Emergencies and Disasters

During an emergency or disaster, the Canadian public looks to their governments for protection and assistance. We expect our governments to be ready to deal with the possible risks from:

  • Natural events and disasters such as outbreaks of disease, floods, earthquakes, fires and tornadoes.
  • Emergencies such as transportation accidents, large chemical spills, nuclear incidents, power outages and terrorist threats.

At the federal level, where assistance is requested or should the emergency involve more than one province or territory, the Government of Canada will mobilize its resources. For most emergencies, Public Safety Canada will coordinate the federal response in the health sector and can provide emergency funding to provinces and territories.

In the event of an emergency that poses a risk to public health, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada play a key role in protecting the health and safety of Canadians.

Health Canada's Role

Health Canada is the lead federal department responsible for coordinating the response to a nuclear or radiological emergency under the Federal Nuclear Emergency Plan (FNEP). Health Canada partners with the United States to deal with a potential or actual radiological event that could affect both countries or be of a magnitude that assistance from the neighbouring country could be required.

Health Canada is also responsible for:

  • Providing emergency health care for First Nations and Inuit communities and occupational health for federal government employees.
  • Providing grants to Héma Québec and Canadian Blood Services for increasing inventories of fresh blood and frozen plasma, while also decreasing collection and testing time.
  • Implementing the Foodborne Illness Outbreak Response Protocol, in partnership with the Canadian Food inspection Agency.
  • Decreasing the adverse health outcomes and economic losses associated with extreme events and reducing the impact of disasters and extreme weather at the local level through the Applied Research & Analysis Directorate.
  • Providing scientific support and expertise for major chemical incidents of public health concern through the Chemical Emergency Preparedness and Response Unit (CEPRU).
  • Helping managers develop and maintain a supportive environment for employees who experience a traumatic workplace event through the Psycho-social Emergency Preparedness and Response programme.

Public Health Agency of Canada's Role

The Public Health Agency of Canada is the lead organization for coordinating the health response for all other health-related emergencies. The Agency's response is managed through the mobilization of the Health Portfolio Operations Centre and liaison with the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. Learn more about the roles and responsibilities of the Public Health Agency of Canada in a health-related emergency.

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