Emergency service personnel responding to emergency circumstances: meaning of responding to emergency circumstances
IHTA84/153A(4)(b) sets out that an person is responding to emergency circumstances if they are
- dealing with emergency circumstances,
- preparing to do so imminently, or
- dealing with the immediate aftermath of the situation.
Travelling to the emergency circumstances is specifically included by virtue of IHTA84/S153A(4)(a).
It is important to have regard to the nature of travel at different points in the working day of emergency service personnel. For example,
- a police officer driving to and from home to their normal place of work would not normally be responding to emergency circumstances, whereas a retained fireman or RNLI crew leaving home/work to attend a callout would be,
- ‘dealing with emergency circumstances’ would include travel connected with the emergency circumstances such as a police officer who may not have attended the scene of an armed robbery, but who is travelling elsewhere to place roadblocks,
- the ‘immediate aftermath’ of emergency circumstances includes a lifeboat or fire engine returning to its station or air ambulance returning to base, but will not extend to personnel driving home from the station or base afterwards.
Establishing the period of time during which an incident might be regarded as emergency circumstances will vary depending on the nature of the event. Travelling to a motorway traffic accident and dealing with the incident to the point of the motorway being open again for normal traffic flow would all be part of responding to emergency circumstances. But a police officer who, sometime afterwards, dies whilst assisting in the removal of vehicles that had been moved to the hard shoulder would not be responding to emergency circumstances.
On the other hand, the period of time during which a person could be said to be responding to emergency circumstances where there had been an earthquake abroad is likely to run to a number of days or weeks. The definition of emergency circumstances (IHTM11293) is in the present tense ‘circumstances which are present or imminent and are causing, or are likely to cause….’. So in the case of an earthquake, aftershocks will continue to pose a risk to people, animals and buildings, as will the rescue efforts. There will be a need for humanitarian aid for some time after the event, but once the ‘emergency’ is over – perhaps once there is little chance of finding survivors alive and suitable food and shelter aid has reached those who did survive – the situation would no longer qualify as emergency circumstances.
A person is to be treated as responding to emergency circumstances if they believe and have reasonable grounds for believing that they are responding to emergency circumstances, IHTA84/S153A(5). This provision ensures that a death which arose from responding to a hoax call is covered by the exemption.
In the case of armed conflict, emergency circumstances will exist from the start of the conflict until the conflict is recognised officially as having ended through a surrender or a lasting ceasefire is in effect.
Any case where the point at which emergency circumstances came to an end is relevant should be referred to Technical.