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.
There are five main emergency service functions:
- Law Enforcement — enforcing laws, conducting criminal investigations, collecting evidence, apprehending suspects, securing the judicial system, and ensuring custody and rehabilitation of offenders.
- Fire & Rescue Services — fire suppression, fire prevention, hazardous materials control, technical rescue, building code enforcement, and fire safety education.
- Emergency Medical Services — providing medical care at the scene of an incident, during an infectious disease outbreak, and during patient transport and delivery to a hospital or other treatment facility.
- Emergency Management — providing incident management and coordination.
- Public Works — assessing and repairing damage to buildings, roads, and bridges; clearing, removing, and disposing of debris from public spaces; restoring utility services; and managing emergency traffic.
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.
Specialized Emergency ServicesEdit
These services can be provided by one of the core services or by a separate government or private body.
- Tactical Teams — Teams of personnel with specialized training, communications systems, vehicles, and equipment for specific duties, such as hostage rescue and counterterrorism operations, high-risk arrests, and entering armored or barricaded buildings.
- Hazardous Devices Team/Public Safety Bomb Disposal — Teams of personnel with specialized training, communications systems, vehicles, and equipment for the rendering safe of actual and alleged explosive devices.
- Public Safety Dive Teams/Maritime Units — Teams of personnel with specialized training, communications systems, vehicles, and equipment for (under)water rescue, recovery, and investigation.
- Canine Units — Personnel with specialized training and equipment, specifically canines, for drug detection, explosive detection, cadaver detection, arson and accelerant detection, search and rescue, evidence search, suspect apprehension, and handler protection
- Aviation Units — Personnel with specialized training, communications systems, and equipment who utilize fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft for law enforcement, fire and rescue, emergency medical services, and emergency management functions.
- Hazardous Materials — Teams of personnel that assess, mitigate, and manage the consequences of a hazardous materials (chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN)) incident.
- Search and Rescue — Teams of personnel with specialized training, communications systems, vehicles, and equipment to search for, treat, and rescue distressed individuals and groups, and recover decedents. Examples of SAR operations include structural collapse, confined space, vehicle, water, wilderness, trench and excavation, machinery, cave, mine and tunnel, helicopter, tower, and animal rescue.
- Public Safety Answering Points — Personnel with specialized training, communications systems, and equipment used to receive requests for law enforcement, fire and rescue services, emergency medical services, emergency management, and public works assistance.
- Private Security Guard Forces — Personnel who provide operational facility and site security to private sector and government facilities and operations.
- Military Civil Support — missions to support civil authorities in domestic incidents. The military provides engineering, transportation, medical, and aviation support for a variety of emergencies, including natural disasters, CBRN incidents, and structural collapses.
Civil emergency servicesEdit
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 servicesEdit
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
- Ski patrol — provides emergency medical care and rescue services within their area, such as a ski resort or backcountry.
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 technologiesEdit
Smart Emergency Response System (SERS) prototype was built in the SmartAmerica Challenge 2013-2014, a United States government initiative. SERS was created by a team of nine organizations. The project was featured at the White House in June 2014 and called an exemplary achievement by Todd Park (U.S. Chief Technology Officer).
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.
- 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.