The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 defines an emergency as:

  • An event or situation which threatens serious damage to human welfare;
  • An event or situation which threatens serious damage to the environment; or
  • War, or terrorism, which threatens serious damage to security.

Damage to human welfare involves causes or may cause one or more of the following:- 

  • Loss of human life
  • Human illness or injury
  • Homelessness
  • Damage to property
  • Disruption of a supply of money, food, water, energy or fuel
  • Disruption of a system of communication
  • Disruption of facilities for transport
  • Disruption of service relating to health.

Damage to the environment involves causes or may cause:

  • Contamination of land, water or air with biological, chemical or radioactive matter
  • Disruption of destruction of plant life or animal life.

 What is a Major Incident?

The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 defines a Major Incident as any Emergency that requires the implementation of special arrangements by one or more emergency responders and meets one of the following two criteria:

  1. The emergency is likely to seriously obstruct the organisation in the performance of its functions, or
  2. It is likely that the organisation;
    • would consider it necessary or desirable to take action to prevent the emergency, to reduce, control or mitigate its effects or otherwise in connection with it and
    • would be unable to take that action without changing the deployment of resources or acquiring additional resources.

A Major Incident may require the:-

  • The initial treatment, rescue and transport of a large number of casualties.
  • The handling of a large number of enquiries likely to be generated both from the public and the news media usually to the Police.
  • The large scale deployment of the combined resources of the Emergency Services.
  • The mobilisation and organisation of the Emergency Services and supporting organisations, e.g. Local Authority, to cater for the threat of death, serious injury or homelessness to a large number of people.

The guidance also clarifies that the words “Incident‟ and “Emergency‟ are one and the same and are interchangeable.