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Public health plays a vital role in emergency preparedness. After major disasters, public health workers are often called upon to participate in a coordinated response and to protect residents from disease outbreaks and other hazards due to contaminated food and water, chemical releases, insect-borne diseases, and unmet medical needs.

In Somerville, the health department and other first responders lead the city's disaster preparedness efforts. The department is focused on health emergencies that could potentially harm many people, such as pandemic flu, foodborne diseases, hazardous releases, natural disasters, and terrorism.

The Somerville Health Department also works with a number of community partners to ensure preparedness. One such partner is the Advanced Practice Center for Emergency Preparedness located at the Cambridge Public Health Department. The Advanced Practice Center builds local and regional capacity for 27 communities that comprise Massachusetts Emergency Preparedness Region 4b. As a member of Region 4b, Somerville has the ability to share resources and coordinate emergency preparedness planning with other cities and towns. Additionally, partnerships with Tufts University ensure further collaboration in preparedness efforts.

Local emergency preparedness is also a high priority for the Somerville Health Department. As a member of the Somerville Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), the department works closely with the city's police, fire, and public works departments; local hospitals and businesses; schools; and others to prepare for a range of potential disasters that could affect Somerville and surrounding communities.