National Preparedness Month

Get Ready! Help Your Water Utility Prepare for An Emergency

By Nushat Thomas, REHS

Can you imagine your life without water?  Probably not because you know you need water to survive. You probably also recognize the importance of making sure that the water you drink is safe, and that without sanitation services, public health in communities would decline at a rapid pace due to increased disease. However, you may not be as familiar with the utilities in your community that deliver clean drinking water to your home and treat the wastewater that goes down your drains. You also may not know that our nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure is aging rapidly and at risk to many types of natural and man-made hazards.

As part of National Preparedness Month, today we are stopping to “Imagine A Day without Water.” EPA and water utilities across the country are taking the time today and throughout the month to prepare the types of emergencies that may challenge their ability to deliver safe drinking water and sanitation to their communities.

There are plenty of ways individuals like you or me can help prepare for an water-related emergency too. Here are few easy ways you can get involved:

Find your utility provider’s emergency response number. Know who to call if you are experiencing an interruption in service; keep the number handy along with the contact information of your other utilities.

Store water ahead of an emergency. If you have an emergency kit in your home, make sure that you inventory your emergency water supply. Each person in your household should have at least three gallons of water for use during an emergency—and don’t forget to change the water every few months.

Protect your local water sources. Support watershed protection projects, dispose of trash and animal waste appropriately, and never dump into storm drains. If you see someone doing something strange near any water infrastructure (like fire hydrants, water towers, or restricted access areas), contact your local authorities immediately.

EPA develops tools and resources to help your water and wastewater utilities prepare for all hazards. If you represent a water utility, check out our free resources at https://www.epa.gov/waterresilience. Whether you want to assess risks, conduct training, plan for emergencies, connect with your community, or adapt to climate change impacts, we have something for you. You will also find stories from other utilities who have taken steps to prepare for natural and man-made emergencies.

Don’t wait. Take action today!

About the author: Nushat Thomas has been with EPA since 2009 and serves as the Team Leader for the Active and Effective Team within EPA’s Water Security Division.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Be Prepared

by Patti Kay Wisniewski

Preparedness logoSeptember is National Preparedness Month – a time to take basic steps to improve our resilience and readiness for natural disasters and other emergencies.

With the Atlantic hurricane season in full swing, we should all remember to plan with our families to be able to quickly and safely leave our homes when severe weather threatens.  We also take this time in September as a way to pay tribute to those who rush to the scenes of disasters like police and firefighters for their dedication to our safety and security.

How can you be ready?  Make a plan, inform your family and neighbors of your plans, test your plan, gather food, water and other supplies for the few days you may be out of your home, and don’t forget your pets.

You can also sign up for local alerts to keep current on weather situations; document valuables; share telephone numbers and keep your cell phone charged as severe weather approaches your area.  The www.Ready.gov website has resources to assist you further as you prepare.

EPA, working with local responders such as police, fire and haz-mat, as well as local water companies, continues to assist with preparedness efforts.  In the Mid-Atlantic region, EPA sponsors training and exercises to ensure that your water company is aware of how severe weather could impact their operations and necessary steps to improve resiliency.  These efforts ensure that there is water when the power goes out and that it remains safe for consumers to drink, cook and bathe.  Keeping the water flowing also ensures firefighters have water to fight fires triggered by lightning strikes.

Throughout the month of September, EPA will be sharing tips with local water companies to guide them in their preparedness efforts to keep your drinking water safe, no matter the weather.  Please consider doing your part to prepare yourself, your family and your pets.

 

About the author: Patti Kay Wisniewski has worked in the drinking water program for over 30 years covering such topics as emergency preparedness, consumer confidence reports, and the new electronic delivery option.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Research Recap: This week in EPA Science

By Kacey Fitzpatrick

Research recap graphic identifier, a microscope with the words "research recap" around it in a circleIt’s the first week of September which means it’s the end of summer, kids are going back to school, football is starting, and pumpkin-flavored everything is appearing in grocery stores and coffee shops.

