Advance Preparation for Hurricanes, Wildfires, and Other Natural Disasters

Hurricane Season is here – now.  Most East Coast and Gulf Coast communities should have reviewed their emergency procedures and planned ahead to be ready should another Rita, Isabel, or Irene head their way.  So, for those of you in the Great Lakes the Southwest or along the Pacific Coast, this isn’t something you need to be concerned about – right?

WRONG…so wrong, in fact, that we have to ask, what were you thinking?!?!  The same steps that a well prepared water system takes to get ready for a possible hurricane or tropical storm are the very ones that ANY water system should take when they know that there’s a likelihood of a strong storm, wildfire, flood, or even drought – any event that could disrupt the power supply or access to source water.

What are some of those steps?  They are very basic and are grounded in common sense.  Start with identifying and scheduling emergency operations and cleanup crews that will likely be needed. Make sure that your ‘contacts list’ is up to date.  Prearrange to purchase materials and supplies.  Alert your critical customers that they need to make their plans – just in case.  Test your back up generators…if you don’t have one, now might be a good time to consider the purchase or make arrangements for mutual aid with a neighboring water system.  Check your chemical inventory…and move what you have to a ‘safe’ location.  Go over your emergency plan with staff to make sure that everyone understands what they will need to do and where they will need to be.

Actually, EPA has compiled a list of more than 40 items, actions, and activities that a well prepared water system should consider and act upon…regardless of whether the possible disaster starts in the Atlantic, on the prairie, or in the Rocky Mountains.  State drinking water programs are encouraged to share these suggestions with their water systems – large and small.  There’s always something new to consider.

Take a look at this web page for more ideas on how to be better prepared should the worst come to pass… http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/watersecurity/emergencyinfo/pre-hurricane.cfm.  In fact, while you’re there, take a look at EPA’s lists of things to do once the disaster has occurred to make sure that your system gets back up and running (or continues to run) so that your community can continue to function and be resilient regardless of the emergency!

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