Sign In
Boston Public Health Commission Home

Community Preparedness



Emergencies don't wait for you to prepare before they strike. They can happen at any time, anywhere. From hurricanes and blizzards to house fires and flooding, you need to be prepared and ready to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community. Learn how you can prepare for an emergency by following these 4 simple steps:

  • Get Ready: Access the information, plans, practice, and supplies you should have to prepare for all types of emergencies.
  • Be Safe: Increase your knowledge about potential emergencies and develop the skills to keep each other safe before and after emergencies to prevent injury and illness.
  • Stay Healthy: Learn how to improve your health before, during, and after an emergency to create better health outcomes for yourself and your loved ones.
  • Pledge to Prepare: Take "The Pledge" to prepare yourself, your family, and your community for emergencies of all types.

Remember, the City of Boston isn't prepared unless you are.



Be Informed

It is important to know the types of emergencies that have, and can, occur in Boston. These emergencies include, but are not limited to:

  • Snowstorms
  • Hurricanes
  • Transportation accidents
  • Household fires
  • Heat emergencies

In addition to knowing what types of emergencies can occur, it is important to understand the effects of these emergencies. Some ways that emergencies have affected Boston residents include:

  • Physical injury
  • Property damage or loss
  • Fear or stress
  • Power outages

Make a Plan

To make sure that you and your household remain safe during an emergency, make a plan. Click here to use the City of Boston's free, online Family Preparedness Planner to help you develop your plan. As part of your emergency plan, be sure to:

  • Develop an evacuation plan for your household
  • Identify where to meet your loved ones in an emergency
  • Develop a communications plan so that you can contact your family during an emergency
  • Learn about emergency plans for places your family members spend a lot of time such as school or work

Once you develop your plan, be sure to practice them at least twice a year. By practicing your emergency plans ahead of time, you are more likely to feel calmer and in control before, during, and after a disaster. Preparedness is a year-round activity that everyone in the family can participate in, including kids. Involving children and teens in planning may help them feel less anxious during an emergency and provide reassurance.

Build a Kit

You and your household should have all the supplies you might need in case of an emergency. Build two types of kits:

  • Shelter-in-Place Kit
    • A Shelter-in-Place Kit should include items that you need if you cannot leave your house for up to 1 week, including food, water, batteries, flashlights, and more.
  • Go Kit
    • A Go Kit should be created for events that require you to quickly evacuate your home for as long as 12-72 hours, such as a home fire or flooding. A Go Kit should include clothing, personal documents (ex: copies of passports, birth certificates), and more.

For more information on what to include in your Shelter-in-Place or Go Kits, click here.

Get Involved

Here are some ways you can get involved in helping your community:

  • Join the Boston Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), a group of volunteers who are ready to respond should there be a public health emergency in Boston. The Boston MRC recruits both medical and non-medical volunteers. Click here for more information.
  • Have your organization join the Boston Health Resilience Network, a partnership between the Office of Public Health Preparedness (OPHP) and Boston leaders and organizations committed to inclusive emergency communication, response, and recovery to protect, promote, and preserve the health and well-being of the City of Boston. Click here to join and learn more.


Understanding Your Surroundings

Before, during, and after an emergency it is important to understand your surroundings, whether you're at home or in an unfamiliar place.

Home and Car Safety

  • Mold: Mold can cause allergic reactions, asthma, and more illnesses. To remove mold, get rid of excess water or moisture around your home. Learn more here: English or Spanish.
  • Car Seats: When driving anywhere, make sure you know how to safely operate and lock a car seat to ensure the safety of children. Click here to learn more through Buckle Up Boston.
  • Window Screen Safety: Falls are the leading cause of injury to children ages five and under. It only takes seconds for a fall to occur, and they can cause serious injuries. Click here to learn more window fall prevention tips through Kids Can't Fly.

Environmental Safety

  • Animals and Insects: Know how to create a safe, healthy environment for you and your loved ones by getting rid of disease-carrying insects and animals. Click here to learn more.
  • Flood Water: A flood can be caused by rainwater or sometimes sewage backups, which can damage gas and electric appliances, and cause fire or electrocutions. Click here to learn more about flood prevention and cleanup.

Keep Food & Water Safe

When the power goes out, your refrigerator and freezer will likely stop working, leaving your food unsafe to eat. Learn how to figure out if your food has expired or gone bad - click here for more information from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).​

In 2010, a water pipe broke in Weston, MA, leaving the water in Boston unsafe to drink. Due to the unsafe drinking water, Boston residents were required to boil their water prior to using it. To make sure you and your family understand how to determine if your water is safe to use, click here.

