Policing emergencies

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


It is not hard to imagine that events such as fires, floods, earthquakes and explosions, which threaten people or destroy property or the environment, will usually come under this definition (for example, see State Emergency Management Committee, 2009:xv).All of these events will require responses from a variety of government and non-government agencies and services, with the focus directed towards ensuring effective interaction and interoperability. This chapter will examine the steps that have been taken in Australia to ensure effective interagency collaboration.The word 'emergency' can evoke chaotic and tragic images and a sense of life-threatening urgency. However, can emergencies be managed, and what is the role of the police in an emergency? 'Emergency' is usually defined as a sudden or unforeseen occurrence, typically involving danger, and demanding immediate action. The three elements of unpredictability, danger and immediacy are the very factors that make emergencies so problematic because they make planning difficult, create high likelihood for failure and usually invoke severe time constraints.The media and the broader community use a variety of descriptions for these highimpact events, but it is important to fully understand the extent of the emergencies in which police find themselves involved. In emergency management parlance, an emergency, such as a bushfire, is not automatically a disaster. A disaster is only declared when the event is responsible for the death of over 10 000 people. This means that there has not been a 'disaster' in Australia for nearly 100 years, with the only qualifying event being the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918-19, which caused over 12 000 deaths (Emergency Management Australia, 2010). In the policing context, we therefore talk about emergencies, which may be anything from a vehicle accident to a terrorist attack. Whenever the requisite elements are present-that is, sudden or unforeseen occurrence, typically involving danger and demanding immediate action-police routinely respond to all levels of events, from the routine or planned responses to incidents or calls for assistance. While many of these events are emergencies, when we talk about 'emergency management' we are referring to those events that are generally beyond the capacity of day-to-day resources to manage and therefore require an additional and ad hoc level of resourcing, leadership and control for the period of their management.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPolicing in practice
EditorsPhilip Birch, Victoria Herrington
Place of PublicationSouth Yarra, Vic.
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9781420256468
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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