The London Borough of Barnet is part of the North Central Resilience Forum. We work with our neighbouring boroughs of Enfield, Haringey, Camden, Islington and Hackney to collate and share information. Periodically, we perform a risk assessment whereby we assess the hazards which could affect our Boroughs and grade them accordingly. From this information we can then produce a Community Risk Register.
Every person at some stage in their life has had or will catch the influenza virus. The flu is an annoyance to most healthy people, making them feel unwell and run down for several days. However to some, the flu is particularly dangerous. The elderly, young children or babies, and people with existing lung or heart problems are some of the higher risks groups. The NHS has set up a programme of yearly flu jabs for those at risk to help against seasonal flu.
Avian flu or H5N1 is the viral disease of birds often with no apparent symptoms. Strains of the virus have been known to cross species, infecting humans and other mammals such as cats. The virus is highly aggressive with a higher mortality rate than seasonal influenza. The primary risk factors for human infection are direct or in-direct contact with infected live or dead birds, mostly poultry, and with a contaminated environment.
The H5N1 virus has pandemic potential meaning it can infect a large population of the world. This is because the disease is still circulating in poultry populations. Humans have little or no immunity to it: should the virus mutate to a form where human to human transmission is possible, it could have disastrous consequences. In our modern, connected world, a localised epidemic can quickly turn into a pandemic with little time for authorities to prepare.
If you have visited an affected area or have been in some form of contact with birds and experience any of the symptoms below, seek medical attention:
- sudden fever (a temperature of 38°C/100.4°F or above)
- dry/chesty cough
- aching muscles, limb or joint pain
- diarrhoea or stomach upset
- sore throat, runny or blocked nose, sneezing
- loss of appetite
- difficulty sleeping.
Are you travelling abroad to an affected country?
The current risk to humans is currently low so there is no reason not to travel to affected countries, but it is still prudent to exercise caution.
- consult your usual healthcare provider for travel medical advice and further guidance if you have specific concerns
- avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you might come into contact with wild, domestic or caged birds
- avoid contact with surfaces contaminated with animal faeces or fluids
- avoid eating or handling raw and undercooked poultry, egg or duck dishes (normal cooking destroys the virus)
- wash your hands regularly, especially before eating or preparing food.
Contact with birds
- you can feed wild birds and ducks, but it is important to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. Do not go near sick or dead birds.
- call the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) helpline on 08459 33 55 77 if you find one or more dead wild swans, ducks or geese (wild fowl), three or more dead wild birds of the same species, or five or more dead birds of different species in the same place.
- keep away from bird droppings if possible and wash your hands thoroughly if you accidentally touch some.
- turn away from other people and cover your mouth with tissues when you cough or sneeze
- put the tissues in the bin straight away after use and wash your hands with soap and warm water
- do not go to public places if you are ill and avoid contact with children or people with underlying illnesses
- when you go to a GP surgery, tell the receptionist about your symptoms so you can be seated away from other people and given a surgical mask if necessary
- stay in good general health and make sure you have had any recommended vaccinations, such as the pneumococcal vaccination and seasonal flu vaccine if you are in a high-risk group (for example, if you have asthma or are over 65).
Telecommunications infrastructure failure
Telecommunications in its various forms has become an integral part of our lives. From calling friends and family and having a chat, browsing the web and emailing people at home or on the move, our modern day lives hinge on telecommunications. Have you ever stopped to think about how you might be affected should these systems fail?
- do not rely on a single means of communication such as a landline. Always consider alternatives such as a mobile phone, a pager or email
- work out how friends and family can stay in touch during a period of disruption
- consider arrangements for making contact with your employer or with your children’s schools.
Fluvial flooding or surface water flooding can occur with little or no warning and its devastating effects are felt very quickly. It may be possible to restrict moderate water access but be aware you may not be able to prevent damage from a heavy flood.
All homeowners should be aware if they live in a flood plain. Flooding is thirty times more costly than being burgled. If you believe your property may be at risk, you can sign up to the Environment Agencies Flood line programme where warning updates are sent out periodically..
What can you do?
- homeowners can make upgrades to their property to reduce water ingress. These may come at a cost but can be offset against the cost of damages, disruption and increased insurance premiums
- air brick covers can be fitted to cover ventilation bricks
- home entertainment systems should be raised off the ground to prevent water damage
- thinking of putting tarmac over your garden to create a driveway? Well don’t! Tarmac or concrete inhibits rain water from being absorbed into the ground and in turn forces it into an overloaded sewerage system
- flood boards can be fitted at your front door which can prevent water entering your property via your front door
- install suitable flooring. If you are the victim of flood damage, carpets will have to be replaced and wooden flooring often gets warped. It’s better to lay tiles and then cover with a large rug.
Remember, if you are ordered to evacuate, don’t forget your grab bag!