fbpx Safety, Security, and Emergency Management - California Water Association

Formed in 2013, California Water Association’s Safety, Security and Emergency Management Committee (SS&EM) provides a venue for member companies to share best practices to enhance safety, security, safety compliance, and emergency preparedness. The committee shares best practices and runs scenario training, as well as develops relationships with partners and other first-responder organizations to ensure cross-collaboration before and during emergency events.

Cyber-attacks against public water systems are increasing. Implementing basic cyber hygiene practices is essential to help utilities prevent, detect, respond, and recover from cyber incidents. Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan sent a letter to all U. S. governors inviting state environmental, health and homeland security secretaries to a convening by their deputies to discuss the urgent need to safeguard water sector critical infrastructure against cyber threats. You can learn more about how EPA’s Cybersecurity Resources for Drinking Water and Wastewater Systems.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, CWA created this Resource Center as a central location for learning about the response by California’s regulated water utilities to the COVID-19 emergency, as well as other guidance and orders provided to regulated water utilities. CWA members implemented a number of business continuity and emergency plans, identifying critical tasks, ensuring minimum staffing, and providing redundancy. Relief measures were offered to customers facing financial hardship due to COVID-19, including suspending disconnections, waiving late fees, and extending payment plans. Remote work arrangements were established for eligible employees, with some prepared to work on-site if necessary, while flexible employment policies supported employees needing time off for family care.

Climate change and population growth exacerbate California’s fire season and wildfire conditions. Adequate fire hydrant maintenance and improvements provide firefighters with reliable and accessible sources of water to control and extinguish fires. Liberty ensures safety by investing in reliable fire hydrants, regularly inspecting and maintaining them, and funds hydrant upkeep in its general rate case to support California’s water infrastructure. Additionally, investing in source water protections and watershed maintenance and restoration is vital to community safety and reliable, high water water supply.

California, among the most earthquake-prone states, faces risks including property damage, flooding, illness, and water shortages from seismic events. To mitigate these, earthquake-proofing water infrastructure is crucial for safety and reliability. Members invest millions in retrofitting tanks and reservoirs, with utilities like San Jose Water using earthquake-resistant piping for fault line crossings. Water access is vital during disasters. Proper seismic retrofitting ensures infrastructure resilience, enabling functionality post-earthquake. Investing in earthquake resistance safeguards critical water assets and ensures reliable supply for Californian communities.

Cal/OSHA has jurisdiction over almost every workplace in California. This means Cal/OSHA is the main government agency authorized to inspect California workplaces for occupational safety and health violations for water utilities. This committee discusses Cal/OSHA standards to implement uniform best practices at utility sites and offices to ensure the health and safety of all utility employees.

CWA and its members conduct training exercises for security, safety compliance, and emergency preparedness, emphasizing the importance of preparation and partnerships in emergency management. By collaborating, planning, and exercising together before crises, water companies can maximize positive outcomes.