Health Emergencies

The Office of Emergency Response in the Academic Health Center coordinates the University of Minnesota's core team for handling health incidents and emergencies.

What is a health emergency? What is a health incident?

A health emergency is the rare situation that creates the potential for widespread illness, possibly death, among a group of people. Health emergencies are often long-term events lasting for weeks or even months. Examples of a health emergency include a large outbreak of bacterial meningitis or an influenza pandemic. A health incident is on a smaller scale, but still requires rapid and coordinated response from multiple departments on campus. Examples of health incidents are norovirus outbreaks, cases of mumps, or cases of measles. 

What can I do to prepare for a pandemic or other health emergency?

  1. Keep yourself in good health. This includes getting a seasonal flu shot, eating a healthy diet, exercising, and not smoking.
  2. Practice infection control measures now. Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer frequently. Cover your cough and sneeze into a tissue; dispose of the tissue and wash your hands. Avoid close contact with others when you are ill.
  3. Develop a communications plan with your family. Create a list of important contacts and discuss alternative ways to communicate if necessary. This might include prearranged meeting places or communication through a third party, such as a relative. If you live on campus, discuss with your family when and how you might leave campus in the event of an emergency.
  4. Have an emergency kit ready to leave campus quickly if needed. This should include important documents, some food and water, prescription medications, change of clothes, and a means of getting important information, such as a hand crank radio.
  5. Stock up on supplies and essential items. Prepare your home by collecting extra food and water so that you could stay at home for a period of at least two weeks. Make sure you don’t run low on prescription medications or other essential personal items.
  6. Be prepared to listen and follow the instructions of emergency response personnel during an emergency.Lives can be lost when people don’t work together during an emergency.