Emergency service

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Emergency services are organizations which ensure public safety and health 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.


Main emergency service functions

There are three main emergency service functions:

In some countries (e.g 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 USA, 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.
  • 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.

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