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Emergency services are organizations which ensure public safety 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.
Core emergency services
There are three services which are almost universally acknowledged as being core to the provision of emergency care to the populous, and are often government run. They would generally be summoned on a dedicated emergency telephone number, reserved for critical emergency calls. They are:
- Police — providing community safety and acting to reduce crime against persons and property
- Fire service — providing firefighters to deal with fire and rescue operations, and may also deal with some secondary emergency service duties
- Emergency medical service — providing ambulances and staff to deal with medical emergencies
Other emergency services
These services can be provided by one of the core services or by a separate government or private body.
- Coastguard — Provide coastal patrols with a security function at sea, as well as invovlement 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.
- 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.
Civil emergency services
These groups and organisations 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
- 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
- Wildlife services
Location-specific emergency services
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
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.
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