Emergency Preparedness

Always informed, always ready.

Disasters, whether natural (floods, winter storms, earthquakes) or man-made (terrorist attacks, train derailments), often come without warning. How prepared we are will determine how quickly we recover when disasters do hit. That message became clear to the United States government after the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks, followed by the anthrax attacks that were carried out via the U.S. Postal Service.

A federal commitment to help prepare Americans to respond to disasters included funding to strengthen state and local efforts. Idaho used the money to create a Public Health Preparedness program that enlists the state’s seven public health districts to build public health and hospital preparedness at the local level. In 2002, Panhandle Health District opened its Public Health Preparedness section.

Prepare Your Family

If police evacuate your neighborhood in the middle of the day because they find bombs in the apartment building down the street, will your family know how to find each other? If schools close for a week or two because of pandemic flu, how will you continue to work and take care of your children? When an ice storm knocks out electrical power for weeks, do you have any way to stay warm and fed at home?

You can’t plan for everything, but by planning ahead and storing some basic supplies, you and your family will be able to take care of yourselves during most emergencies.

Idaho promotes a simple, three-step plan to personal disaster planning:

  • Make a Plan
  • Build a Kit
  • Be Informed

Prepare for emergencies now. See the following links for helpful material to assist you in your personal preparedness planning and be sure to share with family and friends!

Potential Emergencies

The precautions we use to fight the spread of seasonal influenza each winter are the same preventive strategies we would use to fight pandemic influenza. Simple precautions to fight the flu include:

  • Covering Your Cough
  • Washing Your Hands
  • Staying Away From Sick People, and
  • Staying Home When You’re Sick.

It is difficult to predict the severity of the next influenza pandemic, but everyone should be prepared. Large numbers of sick people may overwhelm hospitals and clinics. Doctors and nurses will get sick also, so hospitals and clinics may be short-staffed. Many people will be unable to work, affecting how long businesses, banks, government offices and other services are open. An influenza pandemic could last a long time. The 1918 influenza pandemic lasted 18 months. In some cases, pandemics weaken for a while and then recur.

Panhandle Health District will keep you informed. Epidemiologists and other health officials will work with the media to provide timely information and advice. Web sites from government health agencies will also have updated information.

It is important to think about health issues that could arise if an influenza pandemic occurs, and how they could affect you and your loved ones.

Gather family health information that includes:

  • Family members’ name
  • Allergies
  • Past and current medical conditions, and
  • Current medications and dosages

Are you prepared for a flood?

Before a Flood

  • Listen to a radio or television for the latest storm information.
  • Fill bathtubs, sinks, and jugs with clean water in case water becomes contaminated. Sanitize the sinks first by using bleach. Rinse and then fill with clean water.
  • Bring things indoors.
  • Move valuables, such as jewelry, papers, and pictures to upper floors or higher elevations.

During the Flood

  • Do not drive through a flooded area. If you come upon a flooded road, turn around and go another way.
  • Do not walk through flooded areas.
  • Stay away from downed power lines and electrical wires.
  • Watch for animals, especially snakes.

After the Flood

  • Before entering a building, check for structural damage. Don’t enter if there is a chance the building may collapse.
  • Upon entering a building, do not use candles, cigarette lighters, matches, or other open flames, since gas may be trapped inside. Instead use a flashlight.
  • Flood waters pick up sewage and chemicals from surrounding areas. If your home has been flooded, protect your family’s health by cleaning up your house right way. Throw out food and medicine that may have come into contact with flood water.
  • Until local authorities say that your water supply is safe, vigorously boil water five minutes before drinking it or using it for food preparation.
  • Watch for steps and floors that are slippery with mud and covered with debris, including broken glass and nails.

Protecting Your Home, Food and Water During a Flood

The Environmental Health division of Panhandle Health District handles well and septic system questions, as well as food supply information for businesses. Environmental Health inspectors and subject matter experts work in PHD offices in Hayden, Sandpoint, Bonners Ferry, St. Maries, and Kellogg. Call (208) 415-5220 for information and local resources.

Flood Watch = “Be Aware.”

Steps to Take:

  • Turn on your TV/radio. You will receive the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
  • Know where to go. You may need to reach higher ground quickly and on foot.
  • Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit. Include a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies.

Flood Warning = “Take Action!”

Steps to Take:

    • Move immediately to higher ground or stay on high ground.
    • Evacuate if directed.
    • Avoid walking or driving through flood waters.
    • Turn Around, Don’t Drown! Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down and 2 feet of water can sweep your vehicle away.

Protect Yourself from Wildfire Smoke

Dry conditions in Idaho increase the potential for wildfires in or near wilderness areas. Stay alert for wildfire warnings and take action to protect yourself and your family from wildfire smoke.

Who is at greatest risk from wildfire smoke exposure?=

People who have heart or lung diseases, like congestive heart failure, angina, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (including emphysema), or asthma, are at higher risk from wildfire smoke.

Older adults are more likely to be affected by smoke. This may be due to their increased risk of heart and lung diseases.

Children are more likely to be affected by health threats from smoke. Children’s airways are still developing and they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults. In addition, children often spend more time outdoors engaged in activity and play.

Community Guide for staying healthy during wildfires
Learn about specific precautions you should take based on the current air quality conditions.

Symptoms of Wildfire Smoke Sensitivity and Ways to Reduce Smoke Exposure
Idahoans are exposed to wildfire smoke from both wildfires occurring in Idaho and from wildfires in nearby states. Wildfire smoke exposure can cause both respiratory and heart problems.

Idaho Real-Time Air Quality Monitoring
Get real-time air quality data to stay up to date on local air quality conditions.

What is Wildfire Smoke and Can it Make Me Sick?
Wildfire smoke is a mix of gases and fine particles from burning vegetation, building materials, and other materials. Wildfire smoke can make anyone sick.

Wildfires: Information for Pregnant Women and Parents of Young Infants
CDC recommendations for pregnant women and infants who may be evacuated from their home due to wildfires.

Activity Guidelines for Wildfire Smoke Events
Recommendations for schools, childcares and parents during a Wildfire Smoke Event.

Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to frequently asked questions about fire, smoke and your health.

Follow Panhandle Health District on Facebook and Twitter for the latest smoke advisories and air quality updates.

Emergency Plan for a Natural Disaster

It is important for cancer patients and their families to have a plan in case of a catastrophic event or natural disaster. Learn how to make a cancer emergency plan with your family and your health care provider. Learn more at: www.asbestos.com/support/natural-disaster-emergency-plan/

Go to Ready.gov to learn more about how you can prepare for emergencies.

Emergency Preparedness graphic with 3 steps


Nick Mechikoff, Program Manager
Email: nmechikoff@phd1.idaho.gov
Phone: (208) 415-5180
Address: 8500 N. Atlas Rd. Hayden, ID 83835


Tami Martin, MRC Volunteer Services Coordinator
Email: tmartin@phd1.idaho.gov
Phone: (208) 415-5185
Address: 8500 N. Atlas Rd. Hayden, ID 83835

Medical Reserve Corps is a nationwide program comprised of private citizens, medical and public health professionals who sign up to serve as community volunteers during natural disasters, emergencies and public health incidents. To volunteer, sign up at www.volunteeridaho.com