Glossary of Terms

This is a listing of some of the common terminology and definitions used within the Alberta emergency management and response framework, including provincial emergency plans and planning models.

Alberta Emergency Alert (AEA) - is a government owned alerting system designed to provide critical, life-saving information to Albertans when emergencies or disasters occur. 

Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA)- An agency of Alberta Municipal Affairs. The AEMA is responsible for the management of a province wide program to ensure that Alberta’s public and private sectors are prepared for, and can respond effectively to, disasters and emergencies. The AEMA also administers disaster recovery programs that promote the timely recovery of Albertans from the impacts of disasters and emergencies.

Alberta Emergency Management Agency Field Officer – field staff of the AEMA, who support and assist Alberta’s municipalities in the development and maintenance of their emergency plans and programs. The AEMA Field Officer will likely attend the response to a disaster or a major emergency as the liaison officer for AEMA.

Alberta Emergency Plan - The Government Emergency Management Regulation requires the Government of Alberta, through the Alberta Emergency Management Agency to prepare and implement a plan for the provision of government resources, known as the Alberta Emergency Plan.

Business Continuity Planning - Planning to ensure the continued availability of essential services, programs and operations, including all the resources involved. Prepares an organization to respond to an interruption of essential business functions and provides the guidelines to fully recover operations, services and programs.

CBRN - Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear incidents

CBRNE – Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, or Explosion incidents

Civil Protection - Arrangements in place for dealing with disasters and other civilian type of societal and community crisis (E.L. Quarantelli, 2001).

Co-ordination and Information Centre (CIC)- 24-hour information centre operated by Alberta Transportation that provides initial assessment, response action and clean-up information for dangerous goods incident responders.

Convergence - the act of coming together at a similar point.

Cross Government Coordination Team (CGCT) - coordinates cross government business continiuity planning and response to an incident affecting municipality(s) and industry). These may be activated independently or simultaneously based on the needs of the situation.

Director of Emergency Management (DEM) - an individual appointed by the local authority to: prepare and coordinate emergency plans and programs for the municipality; act as the director of operations on behalf of the municipal emergency management agency; coordinate all emergency services and other resources used in an emergency; and, perform other related duties (S 11, Emergency Management Act).

Disaster - an event that results in serious harm to the safety, health, or welfare of people or in widespread damage to property (Section 1(e) Emergency Management Act).

Disaster Planning – (also referred to as the functions or pillars of emergency management) the differentiating of emergency management into phases - mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.

Disaster Recovery Program – a program approved by the Government of Alberta under the Disaster Recovery Regulation to help individuals, small businesses, farming operations and municipalities recover from the adverse effects of a disaster. The Alberta Emergency Management Agency administers program.

Declaration of a State of Emergency - an order of the Lieutenant Governor in Council under Section 21 of the Emergency Management Act.

Declaration of a State of Local Emergency – a resolution or order of a local authority under Section 18 of the Emergency Management Act.

Emergency – an event that requires prompt coordination of action or special regulation of persons or property to protect the safety, health or welfare of people or to limit damage to property. (Section 1(f) Emergency Management Act)

Emergency Management - concerned with all phases of disasters: mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. 

Emergency Management Act, Statutes of Alberta 2000 Chapter E.6.8 in force as of June 14, 2007 – the legislation that defines the requirements for emergency measures at the provincial government and local authority level within Alberta.

Emergency Management Agency - an organization that acts as an agent of the local authority (council) to carry out the council’s statutory powers and obligations under Section 11 of the Emergency Management Act.

Emergency Advisory Committee- a committee consisting of a member or members of the local authority (council) appointed to advise and report to council on the development of emergency plans and programs, under Section 11 of the Emergency Management Act.

Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) – an coordination centre established in a suitable location to manage the larger aspects of the emergency. In a high impact emergency there may be a number of ECCs established to support the response. These may include corporate ECCs (regional, headquarters); municipal ECCs, a joint regional ECC and the provincial government EOC.

Emergency Planning Officer (EPO) - a senior member of a provincial government department, appointed by the department head, who in addition to other duties, coordinates the department’s response to a major emergency or disaster, (Government Emergency Planning Regulation). 

Emergency Preparedness - the planning, exercising and education necessary to achieve a state of readiness for disasters and emergencies.

