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An emergency is a situation that poses an immediate risk to health, life, property or environment.[1] Most emergencies require urgent intervention to prevent a worsening of the situation, although in some situations, mitigation may not be possible and agencies may only be able to offer palliative care for the aftermath.

While some emergencies are self evident (such as a natural disaster that threatens many lives), many smaller incidents require the subjective opinion of an observer (or affected party) in order to decide whether it qualifies as an emergency.

The precise definition of an emergency, the agencies involved and the procedures used, vary by jurisdiction, and this is usually set by the government, whose agencies (emergency services) are responsible for emergency planning and management.


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[citation needed]

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