What Is an Emergency?

An emergency is any dangerous situation that could hurt people, cause death, or severly damage homes and property.

In Ontario, the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act defines an emergency as:

"A situation or 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."

Emergency Categories

Emergencies are divided into 3 main categories:

Category Description Example(s)
Natural Results from the forces of nature
  • flood
  • tornado
  • earthquake
Technological Results from the manufacture, transportation, or use of technology or certain substances (e.g., chemicals, radioactive materials)
  • power outage (blackout)
  • multi-vehicle traffic accident (pile-up)
  • chemical spill
Human-Caused The direct result of a deliberate human action


  • sabotage
  • terrorism

Although an emergency / significant event might be caused by a natural event (e.g., a tornado), it's likely to produce a secondary effect (e.g., a power outage) that's normally categorized as a technological event.

Types of Emergencies

Visit Be Ready, Be Prepared to learn what to do BEFORE, DURING and AFTER an emergency.

  • Chemical spill / explosion
  • Civil unrest / terrorism
  • Communicable disease / epidemic
  • Earthquake
  • Flood
  • Hail storms
  • Lightning
  • Power outage
  • Severe winter weather
  • Tornado
  • Transportation incident

Revised: Friday February 28 2020

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