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An emergency is a situation that poses an immediate risk to health, life, property, or environment. Most emergencies require urgent intervention to prevent a worsening of the situation. It is an unexpected and usually dangerous situation that calls for immediate action.

Emergencies can be categorized as such:

Medical emergency- A medical emergency is an injury or illness that is acute and poses an immediate risk to a person's life or long term health. “Life or limb”

Property emergency- A situation, where if not mitigated, will cause serious damage to and/or loss of property therefore resulting in monetary impact.

Environmental emergency- Is a disaster or accident resulting from natural, technological or human-induced factors, or a combination of these, that causes or threatens to cause severe environmental damage and possibly loss of human lives and property.

These may occur simultaneously as is often the case with natural disasters such as flooding or other destructive weather related emergencies. The way an emergency is managed will directly affect the outcome. Having a well thought out and thorough emergency response plan, well trained emergency responders, and sufficient resources is very important in order to ensure the best possible outcome. While some emergencies are self-evident (such as a natural disaster that threatens many lives), many incidents require that an observer (or affected party) decide whether it qualifies as an emergency.

Now lets put all this in a different context. What if any of the above happens in a place that is hard to access? A simple medical, property, or environmental problem can become an emergency when it happens in terrain with difficult access, egress or travel. A real medical emergency can rapidly lead to death.

 A non-ambulatory injury such as a sprained ankle or broken leg would typically not be too big of a deal in an environment where you could be picked up by an ambulance or other vehicle and transported to medical care. However this same injury can become an emergency very quickly if the injured person cannot be easily extracted. While the broken leg or sprained ankle may not qualify as an emergency on its own, with no easy means of extracting someone other factors such as exposure to the elements can greatly change the severity of the situation. Difficult terrain rescue can also turn a normally straightforward scenario into a serious emergency situation if attempted by untrained personnel. The same can be said for a property or environmental situation. If a simple situation cannot be mitigated rapidly due to inaccessibility it can quickly become an emergency.

If you are going to work in an area where terrain poses challenges for access, egress, rescue etc it is important to have a clear understanding of the consequence a situation may have. In most situations, the way an emergency is managed makes a substantial difference to the outcome. Being aware of challenges the terrain poses and having a well trained and rapidly deployable rescue resource will greatly increase the chances of a more favorable outcome to a situation. This can be the difference between an event or situation escalating to an emergency.


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