Public health in an emergency

In the event of a major emergency such as severe storm, bushfire or flood, there may be prolonged disruption to electricity and water supplies.

The impact on the community’s health can be significant and can cause disease outbreaks.

Disruption to essential services - Food storage, preparation and contamination

Disruption to essential services can cause food contamination and disease outbreak by impacting on food storage and hygienic food preparation.

There are a few simple things you can do to preserve your refrigerated food:

  • move food from the refrigerator into the freezer
  • only open refrigerator when necessary
  • if food is cold to the touch, less than 5 degrees Celsius, then it is safe to use. 

For more information visit the Health Victoria website.

Donating food

In the event of an emergency, many people donate food to emergency services’ volunteers and staff who are working at the site of the emergency. While this is a generous act, the potential for a food poisoning outbreak is high.

If you would like to donate food in the event of an emergency, it must only be food that cannot cause food poisoning such as:

  • canned food (soups, fruit and vegetables)
  • sealed packaged food
  • fresh fruit and vegetables.

You will not be permitted to donate cooked food or perishable items that require refrigeration. 

Water quality

Water quality can be affected by smoke and ash from bushfires, downpours of rain after bushfires or after long periods of dry weather.

If you are on mains water, you will be notified by your water authority if the water is contaminated.

If you rely on tank water, you will need to follow some simple procedures to reduce the likelihood of your water supply becoming contaminated during and after a bushfire.

For information about water quality after flooding and bushfire visit the Better Health Channel website.