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Going Digital: Jacobs Helps Water Utilities Navigate Emergency Response Plans

Jacobs helps water utilities navigate potential crisis by developing risk and resilience assessments and emergency preparedness plans in real-time.

America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA) was signed into law in October 2018 with the requirement that by March 2020, communities with drinking water systems serving more than 3,300 people must develop or update risk assessments and emergency response plans (ERPs) including:

  • Strategies and resources to improve the system’s resilience, including physical security and cybersecurity.
  • Plans and procedures that can be implemented in the event of a malevolent act or natural disaster, impacting the community’s access to safe drinking water.

Working closely with 26 of America’s largest water utilities, Jacobs recently completed the risk and resilience assessments for each utility, ahead of the March 31, 2020 deadline. The assessments evaluated a wide gamut of potential scenarios that could negatively impact the water utilities, including acts of terrorism, financial crisis and loss of key staff due to illness or retirement, among other possible risks.

When the project first began in October 2018, nobody could have predicted that a global pandemic would be one of the first risks these utilities would face; however, fast-forward to March 2020 and this is the reality we are facing.

Using a seven-step process, Jacobs’ Digital Solutions team led water leaders at the various utilities through a rigorous exercise to identify its top threats, based on a cost-benefit score and careful analysis.

“By looking at how clients can identify and mitigate risks, we are able to help them create a capital improvement plan to ensure they have the tools and processes in place when faced with a major crisis or sudden loss of staff,” said Jacobs Global Technology Lead – IoT and Smart Sensors Ken Thompson.

With the risk assessments complete, Jacobs is now working closely with the utilities on the second phase of the project, developing and/or revising the individual ERPs, which must be prepared or revised within six months of completing the risk assessment and incorporate findings from the assessment. These plans are due to the Environmental Protection Agency by September 30, 2020. 

“This is an extremely timely exercise. We are challenging ourselves to come up with innovative solutions, including an incident command structure that will enable utilities to assign roles and responsibilities to its staff members, ensuring clear communication to keep operations running smoothly,” said Jacobs Global Technology Lead – Security Forrest Gist. “At the end of the day, it’s about ensuring communities still have access to safe and clean drinking water, despite potential risks from a pandemic or any other threat.”

As America continues to navigate the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, Jacobs is working closely with water utilities and other organizations to ensure they have the right processes and procedures in place to keep their organizations functioning and delivering on their promise to local communities.

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Related terms: COVID-19, COVID, Coronavirus

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