The Government of Ontario, through a variety of partnerships and agreements, maintains a significant response capacity to support the province’s communities. This involves:

  • developing emergency response plans
  • maintaining emergency management resources
  • maintaining agreements with ministries, municipalities, and non-government organizations (NGOs)

While many of these resources are accessed through designated individuals and processes, communities requiring assistance can contact the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre (PEOC) at any time for advice on managing emergencies.

Declaring an emergency

The Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act defines an emergency as:

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 either:

  • the forces of nature
  • a disease or other health risk
  • an accident or an act whether intentional or otherwise

Under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, the following people have the authority to declare an emergency:

  • the head of council of a municipality (or their designate)
  • the Lieutenant Governor in Council
  • the Premier

An emergency declaration may extend to all or any part of the geographical area under the jurisdiction of the municipality.

If the decision is made to declare an emergency, the municipality must notify Emergency Management Ontario as soon as possible. The municipality is allowed to use a verbal declaration, however, all declarations should be made in writing to ensure proper documentation is maintained.

The following plans and resources are available for communities declaring an emergency.

Emergency response plans

In the event of an emergency requiring provincial response, the relevant emergency response plans would be implemented:

Supporting the province’s core emergency response plans are 37 additional response plans covering identified hazards. These plans are developed by ministries based on their areas of expertise. For example, the Ministry of Health writes and maintains the Ontario Health Plan for an Influenza Pandemic.

All of Ontario’s emergency response plans are regularly exercised by simulating an emergency to ensure they can be easily implemented in times of crisis. Learn more about Ontario’s emergency programs and exercises.

In addition to these plans, a number of resources can be made available in case of an emergency through a request for assistance through the PEOC.

Emergency medical assistance team

Ontario’s Emergency medical assistance team (EMAT) is a provincial mobile medical field unit. The health system in Ontario can request this unit when health resources are significantly stressed by an emergency or major incident.

The EMAT is a flexible, modular team that can send specific medical services and supports depending on the nature of the incident, for example:

  • a mass casualty event
  • community evacuation
  • a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosives incident

At full capacity, the EMAT can provide 56 beds, including 20 critical care beds and 36 intermediate care beds. It does not have surgical capacity. It can be deployed to any road-accessible community in Ontario and requires approximately 24 hours to arrive on site from the time deployment is approved.

The EMAT is not part of the local 911 response system. All requests for the EMAT must be made to the Ministry of Health through the Health System Emergency Management Branch (HSEMB). Any health system partner can request support from the EMAT.

If you are anticipating challenges with health system capacity during an emergency, you should contact the HSEMB as early as possible to discuss options. If you are a responder from a sector other than health, connect with your local health partners to coordinate an enquiry or request.

You can reach the Health System Emergency Management Branch at any time through the Health Care Provider Hotline at Toll-free: 1-866-212-2272.

Multidisciplinary, highly specialized teams

Multidisciplinary, highly specialized teams are available on a province-wide basis to respond to large-scale, complex natural or human-caused emergencies in a planned, coordinated and timely manner. Learn more about:

  • chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, explosive response teams
  • urban search and rescue teams

The Office of the Fire Marshal oversees, administers and supports Memorandums of Understanding with six municipal fire services, to enable these highly specialized teams to be deployed as needed throughout Ontario to support local responders.

Fire coordinators for counties, regions and districts may request access to provincial support from these teams by contacting the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre.