Natural disasters are nothing new in the United States. In 2017 alone, the country experienced 16 extreme weather events including devastating hurricanes and raging wildfires. Extreme weather is on the rise. While local policymakers and health officials lead the charge to prepare for these disasters, municipal water and wastewater departments should participate in these efforts to help keep their crews, communities and assets safe and protected, and to ensure that essential services are maintained wherever possible. We’ve compiled a list of best practices to augment your utility’s extreme weather response plans and procedures.
The most well-prepared utilities are those that start prepping for natural disasters long before they happen. Check out regional safety guidelines and emergency preparedness plans to keep yourself and your crew informed. Make sure that your department’s emergency response plans are readily available (in paper copies) and updated. Holding regular safety meetings is a great way to ensure your whole staff is prepared for any emergency scenario.
Connect Within Your Community
Resiliency is a team sport. Join your municipality’s emergency committee or consider developing one if none exists. Collaborating with other utilities, particularly electric utilities and other water and wastewater departments, can help better protect all of your area’s assets. Get to know a point person at your state or local emergency management agency. Join your state’s Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (WARN) to get a better idea of what regional resources and information are available to you before, during and after a weather event.
Document Your Response
It’s essential to keep a record of your utility’s actions both during and after a major event. Post-event, you can review your activities to determine what was successful and what can be improved upon next time. Keeping track of where service disruptions occur is also a good idea as this data can be used to identify potential vulnerabilities for the next climate event.
Establish a Solid Workflow
Ensure your utility has an established assessment workflow in place. A solid workflow provides an essential understanding of your assets’ condition, so your crew knows where to focus time and resources when recovering from one extreme weather event and preparing for the next.
If you’re looking for ideas to upgrade your current workflow, check out the Phased Assessment Strategy for Sewers (PASS) workflow from Envirosight. PASS helps utilities get a sense of sewer condition fast while minimizing resource use. Learn more by downloading the free PASS workflow below.