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Water-related emergency preparedness and outbreak response has become one of the most significant and crucial issues in recent history. Individuals, families, and businesses have been advised to be prepared for emergencies by creating disaster supply kits that include appropriate amounts of safe drinking water. Emergencies can include natural disasters (for example, hurricanes, floods, and droughts) man-made disasters (for example, intentional contamination), and outbreaks (for example, infections linked to water exposure). Preparedness resources include preparedness toolkits, preparedness training, and directions for emergency disinfection.

Water-related Emergencies and Outbreaks Topics

Drinking Water

Personal Water Storage, Wells, Community Water Systems...

Hygiene & Handwashing

Handwashing, Bathing, Dental, Wound Care...

Flood Water Exposure

Health Risks, Mold, Building Clean-up...

Outbreak Response Resources

Drinking Water Toolkit, Recreational Water Toolkit...

Septic & Wastewater

Septic Systems, Community Wastewater Treatment...

Cleaning & Sanitizing

Cleaning and sanitizing with bleach...

Preparedness Resources

Before an Event, After an Event, Training...

Drinking Water Advisory & Emergency Response Resources

Communication, Emergency Supply...

Water-related Emergencies and Outbreaks Fast Facts


Water-related Emergencies and Outbreaks

Scientific close-up photo of the E. Coli 0157-H7 bacterium

During water-related emergencies, the quality and safety of water can be compromised. Water-related emergencies can be created by natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and landslides. For a complete list of natural disasters and how to prepare and respond to them, please visit CDC's Natural Disasters and Severe Weather page.

A waterborne outbreak is a cluster of two or more infections caused by the same agent(s) and linked to the same water exposure. Outbreaks can be caused by water contaminated with pathogens, chemicals, or toxins which can be spread through ingestion of, contact with, or breathing contaminated
water 1.

In order to protect the health of a community affected by an outbreak or natural disaster, a Boil Water Advisory may be issued. For instructions to follow once an advisory is declared, visit one of the following:

  1. CDC. Surveillance for Waterborne Disease Outbreaks Associated with Drinking Water — United States, 2007–2008. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2011;60(No. SS 12);38-68.
  2. CDC. Emergency Preparedness and You.
  3. CDC. Surveillance for Waterborne Disease Outbreaks – United States, 1993-1994. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 1996:45(No. SS-1);1-33.
  4. CDC. Patient Facts: Learn More about Legionnaires' disease.
  5. National Weather Service. 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season.
  6. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Emergency Disinfection of Drinking Water.
Contact Us:
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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    Atlanta, GA 30333
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  • Contact CDC–INFO
Drinking Water Advisory Communications Toolbox The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Road Atlanta, GA 30329-4027, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC–INFO
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