Emergency Response Structure – The local authority is the first level of government to respond to an emergency or disaster. The degree of response by other levels of government and the private sector should be tailored to the local authority's capabilities and needs.  The establishment of an emergency coordination centre (ECC) by any of the responding organizations will be dictated by the magnitude of the incident, the nature and scope of the response, and the need for public and media communications activities. Local authorities plan for three levels of emergency response, in increasing order of magnitude.

Emergency Site Management (ESM) - along with Incident Command, the ESM system is a recognized disaster response system. The ESM system is based on a multi-tiered framework for communications, joint (or coordinated) decision-making, and the coordination of activities or resources. The system facilitates the interaction among the various emergency response organizations at two primary locations: the emergency site and the municipal EOC.

Emergency (Disaster) Social Services – a planned emergency response organization designed to provide those basic services considered essential to the immediate well-being of persons affected by a disaster. Basic services are normally delivered at a reception centre and include lodging, clothing, feeding, registration & inquiry, and personal services. The emergency social services response plan, which is a specialized component of the municipal emergency plan, is designed to meet the urgent physical and personal needs of individuals and families until regular social services or special recovery plans are in place.

Exercises – an exercise completes the training and educational process in emergency management and enables an evaluation of emergency plans and organizational capability, as well as providing opportunity to promote and refine cooperation and coordination between operational teams, staff groups, officials and others involved in an organized response to an emergency.

Functions of Emergency Management – sometimes known as the phases of disaster or the pillars of emergency management; the differentiating of emergency management into four core components; mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery..

Hazard – a situation with a potential for human injury, damage to property, damage to the environment, or some combination of these, (CAN/CSA-Z731-02).

Hazard Identification – the process of recognizing that a hazard exists and defining its characteristics.

Incident Command System (ICS) – A standardized on-scene emergency management concept specifically designed to allow its users to adopt an integrated organizational structure equal to the complexity and demands of single or multiple incidents, without being hindered by jurisdictional boundaries. All 14 principles of ICS must be applied to be ICS compliant, not just having an organization chart.  As of 2008, the Government of Alberta has chosen to use the Incident Command System.

Incident Commander - The person responsible for ensuring a coordinated team response at an emergency site.

Indent Command Post - There is only one command post at the site under the Incident Command System. The Incident Command immediately designates an Incident Command Post to establish the location of authority and allow immediate check-ins of responding personnel and resources. In contrast, Emergency Site Management allows command posts for each of the responding services.

Liaison Officer - a person who is the point of contact for assisting or coordinating an organization’s resources during a response. They are often located at the ECC or emergency site command post. An AEMA Emergency Management Field Officer, during the municipal response to a major emergency or disaster, would provide liaison with the Provincial Operations Centre (POC) to facilitate the provision of provincial resources and support.

Local Authority – as identified in the Emergency Management Act means the:

  • the council of a city, town, village, summer village, municipal district;

  • in the case of an improvement district or special area, the Minister of Municipal Affairs;

  • the settlement council of a settlement under the Métis Settlement Act;

  • the park superintendent of a national park or his delegate where an agreement is entered into with the Government of Canada under section 9(b) [of the Act] in which it is agreed that the park superintendent is a local authority for the purposes of the Act; or

  • the band council of an Indian band where an agreement is entered into with the Government of Canada under section 9(b) [of the Act] in which it is agreed that the band council is a local authority for the purposes of the Act.

Mass Casualty Incident – A mass casualty incident occurs when a disaster affects many individuals and divisions of the healthcare industry. These incidents often exceed the capability of the local emergency medical response and require additional resources.

Mitigation - this emergency management function includes the measures taken to reduce or minimize the risks from the effects of a hazard(s) with the aim to prevent or reduce a disaster impact when it occurs. Examples are legislation including regulation and by-laws, safety codes, building codes, zoning, dikes, evacuation and warning systems.

Municipality - as identified in the Emergency Management Act means the area comprising a city, town, village, summer village, municipal district, improvement district or special area and includes:

  • the settlement area of a settlement under the Métis Settlement Act;

  • the area comprising a national park where an agreement is entered into with the Government of Canada under section 9(b) [of the Act] in which it is agreed that the park superintendent is a local authority for the purposes of the Act; and

  • the area comprising an Indian reserve where an agreement is entered into with the Government of Canada under section 9(b) [of the Act] in which it is agreed that the band council is a local authority for the purposes of the Act.

Municipal Emergency Plan (MEP) - is a plan prepared by a local authority under Section 11 of the Emergency Management Act.

National Emergency – an urgent and critical situation of a temporary nature that: seriously endangers the lives, health, or safety of Canadians and is of such proportions or nature as to exceed the capacity or authority of a province to deal with it, or seriously threatens the ability of the Government of Canada to preserve the sovereignty, security, and territorial integrity of Canada and that cannot be effectively dealt with under any other law of Canada.

National Emergency Arrangements - means arrangements between all orders of government and between government and the private sector to ensure cooperative and effective use of Canada's resources in time of national emergencies.

Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) - any agency apart from government that has the skills and resources to prepare for, respond to or provide assistance in the recovery from a disaster.

NGO Council of Alberta - An organization comprised of several NGOs who have agreed to work within a set of parameters to reduce the possibility of duplication of effort and any resulting waste of resources that come from an uncoordinated response to the needs of disaster victims and evacuees.

NOTAM (notice to airmen) - an order issued by Transport Canada to pilots. It can include an order to restrict or close a specific section of airspace to unauthorized commercial and private aviation.

Preparedness - in recognition that perfect mitigation is not possible, this function of emergency management involves building capability to effectively and rapidly respond when items at risk are affected by a hazard(s). It includes the planning, exercising, education and training necessary to achieve a state of readiness for disasters and emergencies. Examples are crisis management, emergency response and business continuity plans, awareness and education, training – individual and collective, and insurance.

The Provincial Operations Centre (POC) - serves as a communication and response coordination centre that is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The POC is a central point for the collection, evaluation and dissemination of information concerning a single incident or multiple incidents in the province of Alberta. The POC is responsible for coordinating the initial response and maintaining support for a response to a natural or human-induced disaster.

Public and Media Inquiry Room (PMIR) - a room or facility located near the emergency operations centre to receive and respond to inquiries from the public and the media.  The Alberta PMIR is established on the request of the Provincial Operations Centre and is managed by the Alberta Public Affairs Bureau.

Reception Centre – a one-stop service site or facility where, in a disaster or emergency, people evacuate to and their immediate needs are met by the emergency social services response team. A reception centre can also serve as a gathering place and information centre for those who have been impacted or want to help.

Recovery – this function of emergency management involves the activities carried out to return the affected organization and community to a reasonable state of normal life after it has been affected by a hazard. Examples are the rebuilding of homes and business resumption.

Response – this function of emergency management involves those actions taken to minimize the damage and loss to people, property, and the environment, with an emphasis on prevention of injury and loss of life. Examples include the implementation of disaster plans, activation of emergency operations centres, mobilization of resources, issuance of warnings and directions, and the provision of medical and social services assistance.

Risk – a measure of the probability and severity of an adverse effect to health, property or the environment. Risk is often estimated by the mathematical expectation of the consequences of an adverse event occurring (i.e., the product of the “probability x consequence”). However, a more general interpretation of risk involves probability and consequences in a non-product form. This presentation is sometimes useful in that a spectrum of consequences, with each consequence having its own probability of occurrence, is outlined, (CAN/CSA-Z731-02).

Risk Assessment – evaluates the likelihood of a hazard or combination of hazards occurring, taking into account factors such as threat analysis, frequency, history, trends, and probability. It includes data on the impact of the risk event on the entity and on people, property, and the environment, (CSA Z1600-08).

Risk Reduction – the process of reducing risks by either decreasing the chance and/or the consequences of a hazardous event, (CAN/CSA-Z731-02).

State of Emergency - See Declaration of a State of Emergency.

State of Local Emergency - See Declaration of a State of Local Emergency

Upstream Petroleum Industry Incident - any uncontrolled releases from wells, storage facilities, petroleum processing facilities, hydrocarbon pipelines and transport vehicles including saltwater spills or any emergency situation which has the potential to threaten the public, or to create a serious and negative environmental impact. In the plan the word “event” means the same as “incident”.

Upstream Petroleum Incident Support Plan - The Alberta Upstream Petroleum Incident Support Plan provides the framework for the coordination of the resources of Alberta Government departments and agencies in support of the industrial operator and the local authority in an upstream petroleum incident. The Alberta Emergency Management Agency and the Alberta Energy Regultor maintain the plan.

Victim Assistance Centre - A “one-stop shopping centre”, designed to meet the short term and long term needs of disaster survivors called a victim assistance centre. A victim assistance centre is typically established 2-3 days after the event and would operate for as long as necessary as determined by the municipality.



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