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Water: Community-Based Water Resiliency

Pilot Lessons Learned and Recommendations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched the Community-Based Water Resiliency (CBWR) initiative to increase overall community preparedness by raising awareness of Water Sector Interdependencies and enhance integration of the Water Sector into community emergency preparedness and response efforts.

To that end, EPA has supported several water emergency community meetings to discuss specific water challenges of the community and help enhance the preparedness and resiliency in the face of water service interruptions. These meetings highlighted lessons learned during past emergency responses and provided recommendations to improve resiliency.

new iconSt. Clair County Water Resiliency Roundtable Summary (PDF) (15 pp, 351K, About PDF)
EPA 817-S-13-001, April 2013

Please click on the tabs below to learn more about their lessons learned and recommendations.

Water Sector Interdependencies

Lessons Learned

  • Many critical community services and businesses rely on drinking water and wastewater services to operate. An interruption to water service would likely limit or halt these services.
  • Many organizations do not plan for a loss of water service, because drinking water and wastewater services have been reliable.
  • Water utilities also rely on other critical infrastructures, such as transportation and electricity. Damage to these infrastructures can impact the delivery of drinking water and wastewater services.

Recommendations

Emergency Response Plans

An Emergency Response Plan is a document that describes the actions that you would take in response to various emergency incidents (e.g., flood, contamination, vandalism).

Lessons Learned

  • Many emergency response plans do not address an interruption to drinking water and wastewater services.
  • Water utilities are not often included in community-wide emergency response exercises.

Recommendations

Emergency Communications

Lessons Learned

  • The flow of communications between responders and the public can drastically impact the success of an emergency response.
  • Roles and responsibilities during an emergency are often unclear.
  • Landline and cellular phone service may not be reliable during an emergency.

Recommendations

  • Ensure that all contact lists are kept up to date. Use these contact lists during exercises and update accordingly.
  • Host a community-wide meeting on water emergencies to build relationships in advance of an emergency. The Water Resiliency Action Plan (WRAP) Kit, part of the CBWR Tool, provides a step-by-step process for planning and conducting a meeting. 
  • Ensure all emergency preparedness entities have a Government Emergency Telecommunications Service (GETS) Card to ensure completion of their phone calls when normal calling methods are unsuccessful, during period of severe network congestion. Utilize the GETS Web site to determine eligibility and get the card.
  • Message mapping can help your organization prepare for crisis communications in advance of an emergency. Read the Effective Risk and Crisis Communication during Water Sector Emergencies (PDF) (72 pp, 1MB, About PDF) Summary Report for more information.
  • Ensure that all response partners are properly training in the Incident Command System/National Incident Management System (ICS/NIMS) Framework.

Alternative Supply Planning

Lessons Learned

  • Alternative water supplies can provide potable water during an emergency for community drinking water needs and for the maintenance of critical services.
  • Many businesses and organizations in a community often rely on the same distributor for bottled water.
  • Interconnections with other utilities are often not tested or exercised regularly.
  • Without an alternative water supply, facilities may be forced to shut down. Hospitals may have to relocate patients.

Recommendations

Continuity of Operations

Lessons Learned

  • Continuity of operations planning (COOP) ensures that essential functions can continue during an emergency.
  • Many businesses are not prepared for an interruption to drinking water and wastewater services for more than three days.
  • Businesses may be forced to shut down or relocate if water service is not restored quickly.
  • Hospitals may have to shut down and patients relocated to alternate healthcare facilities.

Recommendations

  • Cross-train employees to handle multiple responsibilities.


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