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.
St. 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.
- Response Plans
- Emergency Communications
- Alternative Supply Planning
- Continuity of Operations
Water Sector Interdependencies
- 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.
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).
- 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.
- Ensure emergency response plans address an interruption to drinking water and wastewater services. See the Preparedness Planning section of our Emergency Response page for on developing or updating your emergency response plan.
- Exercise your emergency response plans! Take advantage our Tabletop Exercise Tool for Water Systems: Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Climate Resiliency to assist utilities in exercising their emergency response plans.
- Engage decision makers in water sector and critical infrastructure preparedness planning process by participating in Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs)
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Obtain additional information on alternative water supplies during an emergency from the Planning for an Emergency Drinking Water Supply (PDF) (51 pp, 811K, About PDF).
- Conduct water audits to identify water usage and critical needs during an emergency.
To learn about conducting a water audit at your facility, read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention document, Emergency Water Supply Planning Guide for Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities (PDF) (95 pp, 2MB, About PDF).
- Identify, test, and exercise interconnections between local water systems.
Continuity of Operations
- 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.
- Cross-train employees to handle multiple responsibilities.