge , website.
- Video  Smart Emergency Response System
- Davis, Robert (20 May 2005). "The price of just a few seconds lost: People die". USA Today. Retrieved 5 February 2013.