Canada is moving forward quickly with plans to ensure that it is prepared to deal with emergencies. The National Framework for Health Emergency Management, released Nov. 26, 2004, recommends that a National Health Incident Management System (IMS) be developed. However, although most communities have successfully implemented IMS in the emergency services sector, many are still struggling with the integration of IMS into their health care systems. It is essential that all health care workers, regardless of profession or position, understand at least the basic concepts of emergency preparedness because of the wide variety of roles they may be asked to fulfill in an emergency situation. This article will review the basic concepts in emergency preparedness and management with a specific focus on IMS in health care.