The Federation Press

Emergency Law

Rights, liabilities and duties of emergency workers and volunteers


Emergency Law is an Australian text designed to give a clear insight into legal issues involved in planning for and responding to emergencies. It is a clear and concise account of the law that applies in a civil emergency and to the Australian emergency services as well as the rights and obligations of those who provide emergency care to the sick or injured, be they professionals, trained volunteers, neighbours or strangers who stop to help.
Much of the text has been revised and expanded:

The discussion on first aid and whether treatment can be given without consent has taken into account legislative provisions authorising ambulance and police officers to treat the mentally ill, and case law on the duties that ambulance officers still owe to a person who refuses their assistance.
The overview on the emergency powers granted to the Australian emergency services has been reorganised to allow readers to find information relating to their type of service (ambulance, urban or rural fire or emergency service) in one place.
The analysis of the need for emergency powers and the role of the Commonwealth in disaster response has been updated and expanded.
Additionally, the discussion on the liability of the emergency services has been updated to take into account recent cases, in particular, litigation arising from the Canberra 2003 bushfires.
There is also a detailed analysis of the effect of civil liability legislation on the ability of rescuers to recover if they are injured or traumatised in the course of their duties.

The third edition updates the law with reference to new legislation and case law. There is also an extended discussion on the role of coroners and Royal Commissioners and an expanded discussion on the question of whether or not an emergency service organisation is vicariously liable for the actions of volunteers.


Reviews of previous editions:

As a handbook for those involved in planning for and responding to emergencies, the book sets out the law in a clear and concise way, as well as the rights and obligations of those who provide emergency care to the sick or injured, be they professionally trained volunteers or strangers who stop to help. ...
Emergency Law is an essential text for anyone entering the emergency services, be they paid or volunteer, and for students or even lawyers as a useful reference. The presentation is straightforward and easy to follow. - Law Institute Journal (Victoria), Vol 79(10), October 2005

This book tries to deal with people at the coal face, those who face emergency situations and do not have the opportunity of seeking Counsel’s advice as to what they should do, but act in haste, in the interests of saving lives.
I again recommend this book to such people and would hope that as part of their training, they are urged to read it and are examined on its content because it really goes a long way to explain our legal system, and its attitude to “rescuers”.
The book also spells out the various State Acts that control powers that are available in emergency situations. We hear at times, that a state of emergency or a state of disaster has been declared but by reading this book, we may learn just what this term means for us and for those who gain the right to exercise emergency powers in times of crisis etc. - BJM, Tasmanian Law Society Newsletter

Emergency Law is an essential text for anyone entering the emergency services. Our students are variously employed in the police force, ambulance, fire services, military and SES. We need to ensure they know their way around the law and not only that, that they have a reference for the future. - Valerie Ingham, Lecturer in Emergency Management, Charles Sturt University

... reference and a guide to read from cover to cover. As a volunteer with the State Emergency Service, an employee of St John Ambulance and also a first aider, I found the book to be an interesting and informative read. ... If you are a volunteer, manager of volunteers, or person looking for an introduction into this field, I recommend that you read ‘Emergency Law’. It is an easy yet comprehensive read and summarises the obligations, powers, and legal groundings for these, for volunteers in a straightforward manner. - Connexion (Volunteer Australia) June 2002

... should be obligatory reading for emergency readers be they paid or volunteer. - Fire Australia

... a collation of Australian emergency law which, rather than avoiding the curly questions, such as whether or not one is obliged to give aid and the consequences if one does, answers them conveniently and without flinching at all. - Brief (Law Society of WA)

It’s a delight to read a book which deals so clearly with important legal concepts such as consent, assault, trespass, duty of care, proximity, negligence, good faith actions, and liability exclusion clauses. The presentation is straightforward, easy to follow, and much helped by the use of examples to which readers can readily relate. Anyone working in the emergency field, be they professional or volunteer, will be able to grasp why it’s safe in Australia to be a reasonable rescuer. ... Michael Eburn has done rather more than just meet the need to reassure those in the field. He covers legislation right around Australia and court decisions both here and abroad. That makes his book a useful reference for policy and law makers. - Hugh Selby, Law Society Journal

Table of Contents

Legal Principles
First Aid/Prehospital Care
Fire Fighting and Rescue
Ambulance, Fire and Emergency Services
Preparing for and Responding to Complex Emergencies
Liability of Emergency Services
Driving Emergency Vehicles
Compensation for Rescuers
Appendix 1 - Ready Reference: Powers of Emergency Officers

Of interest...