Emergency Management in Canada: How Does It Work?

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In a country that borders on three oceans and spans six time zones, creating an emergency response system that works for every region is a huge challenge. That's why emergency management in Canada is a shared responsibility. That means everyone has an important role to play, including individuals, communities, governments, the private sector and volunteer organizations.

Basic emergency preparedness starts with each individual. If someone cannot cope, emergency first responders such as police, fire and ambulance services will provide help.

If the municipality needs additional assistance or resources, they can call on provincial/territorial emergency management organizations, who can seek assistance from the federal government if the emergency escalates beyond their capabilities. Depending on the situation, federal assistance could include policing, national defence and border security, and environmental and health protection.

Requests for assistance are managed through Public Safety Canada, which maintains close operational links with the provinces and territories. It can take just a few minutes for the response to move from the local to the national level, ensuring that the right resources and expertise are identified and triggered.

Public Safety coordinates Emergency Management Requests for Federal Assistance which can include:

  • Logistics or transportation support
  • Assistance to civil order
  • Administration of the Supporting the Canadian Red Cross's Urgent Relief Efforts Related to COVID-19, Floods and Wildfires and the Supporting a Humanitarian Workforce to Respond to COVID-19 and Other Large-Scale Emergencies programs which provide funding assistance in support of the federal response to events.
  • Assistance with COVID-19 vaccine roll out operations
  • Deployment of a mobile health unit
  • Employment of the Canadian Armed Forces as a support force of last resort

The GOC continues to coordinate formal requests for assistance from federal departments and provincial and territorial governments. For example, for pandemic-related requests, the GOC works with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), the Canadian Red Cross (CRC) and others as required.

Everyone responsible for Canada's emergency management system shares the common goal of preventing or managing disasters. Public Safety Canada is responsible for coordinating emergency response efforts on behalf of the federal government. More information is available on the Public Safety web site at www.publicsafety.gc.ca (click on “Emergency Management”).