It’s mid-December. Fun and festive holiday gatherings are just around the corner. But those aren’t the only things heading our way; for many parts of the country, cold and wintry weather looms ahead.
By now, preparation for plummeting temps is well underway for most water and wastewater utilities who are used to dealing with winter conditions. But over the past few years, even communities in milder climates, like Texas, Georgia, and Florida, have found themselves grappling with unusual, and often unexpected, bursts of freezing weather.
There are many things water utilities can and should do to prepare for winter conditions, whether they’re used to them or not. Here are a few examples of things to consider as you head into the coldest months:
- Review/update emergency plan and contact list(s). This cannot be understated — especially if it’s been a while since your last review. Make sure you have current contact information for your staff (adding any new hires and removing any departures), as well as your suppliers and critical customers (such as hospitals and fire stations).
- Review public communications protocol. If an emergency arises, timely and effective communication with your customers is critical. This will likely require a multi-pronged approach, including email, phone calls, social media, press conferences, and dissemination of information to local news outlets. Review your plan and be ready to implement it when needed.
- Ensure staff are prepared for cold weather. Anyone working outside in the elements will need proper gear, such as warm, waterproof boots, jackets, and gloves. Emergency lighting, including weather-proof rugged flashlights, should also be available.
- Check emergency supply inventory. Make sure you have enough pipe repair equipment on hand, such as clamps, fittings, valve boxes, and thawing equipment, to respond to a winter emergency.
- Weather-proof exposed structures. Be sure to check insulation, weather stripping, and heat sources in exposed buildings and structures, such as pump houses and booster stations.
- Check temperature/freeze alarms. These notifications could be your first indication of trouble. It’s a good idea to test them before cold weather hits.
- Provide cold-weather tips/reminders to homeowners. Bill stuffers, email campaigns, and social media posts focused on freeze prevention can help your customers avoid costly damage from burst pipes.
For more great tips on how to prepare for winter weather, check out this comprehensive checklist compiled by the Indiana Section of AWWA: https://www.inawwa.org/media/FYI2017October.pdf