National Emergency Strategic Stockpile

Canada's National Emergency Strategic Stockpile (NESS) contains supplies that provinces and territories can request in emergencies, such as infectious disease outbreaks, natural disasters and other public health events, when their own resources are not enough.

These supplies include a variety of items such as:

  • medical equipment and supplies
  • pharmaceuticals
  • social service supplies, such as beds and blankets

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The National Emergency Strategic Stockpile

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) maintains the NESS. PHAC continuously assesses the composition of the stockpile and refurbishes supplies that are distributed.

NESS facilities consist of:

  • a central depot in the National Capital Region
  • warehouses strategically located across Canada

Supplies can be deployed anywhere in the country, usually within 24 hours of a request from a province or a territory.

Origins of the NESS

On January 11, 1952, Cabinet gave authority to the Minister of National Health and Welfare to stockpile essential health supplies. This Cabinet decision was part of a civil defence plan responding to the threats of the Cold War.

On June 7, 1965, a Cabinet decision gave the authority for provinces and territories to use these supplies during peacetime. Memoranda of Understanding were developed with provinces and territories to facilitate the maintenance of Crown assets for use in a national emergency. They outline the respective roles and responsibilities of the federal government and the provinces and territories.

Over time, the threat of a nuclear attack decreased and the scope of the stockpile program expanded to include the capacity to respond to natural disasters and other emergencies.

NESS Capabilities

Since 1952 the NESS has evolved to enable the federal government to respond to the ever-changing risks to public health in our society. These include:

  • emerging and re-emerging diseases
  • the increasing severity and magnitude of natural disasters
  • health threats due to exposure to harmful chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear agents

The NESS now includes:

  • medical equipment and supplies, such as:
    • ventilators
    • stretchers
    • x-ray machines
    • mini-clinics for triage and minor treatment
    • personal protective equipment including masks, gloves and disposable gowns
  • pharmaceuticals, such as:
    • antibiotics and antivirals
    • analgesics
    • anesthetics
    • medical countermeasures against chemical, biological and radio-nuclear events
  • social service supplies, such as:
    • beds
    • towels
    • blankets
    • generators

The mini-clinic

The mini-clinic is a core component of the NESS. It is a collection of medical equipment and medical supplies that offers primary care for patients.

The mini-clinic is scalable and flexible to adapt to various circumstances. This reduces demands on existing medical care services during health emergency situations.

NESS activations

Over the past ten years, NESS assets have assisted provinces and territories in response to the:

  • Canadian H1N1 outbreak (2009)
  • Alberta Floods (2013)
  • Operation Syrian Refugees (2015)
  • Fort McMurray wildfires (2016)
  • Salluit Tuberculosis outbreak (2018)

In coordination with federal, provincial and territorial partners NESS supplies were also pre-positioned to ensure emergency readiness during events such as the:

  • 2010 Olympics in Vancouver
  • 2010 G8-G20 Summits in Ontario
  • 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto
  • 2018 G7 Summit in Quebec


Plan for tomorrow...TODAY! The Story of Emergency Preparedness Canada 1948-1998
David McConnell Heritage Research Associates Inc. 1998

The Employment of Emergency Medical Units of the National Medical Stockpile
WILLIAM S. HACON, M.B., B.S. (Lond.), D.C.H., D.H.A., Ottawa, Ont.
Canada. Med. Ass. J. EAS Jan. 28, 1967, vol. 96

Evaluation of the National Emergency Stockpile System (NESS) - Background

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