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Frontiers of Earth Science

Front Earth Sci    2011, Vol. 5 Issue (4) : 341-349     DOI: 10.1007/s11707-011-0196-8
Emergency response planning to reduce the impact of contaminated drinking water during natural disasters
Craig L. Patterson(), Jeffrey Q. Adams
US EPA Office of Research and Development, Water Supply and Water Resources Division, Cincinnati, OH 45268, USA
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Natural disasters can be devastating to local water supplies affecting millions of people. Disaster recovery plans and water industry collaboration during emergencies protect consumers from contaminated drinking water supplies and help facilitate the repair of public water systems. Prior to an event, utilities and municipalities can use “What if”? scenarios to develop emergency operation, response, and recovery plans designed to reduce the severity of damage and destruction. Government agencies including the EPA are planning ahead to provide temporary supplies of potable water and small drinking water treatment technologies to communities as an integral part of emergency response activities that will ensure clean and safe drinking water.

Keywords emergency response planning      natural disasters      drinking water     
Corresponding Authors: Patterson Craig L.,   
Issue Date: 05 December 2011
 Cite this article:   
Craig L. Patterson,Jeffrey Q. Adams. Emergency response planning to reduce the impact of contaminated drinking water during natural disasters[J]. Front Earth Sci, 2011, 5(4): 341-349.
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Craig L. Patterson
Jeffrey Q. Adams
StepsLessons learned
1) Analyze the type and severity of the natural disasterconduct system hazard summary and vulnerability analysis
determine status of water system critical components
2) Provide emergency assistance to save livesevacuate people in harm’s way
secure chlorine leaks or severely damaged water towers
3) Reduce the probability of additional injuries and damagerelease water from a damaged reservoir
cut power to downed electric lines
send out Boil Water advisories
4) Prioritize water system demands and make repairsprovide water to firefighters and medical facilities
set up water distribution staging points
5) Return the water system to normal operation (recovery)prioritize and make less urgent repairs
do not lift boil water advisories until full recovery
6) Evaluate the response and preparedness planallow for real-time changes to the emergency response plan
7) Revise the preparedness plan as necessarymodify emergency operations, response, and recovery plans based on lessons learned
Tab.1  Steps for water system emergency response and recovery ()
TopicsCorrective actions/Information
Work/Rest cyclesWork toward 12 h days. Know your limitations. Slip/trip/falls- Field hazards.
AccountabilityCarry flares. Check-in/call-in when you’re expected.
SecurityStable but volatile. Follow the direction of the Criminal Investigation Division.
Buddy systemUtilize the Buddy System. Report any medical conditions.
CISMCritical Incident Stress Management-Remember to talk with someone.
Awareness/HAZCOMThe first step to safety is awareness.
VaccinationsHepatitis A, Hepatitis B, tetanus, and diphtheria toxoid.
HygienePracticing basic hygiene is CRITICAL.
Tab.2  Health and safety issues ()
TopicsCorrective actions/Information
Driving hazardsDefensive driving, seat belts, clearly identify yourself and watch for Emergency Vehicles. Watch for debris in the road (bring spares).
Boat safetyUse personal flotation devices, ensure proper footing, hip-waders for launching boats.
Personal protective Equipment (PPE)Hard hats, ear plugs, gloves, outer booties, and watertight boots (steel shank and insole), particulate filter mask. Tyvek or rubber apron, hip waders and goggles (splash).
Contamination avoidanceAvoid unnecessary contamination. Beware water spray. DECON- All personnel and equipment will require decontamination prior to leaving the site.
Decon equipmentBrush, bleach and water (10∶1), sprayer or sponge, buckets.
Electrical hazardsBeware of electrical injuries as power lines are reactivated. Hazardous Materials- Dislodged tanks, drums, pipes, car batteries, and carbon dioxide “the silent killer.”
Explosive atmosphereNatural gas leaks continue. Numerous oil and gasoline spills.
Air monitoringHydrogen sulfide, Lower Explosive Limit, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and radiological compounds.
MosquitoesAir Force is spraying. Wear insect repellant- prevent West Nile transmission. Symptoms: fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, swollen lymph glands or a skin rash. 80% develop no symptoms;<1% develop severe illness.
E. Coli StrainsGastrointestinal infection, diarrhea, usually little or no fever, and resolves in 5-10 days. The kind of E. coli that causes bloody diarrhea and kidney failure is a much more virulent strain (usually comes from eating contaminated meat). To date, that strain has not been reported. Seek medical attention/advice if you are experiencing symptoms.
Vibrio VulnificusBacteria that targets people with compromised immune systems.
Wild/Stray AnimalsDisoriented and dangerous. Snakes in unusual places. Dogs in packs, alligators, rats, fire ants…
Heat StressPOPC liposomes-Heat and humidity is high. Fluids (1∶2 energy drinks to water).
SunblockSunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself and causes a loss of bodily fluids.
Tab.3  Health and safety field hazards ()
ParishDate/Time of recent visit:Conventional filtration treatment?
Status codes:System operational?PWS source?
Sample collected/Date:System power loss?Population of PWS:
Assessor 1:Wells inundated?Immuno-sensitive populations?
Phone:Physical damage?Response: isolation?
E-mail:Valves:Booster disinfection?
Assessor 2:Pumps:Increase free chlorine?
Phone:Electrical equipment:Re-routing water to customers?
E-mail:Storage tanks:Stop of service to customers?
System name:Pipes:Additional testing?
PWS ID:Other:Type:
System phone:Back-up generator?Customer complaints?
System address:Generator in use?EPA assistance requested?
Date/Time of Assessment:Adequate fuel supply?Date/Time for update:
Assessment text…Disinfection type:Long-term needs
Tab.4  Drinking water system assessment survey ()
OUTContact attempted but system unreachable by phone; system assumed down and pressure lost, Sanitarians contacting in person; under Boil Advisory. (Out of Contact)
INOPContact made with system; system has no power and is currently off-line, assumed pressure lost; under Boil Advisory. (Inoperable) This category also includes systems that are choosing to stay offline or rely on backup connections to other systems.
GENLPCurrently operating on emergency power/generator and system lost pressure and/or treatment; under Boil Advisory.
GENOKCurrently operating on emergency power/generator but system did NOT lose pressure and/or treatment. (Generator but never lost pressure)
OKNormal power restored (or never lost) and system never lost pressure and/or treatment (No problem with system).
NEEDNormal power restored; but bacteria samples needed; under Boil Advisory.
NEED-RESNormal power restored. Bacteria samples collected and awaiting results.
CLEARSystem online and bacteria samples came back clear. (System cleared).
Tab.5  Hurricane Katrina system status codes ()
Fig.1  EPA point-of-use/point-of-entry research area
Fig.2  EUWP mobile treatment system field deployment
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