September is also National Preparedness Month, and although EPA researchers work year-round to help local communities across the nation become more resilient and better prepared to respond to disasters, their efforts will be highlighted this month.

  • Yale University’s The Metric blog featured how the Agency’s Office of Homeland Security “is now taking steps to build community capacity on environmental resilience to reduce risk from both natural and manmade risks.” Read Disasters Looming, EPA Focuses on Environmental Resilience.
  • To learn more about how EPA homeland security researchers support such efforts, see the special homeland security issue of our EPA Science Matters newsletter.

Recently, we saw how toxins from harmful algal and cyanobacterial blooms can disrupt the nation’s source waters.

If you have any comments or questions about what I share or about the week’s events, please submit them below in the comments section!

About the Author: Writer Kacey Fitzpatrick recently joined the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development as a student contractor.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Water Utility Preparedness

By Lauren Wisniewski

During National Preparedness Month, many of us hear about the importance of preparing for disasters. Hopefully, this prompts us to make sure we have enough food, water, and supplies to keep our families safe for at least three days.

In my water security work, I’ve learned that drinking water and wastewater utilities also need to prepare for emergencies. Water utilities are vulnerable to a range of threats including hurricanes, aging infrastructure, and other natural and man-made disasters. Since most of us rely on water utilities to provide drinking water and sanitation, water utility preparedness can greatly impact how quickly our communities can recover from an emergency.

Just as there are many things we can do to minimize potential impacts of emergencies on our families, there are numerous steps utilities can take to increase their preparedness. The Key Features of an Active and Effective Protective Program describes 10 basic elements of a protective program that can help drinking water and wastewater utilities enhance their ability to prevent, detect, respond to, mitigate, and recover from adverse events. For example, utilities can prepare and test emergency response plans, develop internal and external communication strategies, and partner with first responders and other utilities.

I’ve had the opportunity to learn about ways utilities have increased their preparedness. One medium-sized Mid-Atlantic drinking water utility assessed critical points of failure and provided redundancy in the system for those points. This utility also signed an agreement with an adjacent county to provide water and emergency assistance for drinking water and wastewater. Another utility, the Pima County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department (RWRD) in Arizona, developed a continuity of operations plan (COOP) in 2009 to prepare for the then-impending threat of a pandemic flu outbreak. The COOP requirements include annual readiness training. Pima County RWRD includes external partners in this annual training, which has strengthened its partnerships with other organizations.

Water utility preparedness can reduce the risks to public health and the economic and psychological consequences of water service interruptions. However, as individuals and families, we must also recognize the possibility that we may be without essential services such as water after an emergency and plan accordingly. Are you prepared?

About the author: Lauren Wisniewski has worked at EPA since 2002 and currently works in the Water Security Division. She has an undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering from Duke University and a Masters of Public Health from George Washington University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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What About Our Pets?

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By Lina Younes
This summer we’ve had our share of weather events from intense heat waves, unexpected storms wildfires, hurricanes and floods. Given that we still have nearly three more months of hurricane season, the threat of tropical storms is still there. While I’ve written several blogs on having a plan for these unexpected events, there is one thing that I haven’t addressed. What shall we do with our pets in an emergency?
If you have pets at home, make sure to make plans on how to ensure their safety before a storm or emergency. Most emergency shelters do not allow pets. So where are you going to take them if you have to evacuate your home or seek disaster refuge? As you develop your own emergency plan, take into consideration what you are going to do with your pets before, during and after a storm.
  • In advance of a storm, contact your local animal shelters and local animal control services for information on protecting your pets in an emergency.
  • The American Veterinary Medical Association also provides information and resources to assist veterinarians and animal owners to prepare for animal safety in the event of a natural disaster.
  • Develop a pet disaster supply kit for your animal. Make sure you have the proper identification, immunization records, a pet carrier, and the like. If you have a cat, also have a portable litter box and fresh litter handy to take with you in case you evacuate.
With the proper planning you can make sure that you and your pet will survive the emergency as best possible. Since September in National Preparedness Month, now would be a good time to get ready before it is too late.
About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.