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European Definitions


Major emergency means any situation which has or may have an adverse impact on people, the environment or property and which may result in a call for assistance under the Mechanism [1]

Note: Mechanism refers to a Community Mechanism to facilitate reinforced cooperation between the Community and the Member States in Civil Protection assistance intervention in the event of major emergencies, or the imminent threat thereof, is hereby established.

Other International Definitions

United Nations

A sudden and usually unforeseen event that calls for immediate measures to minimize its adverse consequences. [2]

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. [3]

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. [4]


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.

Situation présente ou imminente requérant des actions rapides et coordonnées touchant des personnes ou des biens pour protéger la santé, la sécurité et le bien-être des personnes ou limiter les dommages aux biens ou à l’environnement. [5] [6]


Poikkeusolot: valmiuslaissa tarkoitettu yhteiskunnan tila, jossa on niin paljon tai niin vakavia häiriöitä tai uhkia, että on tarpeen mahdollistaa viranomaisten tavanomaisesta poikkeava toimivaltuuksien käyttö.

Emergency is a condition of the society, meant by the Preparedness Act, which has so many or so serious incidents or threats that it is necessary to make possible the exceptional use of powers of authorities. -unofficial translation- [7]


descriptive text only [8]

An emergency is a event in which the processes or resources of an organisation do not function as intended. The availability of the corresponding processes or resources cannot be restored in the required time frame. Business operations are seriously affected. It may be impossible to uphold any existing SLAs (Service Level Agreements). The resulting damages are high to very high and affect the annual results of a company or the ability of a government agency to fulfil its tasks so significantly that such damage is unacceptable. Emergencies cannot be handled during general daily business operations and require a special business continuity response organisation instead.


Een ramp is een zwaar ongeval of een andere gebeurtenis waarbij het leven en de gezondheid van veel personen, het milieu of grote materiële belangen in ernstige mate zijn geschaad of worden bedreigd en waarbij een gecoördineerde inzet van diensten of organisaties van verschillende disciplines is vereist om de dreiging weg te nemen of de schadelijke gevolgen te beperken.

An emergency is a major accident or another event that endanged, endangers or potentially may endanger the lives and health of many people, the environment and or major material interests and which requires coordinated multi-disciplinary activities of agencies and organisations to remove the threat or to reduce the impact. [9]

New Zealand

An emergency is a situation that poses an immediate risk to life, health, property, or the environment that requires a coordinated response. [10]


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. [11]

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


Situation, die aus einer Entwicklung oder einem Ereignis entsteht und mit den ordentlichen Abläufen nicht bewältigt werden kann, weil sie die personellen und materiellen Mittel der betroffenen Gemeinschaft überfordert. [12]

Situation qui résulte d’une évolution ou d’un événement et que les procédures ordinaires ne permettent pas de gérer efficacement, les moyens en personnel et en matériel de la collectivité touchée s’avérant insuffisants. [13]

Situazione generata da un’evoluzione o da un evento cui non è possibile far fronte con le procedure ordinarie, poiché le risorse di personale e di materiale della comunità colpita non sono sufficienti. [14]

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. [15]

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. [16]
An emergency is any incident, whether natural or manmade, that requires responsive action to protect life or property. [17]

Standard Definition

ISO/PAS 22399:2007

Sudden, urgent, usually unexpected occurrence or event requiring immediate action. [18]

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. [19]

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. [19]

See also


  1. 2007/779/EC,Euratom: Council Decision of 8 November 2007 establishing a Community Civil Protection Mechanism (recast)
  2. UNDHA, Disaster Management Glossary, 1992, 34
  3. Australian Emergency Management Glossary, Emergency Management Australia (1998)
  4. Multi-agency incident management, Emergency Management Australia (1998)
  5. [http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/mrgnc-mngmnt-frmwrk/index-eng.aspx An Emergency Management Framework for Canada (Second Edition)
  6. Vocabulaire de la gestion des urgencies/Emergency Management Emergency Management Vocabulary 281 (2012)
  7. Vocabulary of Comprehensive Security. Helsinki (TSK 47) (2014)
  8. Standard 100-4 BSI
  9. Wet Veiligheidsregio's article 1
  10. The New Zealand Coordinated Incident Management System, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, New Zealand. (2014)
  11. Singapore Standard SS 540: 2008 on Business Continuity
  12. Glossar der Risikobegriffe, Bundesamt für Bevölkerungsschutz BABS, 29.4.2013
  13. Glossaire des risques, Office fédéral de la protection de la population, 29.4.2013
  14. Glossario sui rischi, Ufficio federale della protezione della popolazione UFPP, 29.4.2013
  15. Glossary - Revision to Emergency Preparedness, Cabinet Office (2012)
  16. http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/frp/frpappa.htm Defined in the Stafford Act
  17. National Incident Management Plan (core)
  18. ISO/PAS 22399:2007 Societal security - Guideline for incident preparedness and operational continuity management.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Province of Ontario’s Emergency Management Glossary of Terms