Your Connection to Canada’s Volunteering Community

Coping Capacity

The means by which people or organizations use available resources and abilities to face adverse consequences that could lead to a disaster. In general, this involves managing resources, both in normal times and during crises or adverse conditions. Strengthening coping capacities usually builds resilience to withstand the effects of natural and human-induced hazards.

Determinants of Health

The range of personal, social, economic and environmental factors that determine the health status of individuals or populations. They include: income and social status, social support networks, social and physical environments, healthy child development, education, employment and working conditions, personal health practices and coping skills, biology and genetic endowment, health services, culture, and gender.

Emergency Management

The management of emergencies relating to all hazards, including all activities and risk-management measures related to prevention and mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.

Emergency Management Organizations

Designated organizations operating in different sectors at the federal, provincial and territorial levels, including Aboriginal organizations with emergency management responsibilities.

Emergency Mandate

Organizations with an emergency mandate consist of those with emergency relief services as part of their constitutional mission and/or their established tradition of community service delivery.

Emergency Response

Actions taken in anticipation of, during and immediately after an emergency to ensure that its effects are minimized and that the people affected are given immediate relief and support.

Health Emergency

An occurrence or imminent threat of a serious or life-threatening illness or health condition to a population which exceeds the population's capacity to cope. While other emergencies such as natural disasters may affect public health, a health emergency is one where the health threat is the cause, not the consequence, of the emergency. For example, it may be caused by the appearance of a novel or previously controlled or eradicated infectious agent or biological toxin that poses a significant risk of substantial future harm to a large number of people in the affected population. However, health emergency preparedness activities take an all-hazards approach by anticipating and preparing for the full range of possible hazards that could require health and emergency social services support.

High-Risk Populations

People whose situational and physical characteristics increase their susceptibility to harm due to disasters.


A "sustained action that reduces or eliminates long-term risk to people and property from natural hazards and their effects." Mitigation is the ongoing effort to lessen the impact disasters may have on people and property, and involves such activities as avoiding construction in high-risk areas such as floodplains, and engineering buildings to withstand wind and earthquakes.

National Framework for Health Emergency Management

In 2001, the federal, provincial and territorial ministers of health recognized the necessity for a more integrated and coordinated strategic plan for emergency management in the health and social services sectors across Canada. The deputy Ministers of Health, through the Advisory Committee on Population Health and Health Security (ACPHHS) and the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Network for Emergency Preparedness and Response, tasked the Council of Health Emergency Management Directors (CHEMD) to develop a pan-Canadian framework for health emergency management. A key outcome was the development of the National Framework for Health Emergency Management, which provides a set of guiding principles for the developing an integrated and comprehensive health emergency management system in Canada.


An epidemic disease of widespread prevalence around the globe, partly as a consequence of the lack of resistance to a new infectious agent.


Developing and readying response and recovery actions to increase the community's ability to respond to future impacts. Governments, community groups, service providers, businesses, civic and volunteer groups are all partners in this effort.


A method of averting health problems (e.g. disease, injury) through interventions. Preventing and reducing the incidence of illness and injury may be accomplished through three mechanisms: activities geared toward reducing factors leading to health problems; activities involving the early detection of, and intervention in, the potential development or occurrence of a health problem; and activities focusing on the treatment of health problems and the prevention of further deterioration and recurrence.


The process of returning to normal following the response phase of an emergency. It may extend for many years and involves the physical, social and economic component of the community. Salvage, resumption of business processes and repair are typical recovery tasks.


The capacity of a system, community or society to adapt to disturbances resulting from hazards by persevering, recuperating or changing to reach and maintain an acceptable level of functioning.


The actions involved in responding to an emergency when it occurs. The response phase focuses on immediate efforts to limit further harm and meet the community’s basic needs.

Social Vulnerability

Refers to vulnerabilities at the level of population groups in a particular cultural, historical, political and social context. It is experienced at the individual level but determined by relative group access to key resources and the capacities and resources of the subpopulation.

Surge Capacity

A system's ability to rapidly expand beyond normal services to meet the increased demand for qualified personnel, and services in the event of large-scale emergencies or disasters.

Voluntary Agency (organization)

Organizations are considered to be part of the non-profit and voluntary sector if they are:

  • organized (i.e. have some structure and are institutionalized to some extent, but not necessarily legally incorporated);
  • nongovernmental (i.e. are institutionally separate from governments);
  • non-profit-distributing (i.e. do not return any profits generated to their owners or directors);
  • self-governing (i.e. are independent and able to regulate their own activities); and,
  • voluntary (i.e. benefit to some degree from voluntary contributions of time or money).

Voluntary Organizations in High-Risk Sectors

Community-based organizations serving, advocating or representing high-risk populations in disaster contexts, or knowledgeable about them.

Voluntary Sector

Includes both volunteers and those entities that are neither for-profit nor agencies of the state. It includes incorporated non-profit organizations as well as unincorporated volunteer community groups. It is also known as the community-based-sector, the non-profit sector, the third sector or the public benefit sector. The common feature is their reliance on volunteer boards of directors to govern their activities.

Volunteer (including episodic volunteer)

A volunteer is a person who willingly carries out unpaid activities in the form of time, service or skills, through an organization or group. Volunteers are generally unpaid, although circumstances exist where they may be compensated for expenses or may receive honoraria.


The propensity to suffer some degree of loss (e.g. injury, death, damages) from a hazardous event. Whether considering a community, an individual, an economy or a structure, vulnerability depends upon coping capacity relative to the hazard’s impact.