Environmental Health Emergencies

California has continued to feel the effects of climate change throughout its communities. Santa Cruz County is no exception as we have experienced drought, fire, and flooding.

While we all have learned to be prepared in advance of catastrophic events, it also helps to be prepared to react when something fails. Small or large, this page is designed to help you through your next environmental health emergency.

Response During Natural Disasters

Local jurisdictions work hard to protect the community during a natural disaster. There are typically two phases to these efforts.

The first phase before and during a disaster is local response. While responding to a natural disaster, local jurisdictions work to evacuate areas in immediate danger and to minimize damages to infrastructure. Many people are displaced from their homes during this time; however, it is a necessary step in protecting the lives of the people of our community.

After the natural disaster passes, recovery can commence. During recovery, the community begins the task of putting things back together after what can be devastating losses.

What is Environmental Health’s Role During Natural Disasters?

Environmental Health has many unseen roles in responding to a natural emergency. During the response period, Environmental Health Specialists and Water Resource Specialists will:

  • Help establish safe and sanitary shelters for individuals displaced during the event
  • Ensure that food and water sources remain safe
  • Ensure local natural waterways are protected and that tree blockages are removed responsibly
  • Respond to spills and releases of hazardous materials and wastes
  • Ensure proper sanitary waste disposal in areas without a sewer

During recovery, Environmental Health Specialists and Water Resource Specialists will:

  • Provide guidance on returning home safely
  • Oversee repairs to water systems, commercial food facilities, septic systems, commercial pools, hazardous materials storage facilities and other installations damaged in the event

We provide expertise in many areas including health, safety, natural habitats, infrastructure, and laws. In many cases, our duties can expand significantly depending on the needs of our community.