Fires, earthquakes and other disasters requiring water services have generated headlines in recent years, prompting the Rotary Club of Los Altos to offer an overview of local water resources, their distribution, operations and treatment at its May 27 meeting.
California Water Service’s Dawn Smithson, Los Altos district manager, and Rob Seeley, regional community affairs specialist, highlighted the importance of managing the water supply, both in times of emergency and in preparation for an unforeseen event.
According to Seeley, Cal Water’s reach is extensive – it is the largest private water company west of the Mississippi and the third largest in the U.S., providing water to 2 million customers. With corporate headquarters in San Jose, which covers 23 districts, the utility works closely with cities, the California Office of Emergency Services, the private sector and other organizations during disasters, and emphasizes the importance of communication and coordination. Over the past four years, Seeley said, Cal Water has developed guidelines for national responses to disasters.
Smithson described the benefits of using the Department of Homeland Security’s National Response Framework and Emergency Operations Centers to prepare for and manage disasters, including strategies for exit plans (fueling vehicles, etc.), sprinklers, recovery with insurance companies and even emotional wellness. The key to effective emergency operations is “practice, practice, practice,” she added, recommending an annual six-hour emergency training course for workplace supervisors and a three-hour course for all employees.
Cal Water maintains an Emergency Response Trailer Unit (ERTU), which has been used on multiple occasions in the past four years. The ERTU is capable of sustaining six workers for seven days and includes tools to repair water systems while serving as communication centers. Cal Water generators are strategically located in remote areas to provide power for pumping water and communicating with climate forecasters.
The “Emergency Action Guidebook” Cal Water developed has become a valuable tool for its employees, providing information and checklists that cover what to do during disasters including earthquakes, robberies, medical emergencies and evacuations.
What can local residents do to prepare for an emergency? Seeley offered the following tips.
• Store 1 gallon of fresh water per person in the household per day for a three-day supply. Children, nursing mothers and the sick will need more clean water.
• Refresh the water supply every six months; store it in a cool, dry place; and label each gallon with the fill date.
• Create your own bottled water by reusing dated, clean bottles with screw caps and adding two drops of unscented chlorine…