Along with the Provincial Emergency Response Plan (PERP) goals described in Section 2.2, the planning basis guides the implementation of the PERP by describing where it applies, what types of emergencies can be expected in Ontario, and priorities for response and recovery.

3.1. Application of the components of emergency management

Emergency management in Ontario is based on a risk management approach and includes five components:

Actions taken to stop an emergency or disaster from occurring. Such actions may include legislative controls, zoning restrictions, improved operating standards/procedures and critical infrastructure management.
Actions taken to reduce the adverse impacts of an emergency or disaster. Such actions may include diversion or containment measures to lessen the impacts of a flood or a spill.
Actions taken prior to an emergency or disaster to ensure an effective response. These actions include the formulation of emergency plans, business continuity/continuity of operations plans, training, exercises, and public awareness and education.
The provision of emergency services and public assistance or intervention during or immediately after an incident in order to protect people, property, the environment, the economy and/or services. This may include the provision of resources such as personnel, services and/or equipment.
The process of restoring a stricken community to a pre-disaster level of functioning. This may include the provision of financial assistance, repairing buildings and/or restoration of the environment.

Ensuring a strong and seamless relationship across all these components is critical to ensure effective emergency management.

While the PERP focuses on response, and the foundations of recovery, the remaining components of prevention, mitigation and preparedness are proactive components that are critical elements in any emergency and provide important context to how emergency management works in Ontario. Prevention, mitigation and preparedness measures can greatly diminish the need for response and recovery activities required for certain emergencies, and may result in long-term, cost-effective reduction of risk.

3.1.1. Response and recovery

Response is directly addressed in this PERP. Recovery is addressed where it occurs in parallel to response activities.

Response can begin where there is advanced warning of an emergency, or otherwise immediately following and throughout the event. Response is focused on keeping people safe, meeting urgent emergency needs, and limiting further damage or destruction.

Recovery activities can begin at the same time as response actions are ongoing. In these cases, recovery activities should be coordinated alongside ongoing response actions. The aim of recovery measures is to assist individuals, businesses and communities to return to a state of normalcy.

While response activities are generally limited to short-term activities, recovery can span short (e.g., days, weeks), medium (e.g. weeks, months) and long-term (e.g., months, years) periods. Examples of recovery activities include short-term efforts such as debris removal, medium-term efforts such as crisis mental health support for affected communities, or long-term projects such as rebuilding residential property or critical assets and infrastructure.

Community ownership, empowerment, and partnership in recovery are essential to comprehensive recovery. Such efforts require specific expertise, coordination, and emergency resources that surpass the capabilities, capacity, or regular operating structure of ‘normal' (i.e., non-emergency) services and resources. Recovery efforts should aim to improve a community's physical, social, environmental and economic conditions to create a more resilient community, through integration of disaster risk reduction measures.

3.2. Planning area definition

The geographic area covered by the PERP follows Government of Ontario territorial boundaries. Emergency management responsibilities within this area fall within the authority of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA).

First Nation reserves within Ontario are not subject to the EMCPA. The PERP contains provisions for responding to emergencies affecting First Nations, which are based on agreements between the First Nations, the Government of Canada, and the Government of Ontario (refer to Appendix D.1.5 for more details).

3.2.1. Types of communities Municipalities

Municipalities provide local government services within either a single-tier or a two-tier municipal structure.

Two-Tier Municipalities: In a two-tier structure, there is an upper-tier municipality that is comprised of two or more lower-tier municipalities.

Single-tier Municipalities: Single-tier municipalities are those that do not form part of an upper-tier municipality. They provide for all local government services. All municipalities in northern Ontario, and many in southern Ontario, are single-tier municipalities. First Nation reserves

A First Nation reserve is a tract of land set aside under the federal Indian Act and treaty agreements for the exclusive use of an Indian band (First Nation). There are 133 on-reserve First Nations across Ontario that constitute many nations, each with unique beliefs, language and historiesfootnote 9. A quarter of these communities are small and remote. This includes many that are fly-in communities that are only accessible by land during the winter months when an ice road is available. Unincorporated Communities

An unorganized territory is any geographic region in Ontario that does not form part of a municipality or First Nation reserve, as defined in the Municipal Act. For the purposes of emergency management, the lowest level of government in these areas is the province. The municipal requirements under the EMCPA do not apply to people living in unorganized territories.

Even though there is no municipal structure, some unincorporated communities may have infrastructure or services in place that could assist with response and recovery efforts:

  • Local Service Boards may provide some of the services or undertake responsibilitiesfootnote 10 that would otherwise be covered by municipalities (Northern Services Boards Act, 1990).
  • Similarly, there are Local Roads Boards serving some unincorporated communities to support maintenance and construction of roads (Local Roads Boards Act, 1990).
  • Finally, some unincorporated communities have fire departments through the Northern Fire Protection Program.

3.2.2. Critical infrastructure

Communities in Ontario are supported by critical infrastructure: interdependent, interactive, interconnected networks of institutions, services, systems and processes that meet vital human needs, sustain the economy, protect public safety and security, and maintain continuity of and confidence in government. Critical infrastructure systems in Ontario can be owned and operated by either the government, the private sector, or a combination of both.

Ontario identifies nine critical infrastructure sectors:

  • Food and Water.
  • Telecommunication Systems.
  • Electrical Power System.
  • Gas and Oil.
  • Financial Services.
  • Health System.
  • Transportation Networks.
  • Public Safety and Security.
  • Continuity of Government.

The PERP recognizes that protecting and restoring critical infrastructure in an emergency is important to ensuring that the needs of people in Ontario are met during an emergency.

3.2.3. Geographic variation

Ontario covers a large and diverse area. Across this area, there are significant differences in the risk of hazards, depending on the physical, social, political, economic, and environmental characteristics of each community in Ontario. These factors create entirely different risk landscapes, which results in different planning priorities across the province.

These differences also have a large impact on how response and recovery activities are resourced, prioritized, designed, and managed.

3.3. Characteristics of an emergency

An emergency may:

  • Occur with little or no warning.
  • Escalate rapidly and strain the resources of emergency response organizations.
  • Occur in any area of the province.
  • Vary in scope from small and localized, to multi-jurisdictional emergencies.
  • Vary in intensity from minimal damage or injury to extensive devastation and/or loss of life.
  • Vary in length, potentially leading to lasting impacts and lengthy response or recovery operations.

3.4. Hazard identification and risk assessment

The PERP is founded on a comprehensive understanding of potential emergency scenarios, which are established in an all-hazards approach to risk through hazard identification and risk assessment (HIRA).

Ontario's 2019 Hazard Identification Report informs an understanding of the potential impacts of hazards across Ontario, which in turn guides the development of the resource and responsibility requirements outlined in this plan.

Subsections 2.1 (3) and 5.1 (2) of the EMCPA mandate that every municipality, minister of the Crown and every designated agency, board, commission and other branches of government must conduct "hazard and risk assessment and infrastructure identification".

3.5. Resilience

All communities have different pre-emergency levels of resilience. This creates drastically different needs for emergency management operations across the province. Vulnerability is an important factor in understanding resilience, as increased vulnerability to a hazard will reduce a community's resilience.

A comprehensive risk-based approach to emergency management includes the process of building community knowledge to understand the existing level of community resilience.