STUDY OBJECTIVES: To describe the incidence and epidemiology of major incidents occurring in Britain over the past 28 years. METHODS: Major incidents were identified through a MEDLINE search, a hand search of journals and government reports at the Home Office Emergency Planning College, newspaper reports, a postal survey of ambulance emergency planning officers, and through requests for information posted on the internet. MAIN RESULTS: Brief incidents profiles from 108 British major incidents are presented. Most major incidents pass unreported in the medical literature. On average three to four major incidents occur in Britain each year (range 0-11). Sixty three of 108 (59.2%) of incidents involve public transportation. The next two largest groups are civil disturbance 22 of 108 (20.3%) and industrial accidents 16 of 108 (14.8%). Although incidents at sports stadiums are rare they produce large numbers of casualties. The data currently available on major incidents are difficult to find and of questionable accuracy. CONCLUSIONS: The lack of data makes planning for major incidents and exercising major incident plans difficult. Casualty incident profiles (CIPs) may assist major incidents exercises and planning. CIPs from future major incidents should be collated and made available to all major incident planners.
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