Learn Basic Health Skills

Knowing basic health skills are important when you, or those around you, may be in need of immediate help. Learning the following skills will help prepare you to assist others in the event of a medical emergency until emergency medical services can arrive:

  • CPR Anytime: This new version of CPR provides 3 easy steps for anyone to use if someone around you collapses and may be in need of CPR. Click here to learn more.
  • General First Aid: Knowing how to provide immediate care in case of a cardiac, breathing, and first aid emergency can help you save a life. Click here to learn more and find upcoming classes in the Boston area. If you are a student at a high school, university, or college, check if your school provides general first aid courses.

If you have an ongoing medical condition, it's important to know some other basic health skills that can help you during an emergency. These skills include:

Prescription Safety

  • Ensure that medications requiring refrigeration are kept cold
  • Know how to properly and safely dispose of medications, including syringes - click here for more information.
  • Click here to learn more about prescription safety from the FDA
  • Click here to learn more about safely storing your medications around children

Home Medical Devices

  • Make sure to have extra battery power for any electronic medical devices that you or your loved ones use.

Access Official Information

Know how and where to access official information prior to, and during emergencies. Official information will come from Boston City Hall or any of the three public safety agencies (EMS, Fire, Police). Here's a list of trusted sources to get you started:


  • ALERTBoston: Sign-up for ALERTBoston to receive emergency alerts from the City of Boston.
  • The City of Boston homepage will always have important information regarding emergencies as it becomes available.
  • Mayor's 24-hour Constituent Services Hotline: Connect to city services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, by calling 617-635-4500. You can also access this service online or through their mobile application - click here.
  • Mayor's Health Line: Access this free and confidential information and referral phone service, open Monday-Friday from 9:00AM - 5:00PM ET, by calling 617-534-5050.
  • Twitter: Follow these Twitter accounts for additional resources and information:

For a more complete list of resources you can use to access official information, please click here.


Take Control of Your Everyday Health

Develop routines that support your everyday health. Even during stressful moments, it's important to try to maintain your normal routines, especially during emergencies that may require you to stay indoors for an extended period of time. Maintaining normal routines (to the best extent possible) can also help ease children's anxiety and minimize stress reactions. Some of the ways you can take control of your health include:

  • Finding an exercise routine that you enjoy and engaging in it regularly - click here to learn more about Boston Moves for Health.
  • Maintaining healthy eating habits
  • Getting your recommended vaccinations, including your annual flu shot
  • Managing your chronic illness by regularly visiting your physician and taking your prescribed medications
  • Participating in or leading activities with close family and friends
  • Maintaining your emotional health through yoga, meditation or your faith and spiritual connections

Be a Preparedness Role Model

Be a positive role model. During emergencies, children look up to parents and caregivers for guidance. Encourage your children and loved ones to ask questions about preparedness and emergency planning. Answering their questions can help minimize confusion and decrease anxiety and stress.​

Help others prepare. Readiness extends beyond the household and is very much a community activity. A great way to help neighbors, family and friends better cope after a disaster is to help them create an emergency plan ahead of time. Show an older adult or family member how to text their emergency contact or use social media to check in with loved ones. A simple "I'm OK" message can go a long way in easing additional anxiety and stress. When landlines are down or overwhelmed, this might be the only way to communicate with others.

​Take our online course. Interested in taking a short class about community preparedness? The DelValle Institute for Emergency Preparedness has a free, online course that can guide you and your family members through preparing for an emergency. Click here to get started.

Get and Stay Connected

Get to know your neighbors. Introducing yourself to your neighbors and discussing your needs and emergency plans with each other will help you when an event happens, large or small. Check in on them before, during, and/or after emergencies to make sure they are okay.

Join community organizations. Joining organizations or programs that keep you plugged in to what is happening in your community can help you stay connected. Encourage organizations in your professional and community life to join the Boston Health Resilience Network (BHRN), and encourage them to discuss their own preparedness, their staff's preparedness, and their understanding of how the City of Boston supports its residents during an emergency.

Know When to Seek Support

The unpredictable nature of disasters has the potential to cause varying levels of emotional distress in those who live in and outside of the affected area. After experiencing a disaster, it may take time to bounce back--and that's normal. If things don't seem to be getting better, reach out for support and help through the Disaster Distress Helpline, 24/7/365, by calling 1-800-985-5990.


 Make preparedness part of your daily life - take the Pledge to​ Prepare. The Pledge is a way for you to take the next step in preparing



Boston Public Health Commission
1010 Massachusetts Ave, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02118.
Phone:(617) 534-5395 Email: