AMWA and its partners are continuing to monitor the ongoing worldwide spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Given the ongoing situation, it is prudent for utilities to begin reviewing their pandemic and continuity of operations plans. Utilities may reference plans and resources from AMWA member utilities or use the resources included below.
The lastest federal resources include the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency's (CISA) guidance on identifying essential critical infrastructure personnel, a letter from EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler urging governors to support the water and wastewater sector, and the EPA Water Security Division's new Pandemic Incident Action Checklist.
EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released guidance emphasizing the continued safety of tap water amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance echoed a previous technical brief by the World Health Organization, noting water remains safe for drinking. EPA’s resource specifically stated water remains safe for handwashing and noted consumers do not need to boil their water to protect against the impacts of COVID-19.
CDC has shared information on prevention and treatment practices and will post further situational updates to its COVID-19 webpage as they become available. It has also noted that wastewater workers are not at any elevated risk of exposure and may continue to follow their current policies for using personal protective equipment.
The DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has released a CISA Insights bulletin addressing how organizations can manage risks associated with COVID-19. The document describes infrastructure protection measures, supply chain risks, and cybersecurity best practices that organizations should consider as they move to mitigate operational impacts of COVID-19. As previously stated, CISA has also released guidance on identifying essential personnel. This guidance can aid utilities in policy discussions with law enforcement and emergency management personnel about reentry and travel restrictions.
On March 13, President Trump declared a national emergency under the National Emergencies Act and a nationwide emergency under the Stafford Act. A 2016 fact sheet from FEMA summarizes what Stafford Act assistance may be available during an outbreak.
WaterISAC is also tracking the virus and updates its coronavirus page regularly with new information about both its spread and its potential impacts on the water sector. Such impacts may include increased absenteeism, as employees become ill or care for family members, and disruptions to utility supply chains.
The following resources can aid utilities in revising their continuity and emergency plans:
- Interim Guidance for Business and Employers to Plan and Respond to 2019 Novel Coronavirus (CDC)
- Business Continuity Planning Suite (FEMA)
- Business Continuity Planning in the Event of an Influenza Pandemic: A Reference Guide (AMWA and WaterISAC)
- Business Continuity Plans for Water Utilities (Water Research Foundation, AWWA, U.S. EPA)
- Pandemic Impacts to Lifeline Critical Infrastructure (DHS)
- Whitepaper: Considerations for Water and Wastewater Treatment related to the recent outbreak COVID-19 (Stantec)
- Current Priority: Coronavirus (Water Environment Federation)
- COVID-19 resource page (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
Emergency preparedness personnel may also benefit from online training courses available through FEMA's Independent Study Program: