Emergency services and rescue services are organizations which ensure public safety and health by addressing different emergencies. Some of these agencies exist solely for addressing certain types of emergencies whilst others deal with ad hoc emergencies as part of their normal responsibilities. Many of these agencies 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.
There are three main emergency service functions:
In some countries such as the UK, these three functions are performed by three separate organizations in a given area. However, there are also many countries where fire and EMS/ambulance functions are all performed by a single organization (fire service based EMS).
Emergency services have one or more dedicated emergency telephone numbers reserved for critical emergency calls. In some countries, one number is used for all the emergency services (e.g. 911 in the U.S., 999 in the UK). In some countries, each emergency service has its own emergency number.
These services can be provided by one of the core services or by a separate government or private body.
These groups and organizations 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.
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.
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.
Smart Emergency Response System (SERS) prototype was built in the SmartAmerica Challenge 2013-2014, a United States government initiative. SERS was created by a team of nine organizations. The project was featured at the White House in June 2014 and called an exemplary achievement by Todd Park (U.S. Chief Technology Officer).
The SmartAmerica initiative challenges the participants to build cyber-physical systems as a glimpse of the future to save lives, create jobs, foster businesses, and improve the economy. SERS primarily saves lives. The system provides the survivors and the emergency personnel with information to locate and assist each other during a disaster. SERS allows to submit help requests to a MATLAB-based mission center connecting first responders, apps, search-and-rescue dogs, a 6-feet-tall humanoid, robots, drones, and autonomous aircraft and ground vehicles. The command and control center optimizes the available resources to serve every incoming requests and generates an action plan for the mission. The Wi-Fi network is created on the fly by the drones equipped with antennas. In addition, the autonomous rotorcrafts, planes, and ground vehicles are simulated with Simulink and visualized in a 3D environment (Google Earth) to unlock the ability to observe the operations on a mass scale.
A common measurement in benchmarking the efficacy of emergency services is response time, the amount of time that it takes for emergency responders to arrive at the scene of an incident after the emergency response system was activated. Due to the nature of emergencies, fast response times are often a crucial component of the emergency service system.