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European Definitions

Other International Definitions

A sudden and usually unforeseen event that calls for immediate measures to minimize its adverse consequences.[1]

National Definitions


An emergency is an event, actual or imminent, which endangers or threatens to endanger life, property or the environment, and which requires a significant and coordinated response.[2]

An emergency is the threatened or actual impact of a hazard, natural or otherwise, which endangers the environment, property or the safety or health of persons or animals, and requires a coordinated response. [3]


Emergency is a present or imminent event that requires prompt coordination of actions concerning persons or property to protect the health, safety or welfare of people, or to limit damage to property or the environment. [4]


New Zealand

An emergency is a situation that poses an immediate risk to life, health, property, or the environment that requires a coordinated response.[5]

United Kingdom

An emergency is an event or situation that threatens serious damage to human welfare in a place in the UK or to the environment of a place in the UK, or war or terrorism which threatens serious damage to the security of the UK. [6]

To constitute an emergency this event or situation must require the implementation of special arrangements by one or more Category 1 responder.

United States

An emergency is any occasion or instance for which, in the determination of the President, Federal assistance is needed to supplement State and local efforts and capabilities to save lives and to protect property, public health, and safety, and includes emergencies other than natural disasters.[7]
An emergency is any incident, whether natural or manmade, that requires responsive action to protect life or property[8].

Standard Definition

ISO/PAS 22399:2007

Sudden, urgent, usually unexpected occurrence or event requiring immediate action. [9]

SS 540:2008

A sudden, unexpected event requiring immediate action due to its impact on health and safety, the environment, or compliance with regulation, or which can cause the organization to be unable to provide critical business functions for some predetermined minimum period of time. [10]

An emergency may precede or happen at the same time as a disaster.

Other Definitions

Ontario (Canada)

Emergency is a situation or an impending situation that constitutes a danger of major proportions that could result in serious harm to persons or substantial damage to property and that is caused by the forces of nature, a disease or other health risk, an accident or an act whether intentional or otherwise. [11]

Situation d’urgence: situation ou situation imminente dangereuse à un point tel qu’elle risquerait de causer un grave préjudice à des personnes ou d’importants dommages à des biens et qui est due à un fléau de la nature, à une maladie ou autre risque pour la santé, à un accident ou à un acte intentionnel ou autre. [11]

See also