Emergency Preparedness at Water Plants

By: Adam Stephenson | Jun 03, 2020

Is your plant ready for a major event? Do you have a plan against terrorist attacks, natural disasters, or catastrophic events such as a pandemic? Would your plant still be able to operate and provide clean water? Emergency preparedness is a proactive measure that is vital to the continued successful operation of water plants. Emergency preparedness includes having plans and procedures in place to respond to an emergency situation. We will talk about general and incident-specific emergency plans and what information they should include. We will also discuss one of the most important aspects of any emergency response preparedness plan: communication. We will cover both internal and external means of communication and how to incorporate them into your emergency response plan.

EMERGENCY RESPONSE PLANS

GENERAL – core things to consider about general water plant emergency situations:

  • Access – alternative point of entry should your main entrance be blocked or inaccessible, security gates, locks, pass codes, badges, keys etc.
  • Cybersecurity – protect against hackers and prevent access to process controls, customer data, or vital records.
  • Power loss – alternative energy source, backup generator and fuel vendor contact info.
  • Alternative drinking water sources – if your facility is down how would you source water for customers?
  • Sampling/analysis – spare sampling equipment and containers, back up contract lab or alternative means of testing.
  • Family/utility personnel safety – alternate work locations (work from home), disaster supplies, PPE.

 

INCIDENT SPECIFIC – plans that incorporate additional measures in response to a more defined event:

  • Pandemic — virus testing procedures, equipment for temperature checks, schedule changes, and allocating separate crews.
  • Hurricanes — sand bags, alternate communication (walkie talkie), boarding windows, equipment for debris removal.
  • Fire — evacuation routes and designated personnel meeting areas.

 

COMMUNICATION

 INTERNAL – INSIDE ORGANIZATION

  • List all emergency response members within your organization with contact information.
  • State who makes calls, when they call and whom they call.
  • Plan an alternative source of communication or meeting location, should main lines of communication become severed.

EXTERNAL – ANYONE OUTSIDE ORGANIZATION TO BE CONTACTED

  • List of all emergency contact information (home, office, email, etc.).
  • Clearly define who should be called, when and by whom.
  • List critical customers to be contacted first – hospitals and those at elevated risk to water contamination or outage.
  • Call the state – notify compliance organizations of the situation.
  • Media outreach/public communication — list all media outlets with contact info should the need arise to inform the public.
  • Designate an employee to travel to local emergency operations center for longer events or outages.
  • Perform routine maintenance and testing on communication equipment, including alternative sources.

The information above is not intended to be an inclusive emergency preparedness plan. It is written to provide general guidance on emergency preparedness and to stimulate critical thinking in ways water plants can be better prepared for an emergency situation or major event. Now is the time to start or review your emergency plan. Proper communication and a well thought out plan will allow your plant to weather any storm.

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