From The Editor | July 2, 2015

EPA Puts Crisis Tools In The Hands Of Utilities

By Peter Chawaga

The U.S. EPA has launched a mobile website to consolidate the information and tools that water utility operators and response partners need during an emergency.

The site, dubbed “Water Utility Response-On-The-Go,” gives users the capability to identify and contact appropriate emergency response partners, keep up-to-date with local severe weather conditions, access and fill out incident-specific checklists, and create and email damage assessment forms.

To put everything in one place, the EPA utilized the field information it already makes available, now streamlined for mobile accessibility. Consolidated resources include the agency’s “Weather & Hydrologic Forecasting for Water Utility Incident Preparedness and Response,” “Emergency Response Contacts,” and ten “Incident Action Checklists” documents.

Though the EPA already provides these tools and others, this launch came in an effort to offer utilities the necessary crisis resources at times when they may only have access to mobile technology.

“After conducting a gap analysis and receiving feedback from our various partners and stakeholders in the water sector, it was clear that while there is a wealth of resources dedicated to preparing for and recovering from an emergency affecting utilities, there was a need for tools that support utilities as they respond during an incident,” the EPA told Water Online. “[The] website is the final product in a series of tools that strive to give drinking water and wastewater utilities access to critical emergency response information in the midst of an incident.”

Since going live in April, the site has received almost 5,000 views.

“Overall, utilities are very excited about Response On-The-Go because of its innovative design and ability to provide emergency response information quickly on a mobile device,” the agency said. “Other water and wastewater sector partners have given positive feedback as well because the mobile website will help to increase overall situational awareness, coordination, and communication during emergencies.”

As the EPA gathers feedback from users, they can expect sequential version updates. The agency has got its eyes on improvements that will add an Incident Command System form, a “dropbox” feature that will allow users to upload damage assessments to a common repository, an action checklist for chemical spills, and the option to add local emergency contacts to the available national list.

“EPA continues to gather user feedback to identify potential updates and improvements to the site moving forward,” the agency said.