Emergency Management Systems In The US And Canada


The United States of America and Canada border each other and have forged a partnership based on common values, shared geography, and similar values. These countries work together in solving significant issues such as foreign policy, border management, security cooperation, trade, and response to major disasters that affect both countries. This research paper compares these two systems and how they can work together in emergencies despite their differences.

U.S. Emergency Management System

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) works to support residents in emergencies and manages and improves the country’s ability to be ready for, protect against, respond, recover from, and lessen hazards. Common disasters are mostly weather-related and geological events and may affect a large area on and outside U.S. border. The emergency response happens in four phases: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery (Jakonen et al., 2022). Mitigation involves steps to prevent or reduce the cause and effect of disasters. Preparedness involves planning, educating, and training people on dealing with events that cannot be mitigated.

In the Response phase, which happens in the immediate aftermath, operations and businesses do not function normally. The preparedness level ascertains personal safety and well-being in an emergency. Response activities include leading search and rescue missions and taking steps to safeguard oneself and their family. The recovery period comes after the disaster, whereby regular activities and operations occur concurrently with restoration efforts. Recovery activities include lessening stress-related illnesses and substantial financial constraints. Recovery, additionally, can involve efforts to reduce vulnerability to future disasters. There are established guidelines and procedures that are followed when declaring a disaster. Typically, disasters start locally and thus are reported at the local level. The state is requested to assist when it is determined local resource capabilities may exceed the community. If the state responds and the state resource capabilities are exceeded, the Governor can ask that the President declare a major disaster to get federal resources and assistance.

Canada Emergency Management System

In Canada, the emergency management systems differ from those in the United States. Here, disaster response and mitigation are in the hands of elected officials at the municipal level. They are mandated by the law to be ready to answer to disasters affecting the public. In cases where disasters happen and affect a large geographical area, the police, dangerous good specialists, emergency medical services, and public officials from the provincial and federal government units are involved (Jakonen et al., 2022). The multi-agency nature of municipal response necessitates an emergency management system designed to meet the needs of several organizations or jurisdictions.

The Canadian emergency management systems are made to meet an additional number of principles: an appropriate response to unique situations, coordination of planning and response efforts, enhancing the flow and distribution of information, disaster site management through team effort, and a functional Emergency Operation Center. This emergency system allows team effort from those experienced in disaster response and integrates the sovereign wants of elected officials of the municipality. Within this Canadian emergency management system, three basic techniques could be used to manage disasters: the Incident Command System, British Columbia Emergency Response Management System, and Emergency Site Management System.

Multinational Response to Emergencies involving U.S. and Canada

Canada and the United States share the most extended border. They share many things, including trade and the obligation to cooperate in managing emergencies. With the patronage of the U.S. – Canada Emergency Management Consultative Group, these two nations have maintained a Compendium of U.S. – Canada Emergency Management Assistance Mechanisms, which lists different national processes concerning management of emergencies in these countries. Among the goals of this Compendium are: to make people aware of covenants, and methods that determine federal level management of emergencies across the U.S. – Canada border.

The Joint U.S. – Canada mechanism is an agreement that formed a consultative group on Emergency Cooperation between U.S and Canada. This consultative group is authorized to create emergency management discussions touching on the two countries. Further, the agreement identifies general principles of cooperation, including the best ways to move evacuated people and emergency personnel and equipment engaged in the emergency. The agreement on aeronautical and maritime search and rescue in the Arctic was formed to coordinate cross-border search and rescue coverage and response in the Arctic.

Parties guarantee that assistance is provided to anyone in distress regardless of nationality, status, or circumstances in which the person is found. The party should then give applicable information about the search and rescue to the concerned authorities. Arrangement on Mutual Assistance in Fighting Forest Fires was formed to enhance collective assistance in wild-land fires affecting Canada and the United States. Assistance requests under this plan are made through the country’s respective coordinating authorities.

Similarities and Differences

The similarity between the emergency systems of the United States and Canada is that both employ a national emergency response that includes emergency support services (ESFs). These structures offer a way to organize tasks that are used to deliver government services in key locations and organizations before and after calamities. Departmental responsibilities are determined by ESFs, which are then assigned to federal government institutions in a manner compatible with their particular tasks, laws, and policies. In Canada, the public health agency plays a key role in emergency response, which distinguishes the two systems. However, in the US, the department of health and human services serves as the ESF coordinator.

Interagency, Collaboration, and Communication

Interagency collaboration among federal agencies is common nowadays because the growing government responsibilities, programs, and specific crises severely limit current structures. Interagency cooperation is seen through six different collaborative arrangements: collaboration, coordination, merger, integration, network, and partnerships (Plotner et al., 2018). Interagency cooperation and communication can be achieved through effective building relationships based on norms, trust, and networking. Managers need time to build cross-boundary relationships, which, through networking, build trust. Trust is critical in the success of any collaborative team and correlates strongly with flexibility, team capacity, and adaptability. Interpersonal trust builds interagency trust, which significantly influences the type and quality of negotiations among organizations in a network.

Usually, individuals act in interagency networks, working within and across the teams. Public managers in these multi-team networks play critical roles of linking and bridging the working groups. These people play a crucial role in bridging or linking disparate groups. The collaboration will additionally be achieved through setting clear and significant goals. Another way is to specify roles and responsibilities for each individual or group. Interagency institutions exist to accomplish tasks that single agencies cannot accomplish alone. Dividing roles and responsibilities and assigning associated tasks will clarify to those in the interagency arrangement what needs to be done and by whom. Formalizing roles, duties, and responsibilities, including decision-making authority, will enhance cross-agency partnerships. This can be achieved through singing MOUs and agreements between the collaborating countries.. Lastly, they should establish effective communication channels as communication is critical for any prospective interagency partnership.


Having an extensive shared border has made the U.S and Canada to work together to ease disasters and respond to emergencies that affect them. U.S Emergency management is the sole responsibility of the Federal Emergency Management System whereas in Canada it is handled by elected officials at the municipal level. These two countries have signed agreements meant to alleviate emergencies and reduce the burden on the people. Growing government programs, responsibilities, and crises have strained current structures necessitating the need for interagency collaboration.


Jakonen, A., Mänty, M., & Nordquist, H. (2022). Structured communication during emergency response driving: Safety-critical points identified by Finnish emergency response driving experts. Australasian Emergency Care.

Plotner, A., Mazzotti, V., Rose, C., & Teasley, K. (2018). Perceptions of interagency collaboration: relationships between secondary transition roles, communication, and collaboration. Remedial and Special Education, 41(1), 28-39.