Boiling Points – Getting The Word Out On Drinking Water Advisories

Pot of water boiling

Drinking water advisories are issued by public health authorities when tap water is unsafe to drink and may cause illness or transmit disease. The terminology used to describe the different types of water quality alerts varies between provinces, regions and local health units, as does the availability of information. Some provinces do not publish water advisories in Small Drinking Water Systems, others do not report precautionary advisories due to water system failures or repair work. Some regions do not publish boil-water advisories at all! Local water suppliers may choose to post advisories (for example physical postings in local locations or ads in local media), but there is no requirement for online publication for these sources.

The area affected by water advisories also varies widely. They range from entire cities to small towns and villages, might include only certain residences, or be isolated to and Small Drinking Water Systems found in such places as nursing homes, provincial parks, schools, restaurants and campgrounds. The varying number and distribution of people affected by an advisory make communication challenging.

It is still common for drinking water notices to be delivered door-to-door, as was the case last summer in Red Deer, Alberta, where the practice is for City employees to hand-deliver notices to affected properties when an advisory is issued, and once again hand-deliver notices when the advisory is lifted. Efforts from provincial and local agencies are beginning to improve with the advent of online communication and social media. Often advisories will be published on regional websites and posted on municipality or health authority social media sites. However, the onus is still generally on residents to find this information. The focus of online communication is on local community members, leaving visitors at risk.

Since drinking water advisories are generally not considered critical, they will not typically be sent using the new Wireless Public Alerts system in Canada. However, Public Emergency Alerting solutions like Alertable help to keep both local residents and those that may be visiting or transiting the area informed. While by no means the only communication channel for drinking water alerts, by providing alerts with consistent terminology, and geo-targeted notifications, Alertable helps to get the word out for less severe alerts, including water quality advisories.

Take care. Be prepared.

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