Responsibilities of the Province

Emergency Management Ontario (EMO), under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services receives requests for assistance from municipalities, and at its discretion may deploy staff to assist with an emergency.

The Health System Emergency Management Branch (HSEMB) of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) is also available to provide support to the healthcare sector and professionals during emergencies. The Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) has the authority to respond to a provincially declared emergency in accordance with the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA).

Public Health Ontario (PHO) provides a broad range of scientific and technical expertise during emergencies, including laboratory testing and infectious disease surveillance.

The Ministry of the Environment (MOE) is involved in any emergency response involving the release of hazardous materials that impact land, air or water quality.

The Ministry of Labour (MOL) is responsible for the enforcement of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) at all times including during an emergency.

Refer to the following table for definitions used by Emergency Management Ontario to clarify the scale of an event.

Table 1.1. Emergency management definitions. Source: Province of Ontario’s Emergency Management Glossary of Terms.
Event Definition
Threat A person, thing or event that has the potential to cause harm or damage.
Incident An occurrence or event that requires an emergency response to protect people, property, the environment, the economy and/or other services.
Emergency A situation or an impending situation that constitutes a danger of major proportions that could result in serious harm to persons or substantial damage to property and that is caused by the forces of nature, a disease or other health risk, an accident or an act whether intentional or otherwise.
Hazard A phenomenon, substance, human activity or condition that may cause loss of life, injury or other health impacts, property damage, loss of livelihoods and services, social and economic disruption, or environmental damage. These may include natural, technological or human-caused incidents or some combination of these.
Natural Hazard A naturally occurring event such as a forest fire, flood and/or severe weather that has the potential to harm people, property, the environment, the economy and/or services.
Technological Hazard A hazard which results from the failure or misuse of technology, either intentional or unintentional such as a power outage or cyber attack.


A serious disruption to an affected area, involving widespread human, property, environmental and/or economic impacts that exceed the ability of one or more affected communities to cope using their own resources.
Catastrophe An emergency of particularly severe proportions.