The Asia-Pacific region comprises 52% of the earth's surface area and 59% of the world's population, and experiences over 70% of the world's natural disasters. Disturbingly, scientists warn that the intensity and frequency of disasters in the Asia-Pacific region will increase in the decades ahead, exacerbated by unplanned urbanisation, poor land-use management, global warming and climate change.

Emergency preparedness is one of the key elements of APEC's human security agenda, along with countering terrorism and pandemics. Disasters that affect one member economy can have significant spill-over effects in other economies.

APEC's Emergency Preparedness Working Group (EPWG) plays a constructive role in enabling the region to better prepare for and respond to emergencies and disasters by helping to reduce the risk of disasters and building business and community resilience. By sharing expertise and collaborating on emergency preparedness issues, APEC members strengthen their capacity to mitigate, prepare for, and respond to emergencies and disasters.

Through the EPWG, APEC's 21 economies maximise APEC's strengths of multi-sectoral participation, private-sector partnerships, broad regional reach and high-level political involvement.

Catastrophes in the region - such as the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and the May 2008 earthquake in China's Sichuan province - are important reminders of the importance of APEC's emergency preparedness work.

APEC's Task Force for Emergency Preparedness (TFEP) was established by APEC Senior Officials in 2005. Originally called the Virtual Task Force for Emergency Preparedness, the TFEP carries out much of its work via electronic communications. Pursuant to its Terms of Reference, the Task Force is mandated to coordinate and facilitate emergency and disaster preparedness within APEC.

In March 2008, APEC Senior Officials extended the TFEP's mandate to the end of 2009, re-appointed Australia and Indonesia as co-chairs, and endorsed the Task Force’s Terms of Reference.

In February 2010, recognizing the continued importance of TFEP’s work, the Senior Officials Steering Committee on Economic and Technical Cooperation (SCE) elevated the TFEP to permanent Emergency Preparedness Working Group (EPWG). Australia and Indonesia were appointed co-chairs. The upgrade took effect in May 2011 following SCE's approval of the Terms of Reference.