Public Health Preparedness Program

Mission: To prepare and respond to natural and man-made public health emergencies including, but not limited to:

  • severe weather conditions
  • bioterrorism
  • disease outbreaks
  • radiological/nuclear hazards
flood, health worker in protective equipment, lightening, snowstorm

Each month HCHD will bring you information and resources about different hazards and how to be prepared to respond. 

Hazard of the Month

Hazard of the Month: Lightning, Hurricanes, & Tornadoes

Prepare – Respond - Recover

EP Natural Disasters

Get prepared for disasters with guidance from National Institutes of Health.

Watch the FEMA video, Preparing Makes Sense

Howard County plans and seeks to reduce the County’s human, social, environmental, and economic losses from future disasters.

Check out the 2024-2029 Howard County Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan Update


Prepare Before Disaster Strikes


A severe thunderstorm could include damaging hail and wind gusts up to 50 mph.

Examine around your home:

  • Keep trees trimmed that may be in danger of falling onto your home.
  • Keep drains and gutters unclogged
  • Plan to bring in or secure outdoor items that could blow away.
  • Consider hurricane shutters to protect your windows.
  • Consider surge protectors, lightning rods, or a lightning protection system.
  • Gather everything for your emergency kit – don’t forget to include medications, hand sanitizer, and your pet supplies
EP june


Howard County averages one tornado every 4 years, but between 1975 and 2019, there were seventeen (17) tornadoes in the county.  On June 21, 2016, a tornado touched down in western Howard County. The tornado traveled nearly 13 miles and left a path of debris over 500 yards wide.

EP Hazard
  • Identify a shelter for high winds – the basement or an inside room without windows on the lowest level – have everyone in the house practice going to this shelter
  • Pay attention to the weather, get weather alerts. Understand tornado alerts.

Visit for a preparation checklist, safety tips, and helpful links.  



Respond During a Thunderstorm, Lightning, Hurricane, or Tornado


Thunderstorm & Lightning:

EP Hazard
  • When there is lightning around, never lie flat on the ground. Run to the nearest shelter instead.
  • Don’t walk or drive through floodwaters. Turn Around. Don’t Drown!
  • Remember 30-30 rule: After you see lightning, start counting to 30. If you hear thunder before you reach 30, go indoors. Suspend activities for at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder. Read about lightning safety here.


EP Hazard
  • Go to your basement or an inside room on the lowest floor.
  • If outside, go to a low-lying area such as a ditch and lie flat. Protect your head and neck with an object or with your arms.
  • If you are in a mandatory evacuation zone and local officials tell you to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Locate the nearest shelter and different routes you can take to get there from your home.


EP Hazard
  • Do not try to outrun a tornado in a vehicle. If you are in a car or outdoors and cannot get to a building, cover your head and neck with your arms and cover your body with a coat or blanket. Watch a tornado safety video here.
  • During a tornado, don’t stay in a mobile home, which can turn over when there are strong winds.
  • If you don’t have a basement, go to a small interior room, closet, or hallway on the lowest level during the storm.  Get more information here.



Recover After a Thunderstorm, Hurricane, or Tornado

EP Hazard
  • Listen to authorities and weather forecasts for information and special instructions.
  • Be careful during clean-up. Wear protective clothing and face masks if cleaning mold.
  • Save phone calls for emergencies. Phone systems often are down or busy after a disaster. Use text messages or social media to communicate with family and friends.
  • Document any property damage with photographs.
  • Let friends and family know before you leave and when you arrive.
  • Don’t drink the water.  Avoid drinking tap water and flushing your toilets until you hear the “all clear” and you know that your sewer or septic system is in good working order.
  • Do not touch electrical equipment if it is wet or if you are standing in water. Watch for fallen power lines and trees. Report them immediately.
  • Do not wade in flood water. It may be contaminated.
  • People with asthma and other lung conditions and/or immune suppression should not enter buildings with indoor water leaks or a noticeable smell of mold.
  • Walk the perimeter of your home. Take note of any out-of-place electrical wiring, gas smells, or loose debris that may fall. If you notice downed power lines or a gas smell, call your gas and electric company before entering your house.
  • When in doubt, throw it out. Food and drinks inside your fridge or freezer may need to be tossed when you return home.
  • Connect with Ready HoCo.


Additional Resources


Heat/Sun Safety Tips

Look Before You Lock hot car infographic

Extreme heat can be dangerous after long periods of exposure, if proper precautions are not taken. 

To protect yourself and your loved ones from the dangers posed by prolonged sun and heat exposure, follow the below tips:

  • NEVER leave children or pets unattended in a parked car or other hot environment.
  • If you must be outside in the heat, wear light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting clothing, a hat and sunscreen.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink water and caffeine-free liquids. Alcoholic beverages do not keep you hydrated.
  • Take frequent rest breaks in air-conditioned or shaded areas if you must work or exercise outdoors. If possible, stay out of the sun during the middle of the day.
  • Know the signs of heat-related illness, including: extreme weakness, muscle cramps, nausea, headache, vomiting, fainting, dry/red skin.
  • Check regularly on infants, elderly, family and neighbors with health conditions as they are more vulnerable to heat-related illness. 
  • If planning a trip to the lake/beach/pool to cool off, be sure to review swim and water safety guidelines with your family and children

Additional Resources about Heat/Sun Safety:

Places to cool off on a hot day (contact location to verify operating hours before visiting)

Anyone in need of shelter or other assistance should call the Grassroots hotline at 410-531-6677 or visit


Maryland Responds Medical Reserve Corps


How can YOU help in an emergency?
Become a Howard County Medical Reserve Corps Volunteer

The Howard County Medical Reserve Corps (HCMRC) Program is volunteer organization created in July 2002. Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) volunteers can be medical and public health professionals or community members with no healthcare background.

This organization prepares for and responds to extreme weather conditions, such as hurricanes, blizzards, and floods, as well as other emergencies affecting public health, such as disease outbreaks.

The MRC also plans community health activities that promote healthy habits.

For more information or questions, contact Randell Young at 410-313-7237 or via email.

Request MRC Volunteers for your organization's public health event

Howard County MRC volunteers may be able to assist your organization with an upcoming event. Complete this request form to let us know what your needs are and you will receive a response within 72 hours from our team with the next steps. Submissions must be completed at least 2 weeks before the event. Questions should be emailed to

Criteria to qualify for MRC assistance:

  • The requesting agency provides a service which promotes or supports public health initiatives in Howard County.
  • The event for which assistance is being sought does not conflict with other planned HCMRC activities.
  • The requesting agency’s mission may not conflict with the mission of the HCHD, or the HC MRC.

Examples of Public Health Initiatives:

  • Health Fairs
  • School-based flu vaccinations
  • Outreach initiatives
  • Community education

At A Glance Emergency Contact Information


Howard County Health Department
Phone: 410-313-6300

Maryland Department of Health (MDH)
Phone: 410-767-6500
After Hours Emergency: 410-795-7365

Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA)
Phone: 410-517-3600

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Phone: 800-232-4636

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