- Date: circa 1631
- 1 : an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action
- 2 : an urgent need for assistance or relief <the governor declared a state of emergency after the flood>
An emergency is a situation which poses an immediate risk to health, life, property or environment. Most emergencies require urgent intervention to prevent a worsening of the situation, although in some situations, mitigation may not be possible and agencies may only be able to offer palliative care for the aftermath.
While some emergencies are self evident (such as a natural disaster which threatens many lives), many smaller incidents require the subjective opinion of an observer (or affected party) in order to decide whether it qualifies as an emergency.
The precise definition of an emergency, the agencies involved and the procedures used, vary by jurisdiction, and this is usually set by the government, whose agencies (emergency services) are responsible for emergency planning and management.