We Realtors throw this term around all the time thinking everyone knows what we are talking about. Let me explain.
In a nutshell, contingencies are a safety net for buyers to shop without risk of losing any money for a certain period of time. As written, the contract gives the buyer 17 days to release their contingency for inspection of the subject property. It also gives the buyer 17 days to release their loan and appraisal contingencies. These time periods can be adjusted to be sooner or later depending on the situation the buyer needs or the seller requests.
There may be other contingencies in a purchase/sale escrow also. Title related issues are not a contingency but if title information is delivered late, the buyer has a right to cancel for any reason.
Contingencies are sign posts showing the seller how serious the buyer is about buying. When the seller received the contingency releases on time it is reasonable to expect the escrow to move easily towards closing. When buyers do not perform on their deadlines (contingencies) the seller should be wondering about the commitment of the buyer to perform and close on the sale.
I hope this helps you with rest more easily with your next escrow.