Emergency Preparedness

Public Health emergencies can occur at any time. Toe River Health and Emergency Management has developed plans for how to protect individuals during emergencies and disasters that could affect our counties. Emergency events can range from natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods, to man-made events like fires, terrorist attacks, and technological accidents. Being prepared can help save lives, reduce the severity of injuries, and minimize damage to property within the counties that we cover.

Be Prepared
Plan for the Unexpected

Disaster Preparedness Tips:
  • Prepare to be self-sufficient for at least three days
  • Prepare a basic emergency kit
  • Conduct practice drills with your family and determine a location to meet
  • Learn first aid and CPR
  • Choose a friend or relative for family members to call to report their whereabouts and conditions.
  • Know how to shut off gas, water and electricity in your home
  • Compile an inventory of home contents including pictures or videos and store in a safe place
  • Help organize your neighborhood to be self-sufficient after a disaster

Public Health Emergency Declarations Nationally and in North Carolina in 2023

Below are outlined the public health emergencies nationally in the year 2023. Thankfully, North Carolina has not faced a public health emergency as an individual state. However, emergency preparedness is still vital.

Words from the Department of Health:

The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has the authority, as outlined in section 319 of the Public Health Service (PHS) Act, to declare either: a) a public health emergency due to a particular disease or disorder; or b) the existence of a public health emergency, encompassing notable outbreaks of infectious diseases or instances of bioterrorist attacks.

Emergencies come in many forms

Planning for any emergency requires considering scenarios that could disrupt daily activities, electricity, water and transportation and threaten the health of residents. Be ready before a disaster strikes!

Prevent Illness from FOOD

  • Avoid food that may have come into contact with dirty water from floods
  • Throw away cans that are bulging or opened.
  • Unopened cans exposed to flood water can be saved by removing the labels and disinfecting with ¼ cup of bleach in one gallon of clean water.
  • Home-canned foods exposed to flood waters are unsafe. Throw them out.

Prevent Illness from WATER

  • Flooding increases the risk of contaminated drinking water. Use bottled or boiled water until you know your water is safe. If your private drinking water was flooded, call the Health Department to have your water tested. If you use a public water supply, watch for a “Boil Water Notice”.
  • Use bottled or boiled (for one minute) water for drinking, cooking, brushing teeth, making ice and washing hands.
  • If you do not have bottled water or cannot boil the water, disinfect your water by adding plain bleach. Use ¼ teaspoon or 16 drops of bleach per gallon, shake and let stand for 30 minutes.

Weather Related Emergencies
In our mountain counties, ice, snow, flooding, and extreme temperatures are our main weather related emergencies.

Prevent Illness from COLD EXPOSURE (hypothermia)
Shivering is your body’s automatic defense against cold temperature – an attempt to warm itself. Constant shivering is a key sign of hypothermia. Other signs and symptoms include: confusion, lack of coordination, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, fatigue, weak pulse, and shallow breathing. Signs of hypothermia in infants include bright red/cold skin and very low energy.

  • An older person may develop mild hypothermia after prolonged exposure to indoor temperatures that would be tolerable to a younger or healthier adult – for example, temperatures in a poorly heated home or in an air-conditioned home.
  • Avoid prolonged exposure to cold temperatures and respond to shivering. COLD = Cover, Overexertion, Layers, Dry Cover: dress in layers, wear a hat to prevent body heat from escaping, cover hands with mittens instead of gloves; Overexertion: avoid activities that cause you to sweat a lot; Layers: wear loose fitting, layered lightweight clothing; Dry: stay as dry as possible
  • During winter months keep several blankets in your car.


Prevent Illness from HEAT EXHAUSTION

  • Warning signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting.
  •  Heat exhaustion may lead to a heat stroke. Heat stroke is life threatening. Symptoms include cool moist skin, a pulse rate that is fast and weak, and breathing fast and shallow. Seek medical attention immediately if you suspect heat stroke.
  •  To help prevent heat exhaustion: drink plenty of water or juice; avoid caffeine or alcohol; limit your time outdoors; be careful about exercising; take cool showers, baths, or sponge baths; wear light colored, loose fitting clothing; keep air flowing in your home with air conditioning, open windows, and fans.
  •  NEVER leave a child, disabled or elderly person or pet in an unattended car. A closed vehicle can heat up to dangerous levels in as little as 10 minutes.


North Carolina ranks third in the nation in number of lightning-related deaths, and fourth in lightning-related injuries. 

Warning signs of thunder and lightning storms include darkening skies, flashes of light, increasing wind, or the sound of thunder.

If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Immediately go to a safe shelter such as a building or hardtop car and keep windows closed.

If you are unable to find shelter quickly, go to an open space and kneel or crouch with hands on knees. Do not lie flat on the ground.

If in the woods, find an area protected by a low clump of trees; never stand beneath a single large tree in the open.

Prevent Illness from CARBON MONOXIDE

  • Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless, tasteless and highly poisonous gas.
  • The major cause of carbon monoxide poisoning after a storm is from using a gas powered generator or other gas powered equipment in poorly ventilated areas.
  • Do not use generators, power washers or gas grills inside a house, garage, vehicle, tent or fireplace.

Preventing the spread of disease in the community is a core function of your public health department.

For more information click here.

A pandemic flu occurs when a new flu virus appears in humans, spreads easily and quickly from person-to-person and causes serious illness. Because the viruses are new, vaccines and other treatments may not be available immediately. Federal, State, and local public health agencies have plans in place to respond quickly to a Pandemic Influenza.


Acts of Terrorism
The threat of terrorism has become an unfortunate way of life. Terrorism involves violent acts that create fear. Some of the tools available to terrorists include bombs, biological and chemical agents, and nuclear weapons. The Toe River Health District Emergency Response and Preparedness Plan is coordinated with State and Federal Government plans and addresses local response to the threat of terrorism. Many of the same actions required to prepare for winter storms can be applied to how we prepare for acts of terrorism. In addition:

  • Be aware of your surroundings and unusual activity
  • Learn the warning signs
  • Trust your instincts and leave a situation that makes you uncomfortable.
  • Make note of emergency exits where you work, shop or go to school.
  • When traveling, do not accept packages from strangers or leave luggage unattended. Suspicious packages and strange devices should be reported to security personnel or the police.
  • Refer to Disaster Preparedness Tips


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