Is Your Water System Prepared for an Emergency?

The EPA's All-Hazard Consequence Management Plan is the must-have guide to averting and mitigating problems efficiently

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Is Your Water System Prepared for an Emergency?

With summer comes hurricane season, but natural disasters can disrupt daily life year-round. The impact of natural disasters can be far-reaching and disrupt utilities and city operations. Floods, whether caused by snowmelt, hurricane, downpour or infrastructure damage, can quickly overwhelm collections systems and damage electric pump services. And earthquakes can destroy underground infrastructure in mere minutes.

Water and wastewater utilities must take steps to protect their infrastructure from damage during natural disasters and ensure they have a recovery plan should the worst occur. The EPA provides excellent resources for emergency response planning, including the All-Hazard Consequence Management Planning for the Water Sector.

This document introduces Consequence Management Plans, which “complement a utility’s overall emergency preparedness, recovery, and response planning.” Emergency response plans are created for specific events, such as a hurricane or earthquake. In contrast, consequence management planning focuses on “addressing the problems (or consequences), such as loss of power” that result from that event.

Consequence management plans initially look beyond the cause of a problem and seek to solve or mitigate the consequences. Focusing on solving problems first and locating causes second ensures that, when a major emergency occurs, the severity of its impact is reduced and disruptions are addressed as quickly as possible.

Building an All-Hazard Consequence Management Plan follows several standardized steps:

Know: Identify possible incidents and determine which are of highest risk and probability. Identify and implement actions to mitigate the consequences of those high-risk, high probability incidents. Identify mitigation measures to incorporate into a recovery plan.

Connect: Learn emergency protocols for local emergency responders. Build relationships with key response partners. Supply copies of emergency plans and important information to response partners.

Identify: Establish a chain of command and line of succession plan. Identify primary and alternate staff for key positions. Establish protocols to collect and manage incident information.

Ensure: Develop procedures to identify and document damage, needed resources and timelines for recovery. Identify minimum resources to maintain essential services and key interdependencies with other sectors. Establish policies to authorize expenditures for supplies and increase the amount of cash on hand during an incident.

A consequence management plan should be thorough and exact. For more details on building a plan or preparing for specific incidents, check out the resources from the EPA below:

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