Firefighters standing in group in masks

Emergency Management in the NWT

Learn more about how emergencies are managed by authorities at all levels of government in the NWT.


Emergency management in the NWT is a shared responsibility with individual responsibilities, community responsibilities, GNWT responsibilities and other key partner supports.

The Northwest Territories Emergency Plan outlines how everyone in governments and agencies will work together when emergencies strike.

Emergency management activities

Emergency management in the Northwest Territories considers four pillars:

  • Mitigation - actions taken to eliminate a hazard or to reduce the probability and the effect, should the disaster occur
  • Preparedness - arrangements to ensure that if an emergency occurs the services and resources including human resources needed to cope can be efficiently mobilized.
  • Response - actions taken to save lives and property during an emergency.
  • Recovery - actions taken to return a community to normal or near-normal conditions.

Goals of emergency management

Decisions in emergency management in the NWT are guided by the following goals:

  1. Provide for the safety and health of all responders
  2. Save lives
  3. Reduce suffering
  4. Protect public health
  5. Protect critical infrastructure
  6. Protect property
  7. Protect the environment
  8. Reduce economic and social losses

Role of local authorities

Local authorities are the first line of defense in an emergency. They are responsible for responding when events threaten the safety of people, property and the environment.

Local authorities are:

  • Community governments
  • First Nations On-Reserve

Each local authority is required by law to:

  • Establish and maintain an emergency management organization to develop and implement emergency plans and other preparedness, response and recovery measures for emergencies
  • Appoint a coordinator of the community emergency management organization and establish the duties of the coordinator
  • Prepare, adopt and maintain emergency plans and programs
  • Provide copies of community emergency plans or revisions to such plans to the territorial government

This means local authorities are generally responsible for:

  • Monitoring for hazards in their area
  • Communicating with people about risks in their area
  • Coordinating evacuations
  • Coordinating response to emergencies with assistance from other agencies where required

Local authorities often receive support from various agencies and different levels of government when responding to emergencies while still being in charge of the response.

However, sometimes disasters are too large or complex to handle at the local level. In these cases, local authorities can request help from the GNWT.  

Role of the Government of the Northwest Territories

The NWT Emergency Management Organization and five Regional Emergency Management Organizations are responsible for coordinating regional and territorial level emergencies and helping local authorities address local ones.

Each play an important role in supporting local authorities before, during, and after emergencies.

This support includes:

Requesting support

Local authorities can ask the Regional Emergency Management Organization for assistance when required during an emergency.

When the Regional Emergency Management Organization needs assistance, they may request help from the Territorial Emergency Management Organization.

If the Territorial Emergency Management Organization needs assistance, then they may request help from the federal government or other provinces and territories.

When emergencies escalate

When emergencies become too large or complex for local authorities to manage, the Regional Emergency Management Organization may assist with managing the community emergency response.

The Territorial Emergency Management Organization manages territorial level emergencies and supports all regional EMO support activities.

“Routine” emergencies and the role of individual government departments

“Routine” emergencies are common in the Northwest Territories.

Examples of smaller-scale emergencies include:

  • Traffic accidents
  • Road closures
  • Wildfires which do not threaten communities
  • Problem wildlife interactions
  • Local infectious disease outbreaks

The term routine is not intended to minimize the pain or suffering these emergencies may cause to people. It is intended to describe the fact these emergencies can occur frequently and can normally be dealt with by the responding agencies without broader emergency coordination.

Communities and individual government departments have plans in-place to address these routine emergencies. Most often, territorial, regional, or local Emergency Management Organizations are not involved.

Role of the Government of Canada

Most emergencies will be handled at the local, regional, or territorial level.

The federal government and its agencies, including the Canadian Armed Forces, may provide support to the territorial government upon request.

Role of partner agencies

Many agencies contribute when emergencies occur in the Northwest Territories. These include:

  • Police departments
  • Fire/rescue departments
  • Ambulance services
  • Health authorities
  • 9-1-1 services

Partner agencies regularly take the lead on routine emergencies within their areas of responsibility.

When large emergencies occur, they will play supporting roles contributing their subject matter expertise to overall emergency operations.


Emergencies or disasters can cause physical or psychological trauma, damage property and infrastructure, displaced residents, disrupt services, and affect businesses, facilities and community programs.

The recovery phase of an emergency or disaster can begin during the response period and last for years. It can affect all facets of a community and include returning of evacuated residents, the winding down of response operations and rebuilding of damaged areas.

The recovery phase must be managed in a way that maintains the needed level of government service while assisting the community to adjust to the post-disaster realities. An orderly transition to the recovery phase is required to support the new needs of the community and the issues facing government.

Disaster Assistance

The GNWT’s Disaster Assistance Policy (DAP) may provide financial support to assist individuals, small businesses and community governments in recovering from a disaster and restoring damaged property to its pre-disaster condition.

Important emergency management resources