Environmental emergency: preparedness

Being prepared for an emergency is critical to mounting a quick and effective response that will help minimize impacts on the health of people, and the environment.

Environment and Climate Change Canada works in partnership with other levels of government, industry and communities to provide:

  • the knowledge of the environment so that risks can be identified, and informed actions can be taken to protect sensitive environments; 
  • the knowledge of the substances being transported to predict the trajectory of spilled substances so that the right response equipment can be positioned in the right location; and
  • 24/7 accessible, timely operational science to inform preparedness and response decision-making to protect the environment.

To help improve the preparedness for emergency pollution incidents, Environment and Climate Change Canada contributes to the development of  contingency plans that describe roles, decision-making and communication processes, and expertise and capacity so that the response to an emergency can occur quickly and effectively. Environment and Climate Change Canada also participates in the exercise of these plans to strengthen their effectiveness and enable continuous improvement.

Knowledge of the Environment: Harnessing Technology to Protect Sensitive Areas

In identifying potential risks, it is important to know about the environment where a spill might occur. Environment and Climate Change Canada prepares geospatial, digital sensitivity maps, databases, satellite imagery and other tools containing detailed information on site-specific environmentally sensitive areas and on seasonal considerations affecting key physical, biological and cultural resources. The Department works in partnership with other federal and provincial agencies, industry and international agencies involved in similar efforts.

Contingency Planning

Under the Emergency Management Act 2007, all federal ministers have statutory responsibility to have an emergency preparedness plan to deal with civil emergencies related to the Ministers' area of accountability.

Environment and Climate Change Canada's Environmental Emergencies Response Operations Plan (Operations Plan) is a key element in Environment and Climate Change Canada’s overall emergency preparedness and response efforts with respect to environmental emergencies.  It is an operational plan that defines the scope and framework within which Environment Canada provides the science to inform the response actions to contain environmental emergencies.  The Operations Plan also clarifies Environment and Climate Change Canada’s role in various types of environmental emergencies, describes the emergencies notification process, and provides procedural guidelines for departmental staff. 

Environment and Climate Change Canada is also Party to numerous plans and bilateral and multi-lateral arrangements with other federal departments as well as with the United States and other countries to provide mutual aid and assistance, if required:


Regular, well-planned exercises are an effective and efficient way of achieving a significant and measurable improvement in an organization's emergency response capability and preparedness level.

The program’s environmental emergencies officers regularly participate in exercises organized by emergency partners which allow them to practice and improve  their individual and collective response skills, techniques and capabilities. Engaging in regular exercises also helps test the operational effectiveness of emergency response planning, facilities, equipment and procedures. Following an exercise, players can better identify 'gaps' or deficiencies in overall response management procedures, and take the necessary corrective measures.

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