The Public Health Agency of Canada maintains a National Emergency Strategic Stockpile (NESS) to provide health and social service supplies quickly to provinces and territories when their own resources are not enough during an emergency. A 24-hour response capability is maintained.
The NESS is funded and held by the Agency. The Agency manages the NESS by assessing and refurbishing stockpile units, and distributing medical and pharmaceutical supplies when requested by provinces and territories in emergency situations. NESS supports the response to a variety of emergencies with health impacts, including influenza pandemics, terrorism events, and natural disasters.
The system consists of a central depot in Ottawa, as well as a number of other warehouses and pre-positioned supply centres (under the combined management of the provinces and federal government) strategically located across Canada.
The NESS contains various assets, from beds and blankets to a supply of pharmaceuticals, including a range of antibiotics. As well, it maintains medical units that can be deployed on short notice (within 24 hours) to be set up in existing buildings such as schools and community centres.
Additional capacities include supplies to set up first aid and triage stations. Pre-positioned supply centres have a mix of supplies depending on their location and anticipated emergencies that might occur.
While some supplies are stored across the country, many drugs are held for the Agency by the pharmaceutical manufacturers in order to ensure that they are rotated, thus ensuring we have up-to-date drugs when required.
The National Emergency Strategic Stockpile has been used to support a number of emergencies, both in Canada and internationally. For example, PHAC provided blankets, generators and other supplies to various provinces who experienced floods and forest fires in 2011. As well, a significant quantity of pharmaceuticals, supplies and equipment were provided as part of Government of Canada's response to the south east Asia tsunami crisis.