Emergency Preparedness

Prepare Chicago

Prepare Chicago, an initiative of Healthy Chicago, encourages Chicagoans to join-in and help ensure our City’s immediate and coordinated response in a public health emergency. 

Because a Local Response is the Best Response, Prepare Chicago teaches residents how to prepare their families, how to work together as a community and how to volunteer in an emergency.  

What is a public health emergency?

An event, either natural or manmade, that creates a health risk to the public.

Types of Public Health Emergencies

Prepare Your Family

Be aware of and prepare for your family’s unique needs in an emergency.  Make a family plan in advance and build a readiness kit.   

1.      Make a Plan

Establish a family emergency plan that details how you will contact one another in an emergency.  Outline how you will get to a safe place and how you will get back together if separated.  Visit Ready.gov for more information on family emergency communication and planning.

2.      Build a Kit

A family readiness kit includes essential items that can keep your family safe and healthy in an emergency.  Make a kit for yourself, your family and your pets.  Keep a kit in your home, your car and at work.  A complete list of items to consider for you kit can be found here.

Prepare Together

In a disaster, the people that surround you – your neighbors – will be the ones in your community that you and your family turn to for immediate help.  That’s why it always is important to check on your neighbors and prepare as a community for emergencies, especially those that seasonally like extreme heat and cold. 

Remember to lend a hand and assist residents who are more sensitive to weather conditions, especially senior citizens and those who are chronically ill. 

  • Help a neighbor contact a family member for assistance
  • Help a neighbor call 311 for a well-being check.

Prepare to Help

Volunteer with the Chicago Medical Reserve Corps (CMRC) and use your skills to help Prepare Chicago for a public health emergency.  CMRC has over 400 medical and non-medical professionals who assist in community/faith-based events, public health emergencies and local disasters.  Fill out our online form to become a CMRC volunteer or email ChicagoMRC@cityofchicago.org.

Prepare Chicago is operated by CDPH’s Bureau of Public Health Preparedness and Emergency Response (BPHER).   

About CDPH's Preparedness Work

While we have responded to public health emergencies on an as-needed basis since the Chicago Board of Health was founded in 1835 to confront a cholera epidemic, the Chicago Department of Public Health began building a permanent emergency preparedness and response capability in 1998.

Our activities accelerated greatly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; and today we are equipped better than ever to respond to public health emergencies in Chicago. 

We work closely with other City agencies, including the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, the Chicago Fire Department and Chicago hospitals to ensure a coordinated and effective City response to emergencies.

We have built and continue to strengthen our ties with other important organizations across the metropolitan area, including hospitals and other health care providers; suburban, state and federal public health agencies; business and industry; academia; faith-based and community organizations, the news media and more.

With continuous quality improvement as our goal, we regularly evaluate and stress-test our emergency response operations, both in drills and in real-world crises.

Featured Pages

Helping Chicagoans learn how to prepare for and respond in the event of a public health emergency.

  • Medical Reserve Corps
    The national Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is a volunteer group of both medical and non-medical professionals, organized on a local basis to help provide needed services to their communities during emergencies and disasters.
  • Public Health Emergency Preparedness
    A public health emergency can be caused by an outbreak of infectious disease, like we are now experiencing with COVID-19, a snow storm, or a lengthy power outage that limits access to supplies and services for several days, especially affecting those who are medically dependent. Continuing to take all precautions may be difficult, but don’t let your guard down now. Prepare yourself and protect each other.
  • Plan Together
    In a disaster, your neighbors will be the people in your community that you and your family turn to for immediate help. That’s why it always is important to check on your neighbors and prepare as a community for emergencies, especially those that occur seasonally, like extreme heat and extreme cold.
  • Recovering from a Disaster
    Disasters often strike with little or no warning. In an instant your home and community can be damaged or destroyed and forever changed. Even if your home or business does not suffer directly, no one who experiences a disaster is untouched by it. 


Public Health Emergency Preparedness

Prepare Chicago: Emergency Preparedness: Recognizing that a Local Response is the Best Response, learn how you can prepare your family for an emergency, how to work together as a community and how you can volunteer to help others.