Emergency Water Supply Planning Guide for Hospitals and Health Care Facilities Available Online

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Editor's Note: NEHA strives to provide up-to-date and relevant information on environmental health and to build partnerships in the profession. In pursuit of these goals, we feature a column from the Environmental Health Services Branch (EHSB) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in every issue of the Journal.

In this column, EHSB and guest authors from across CDC will highlight a variety of concerns, opportunities, challenges, and successes that we all share in environmental public health. EHSB's objective is to strengthen the role of state, local, and national environmental health programs and professionals to anticipate, identify, and respond to adverse environmental exposures and the consequences of these exposures for human health. The services being developed through EHSB include access to topical, relevant, and scientific information; consultation; and assistance to environmental health specialists, sanitarians, and environmental health professionals and practitioners.

This month's column features an excerpt from the Emergency Water Supply Planning Guide for Hospitals and Health Care Facilities. This planning guide was recently published as a collaborative effort among CDC, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and American Water Works Association.

In order to maintain daily operations and patient care services, health care facilities need to develop an emergency water supply plan (EWSP) to prepare for, respond to, and recover from a total or partial interruption of the facilities' normal water supply. Water supply interruption can be caused by several types of events such as natural disaster, a failure of the community water system, construction damage, or even an act of terrorism. The following are a few actual examples of water supply interruptions at some health care facilities:

* A hospital in Florida lost water service for five hours due to a nearby water main break.

* A hospital in Nevada lost water service for 12 hours because of a break in its main supply line.

* A hospital in West Virginia lost service for 12 hours and 30 hours during two separate incidents because of nearby water main breaks.

* A hospital in Mississippi lost service for 18 hours as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

* A hospital in Texas lost water service for 48 hours due to an ice storm that caused a citywide power outage that included the water treatment plant.

* A nursing home in Florida lost its water service for more than 48 hours as a result of Hurricane Ivan.

Because water supplies can and do fail, it is imperative to understand and address how patient safety, quality of care, and the operations of a facility will be impacted. Below are a few examples of critical water usage in a health care facility that could be impacted by a water outage. Water may not be available for

* hand washing and hygiene;

* drinking at faucets and fountains;

* food preparation;

* flushing toilets and bathing patients;

* laundry and other services provided by central services (e.g., cleaning and sterilization of surgical instruments);

* reprocessing of medical equipment, including that typically performed by special services (e. …