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Drinking water security and emergency preparedness

Drinking water security and emergency response have long been essential in managing drinking water systems and they are high priorities for the DNR.

The events of September 11, 2001 and natural disasters such as the Hurricanes of 2005 have heightened concerns among drinking water professionals and citizens about the security of safe and reliable drinking water. Natural events and intentional acts of destruction that previously seemed unlikely or "low risk" are now important considerations.

The focus of this webpage is to help water systems to understand regulations that may affect them, and to centralize the growing library of security information and resources available to assist water utilities in staying current with water system security and emergency response issues.

Crisis and emergency risk communication guide

Crisis communication is a team effort. It is essential to identify a communication team prior to an emergency. The team should be compromised of individuals from various organizations to ensure your crisis plan is a comprehensive document.

Your crisis communication team, the key responders during a crisis, can be broken down into six roles. Optimally, there will be at least one person assigned to each role. In a large-scale crisis, you might want to go outside your own office, to bring in support from a nearby university or college, volunteers or outside contractors. In a smaller, localized emergency, you might be able to fulfill all of these roles with just one or two staff members. Regardless of available staffing, these position functions will need to be performed during a major emergency.

  1. The public information officer: (Command Staff) Activates the Risk Communication Plan and directs the work related to the release of information.
  2. Content and messages coordinator: Develops mechanisms to rapidly receive information from the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) regarding the public health emergency and works with subject matter experts to create situation-specific fact sheets, Q&A fact sheets and updates.
  3. Media coordinator: Assesses media needs and organizes mechanisms to fulfill those needs.
  4. Direct public outreach coordinator: Activates the telephone information line and crisis website and develops public service announcements.
  5. Partner/stakeholder coordinator: Establishes communication protocols based on prearranged agreements with identified partners and stakeholders.
  6. Rumor control coordinator: Monitors internal and external communications, identifies misinformation, provides feedback on the quality of communication and takes action to correct false information. This may involve revising your key messages.
Emergency response plans (ERP)

Each community water system should develop a plan to prepare for, respond to, mitigate and recover from all types of emergency situations, including hazards such as floods, tornadoes and other natural disasters.

ERP required elements

  • Municipal systems shall have an emergency response plan including at a minimum:
    • A list of state and local emergency contacts.
    • A system for establishing emergency communications.
    • Any mutual aid agreements the utility has with other communities for sharing personnel, equipment and other resources during an emergency. Example: WIWARN
  • Other-than-municipal systems shall have an emergency response plan including at a minimum:
    • A list of plumbers, electricians, or other contractors available during an emergency.
    • Procedures for obtaining a back up water source.
Emergency sampling kits and reservoir samplers

Drinking water and wastewater systems may become targets for terrorists and other potential criminals wanting to interrupt and cause harm to the community’s water supplies and wastewater facilities. The DNR along with the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene (WSLH) have provided 206 emergency sampling kits and 21 reservoir samplers located throughout the state. The kits and samplers are to be used in emergency events only. Below are instructions on how to use the kits and samplers.

Purpose of the kit

  • Use for emergency drinking water sampling events only
  • Use after a "credible" threat has been determined by local partners
  • Collect water to test for "unknown" biological, chemical and radiological agents
  • Designed to be simple and safe to use by sample collectors who may include water utility operators, staff from local health departments or state agencies, regional HazMat teams or the Wisconsin Civil Support Team
  • Provide quality data
  • Require little work to maintain

Kit contents

  • Water collection instructions
  • Limited personal protective equipment
  • Containers for biological, chemical and radiological water analysis
  • Sample submittal/chain of custody form
  • Markers and pens
  • Evidence tape

Kit locations

  • 206 kits located throughout the state
  • Locations include the water utilities of the county seats and/or water utilities serving > 3,300 people, tribal offices, some local health departments and offices of the Wisconsin Rural Water Association
  • Locations also include regional offices of the DNR, Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM), Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS); and the 54th Civil Support Team

Prepared by the WSLH in collaboration with the following partners:DNR, DHS, WEM, State Crime Laboratory, University of Wisconsin-Madison Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), Milwaukee Water Utility, City of Milwaukee Health Department, the Wisconsin Rural Water Association and regional HazMat teams

Go to the cybersecurity webpage to view a list of resources for public water systems to prepare for and prevent cyberattacks.
Top Ten List

Things you can do to protect your water system from contamination and harm

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