Report a public health emergency

Learn who to contact about a public health emergency in Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

When to contact your local health department

Did you know that your local health department is your first point of contact for almost all individual public health emergencies? Local boards of health in Massachusetts are required by state statutes and regulations to perform many important and crucial duties relative to the protection of public health, the control of disease, and the promotion of sanitary living conditions, among other things. These requirements reflect the legislature’s understanding that many critical health problems are best handled by the involvement of local community officials familiar with local conditions.

Do you have questions or concerns about:

  • A recent foodborne illness reported in your community?
  • A bed bug infestation in your apartment building?
  • How to perform safe clean up after flooding in your home?
  • Whether or not you should keep or discard certain food items after a power outage in your home or business?
  • Where/when local flu clinics will be held?

As these are local issues of concern to individual town residents, you should contact your local health department. These are just a few examples of the kinds of local questions and concerns that your local board of health is prepared to address.

When to contact the Office of Preparedness and Emergency Management (OPEM)

The OPEM duty officer is available 24/7 to respond to large-scale public health and healthcare emergencies. This number is intended as a resource for partner public health, healthcare, and emergency management agencies when there is an incident of size and scope that overwhelms their respective capacity. The OPEM duty officer may be contacted by staff members of partner agencies for events such as:

  • A nursing home or long term care facility needing to evacuate
  • A hazardous materials incident at a manufacturing facility
  • A chemical or biological agent event
  • A nuclear or radiological incident like lost radiological material in transport
  • A mass casualty incident that requires EMS transport to hospitals
  • Major utility issues or outages that may directly impact public health and/or healthcare service providers

As these are large-scale public health and healthcare emergencies, the OPEM duty officer is available to respond 24/7. The duty officer may be reached at (617) 339-8351.

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