Skip to main content

Self-preparedness guidelines

Guidelines on what to do during public health emergencies and other dangers.

Disease outbreaks and toxins

Foodborne illness outbreaks

An ongoing list of current and past food borne illness outbreaks in King County.


COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a new, or “novel” coronavirus that was not identified in humans before December 2019. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that usually cause mild respiratory illnesses such as the common cold.

Facts about lead and its human effects

Lead is a useful and common metal that has been used by humans for thousands of years. It is also a very dangerous poison, particularly for children, when it is accidentally inhaled or ingested.

Pandemic flu preparedness

A pandemic flu is a new influenza virus that could be a much more serious flu virus than seen in a typical flu season. Different from the typical strains of flu, humans would have no or little natural resistance to a new strain of influenza.

Zika virus

Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus). These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.

Ebola virus

Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is a rare but often deadly disease in humans. It is spread by contact with blood or body fluids of a person infected with Ebola virus. An infected person can only spread Ebola to other people after they develop signs and symptoms of Ebola.

Bioterrorism agents

Bioterrorism is the intentional release of toxic biological agents to cause illness or death in people, animals, or plants.

Extreme weather and environment

Hot weather preparedness

When it’s hot, the number of people in King County who have serious health problems like heart attacks, stroke, and kidney failure rises with the temperature.

Wildfire smoke preparedness

Wildfires burn wood and other organic material, creating smoke that contains gases and fine particles that are particularly bad for human health.

Extreme heat

An overview of the risks facing our community, Public Health response actions and recommendations for preparedness and response professionals to support regional coordination across King County during an extreme heat event.

Hypothermia treatment and prevention

Hypothermia is a condition in which a person's body temperature has dropped significantly below normal. This occurs from inadequate protection against exposure to cold temperatures.

Flooding and sewage issues

Cleaning a house after a flood

Cleaning a house after a flood is a major undertaking, but is very important. Careful cleaning can prevent further damage to property, reduce the chance of injury, and prevent illness.

Cleaning a basement after a flood

Basements flooded with surface water, seepage through walls, or backflow from sewer lines often suffer little or no structural damage from the water, because the water inside braces the walls against the pressure of outside water and waterlogged soil.

Cleaning indoor sewage spills

Thorough cleaning of indoor sewage spills is necessary to protect people—especially small children—from harmful bacteria and viruses. Clean-up should begin as soon as possible to reduce the risk of exposure to sewage.

Safe food and medicine after a flood

Learn about which foods and medicines need to be discarded and others deemed safe to continue using after a flood.

Flood recovery resources

Print and share these resources to help keep you, your family, and your community safe after a flood.

Creating an emergency toilet

In extreme emergencies, sewage systems may not be functioning. During these times it may be necessary to create a temporary, emergency toilet for safely collecting and handling human waste until normal sewage systems can be restored.

Power outages

What to do when the power goes out

A "power outage" refers to those times when regular electric service has been interrupted by damage to power lines or power stations due to storms, floods, land slides, earthquakes, and so on.

Carbon monoxide prevention

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous and odorless gas that cannot be seen or smelled and that can kill a person in minutes. Carbon monoxide is produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned.

Protecting foods from power failures

Foods are categorized into groups. They may be: 1) potentially hazardous, 2) non-hazardous, but quality (not safety) could be affected from changes in temperature, or 3) safe.

Septic tanks after outages

Septic tank systems that have been flooded should not be used. Learn what to do during power outages and floods.

Water contamination

Boil water order

If you are in an area with a boil water order in place, it means that recent tests show that your water system is contaminated with organisms that can cause illness.

Disinfecting private wells

When there is damage to a well or the well has been flooded, disease causing germs and chemicals can flow into the well water.

Hidden water supplies

Hidden water supplies are unusual and emergency places to find water if your water supplies are gone. Water supplies can become damaged in an emergency which can lead to contamination of normal water supplies.

Truck transportation of water

Sometimes it may be necessary to use trucks to carry water into areas where there is not any available drinking water because of damage to or contamination of a water system.

General resources

Emergency preparedness comic books

Humor-filled coloring and activity books that help elementary-school aged children and their families know what to do and how to take care of themselves during disasters that are common to Western Washington.

Safety precautions after disasters

After a disaster, damage to property may cause unusual and additional safety hazards. Many disaster-related injuries and deaths occur due to injuries resulting from clean up in the aftermath of a disaster.