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Emergency services are organizations which ensure public safety by addressing different emergencies. Some agencies exist solely for addressing certain types of emergencies whilst others deal with ad hoc emergencies as part of their normal responsibilities. Many agencies will 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.

Core emergency services

There are three services which are almost universally acknowledged as being core to the provision of emergency care to the populace, and are often government run. They would generally be summoned on a dedicated emergency telephone number, reserved for critical emergency calls. They are:

Other emergency services

These services can be provided by one of the core services or by a separate government or private body.
  • Army National Guard — to Provide emergency rescue and provide for the common defense and peace.
  • 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.
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement — to prevent serious crime, combat unsafe transportation of people and protect lives.
  • Emergency management — to provide and coordinate resources during large-scale emergencies.
  • Amateur radio emergency communications — to provide communications support to other emergency services.


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.

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


Working together

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 Securitymarker has called for nationwide implementation of the National Incident Management System (NIMS), of which the Incident Command System (ICS) is a part.

See also




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