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During an Incident—Issuing an Advisory

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A drinking water advisory can occur at any time. Water systems must act quickly when an incident is suspected or identified. The first action must be to assess the situation and follow standard operating procedures (SOPs) for issuing a drinking water advisory.


Water systems as well as state, local, tribal, and territorial agencies can pull out the Tools and Templates that correspond to the “Before an Incident” and “During an Incident” sections to use as a “Go Kit” in situations where pre-planning activities may have been incomplete. They can be found individually or in a zip file on the Tools and Templates page.

This section contains the essential strategies and activities necessary to create public awareness of a drinking water advisory incident or to issue a Boil Water, Do Not Drink, Do Not Use, or a precautionary advisory for the general public, including susceptible populations who may have communication barriers or medical needs.

Checklist: During an Incident

Initiating an Advisory

  • Identify the situation and collect facts.
  • Notify your drinking water primacy agency.
  • Decide to issue an advisory.
  • Identify the geographic boundaries.
  • Notify your internal staff and external partners.


Preparing an Advisory

  • Identify experts to answers key questions needed for specific messaging.
  • Develop, format, and translate the message.
  • Approve the advisory.
  • Identify the spokespersons.
  • Assign communication responsibilities.


Distributing an Advisory

  • Brief elected officials, public officials, and key partners.
  • Implement your communication platforms.
  • Use your communication network to expand distribution of the advisory.
  • Work with the media.


Ending an Advisory

  • Issue End of Advisory notice.
  • Issue guidance for post-advisory activities (e.g., flushing guidance).
Figure 4 issuing a Drinking Water Advisory Flow Chart
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