Preparing an Advisory
Use the information gathered in identifying the situation to develop the message. Particularly when dealing with chemical contaminants, consult with experts to understand the potential health impact and impact routes (e.g., ingestion, contact, aerosolization) so messages are customized to the contaminant; they may differ from more traditional microbial messages used in boil water advisories. Use tools, such as the Message Mapping Template word icon[DOCX – 1 page]
Unless a state requires specific templates, revise the order and content of these templates based on the local circumstances. Remember to include the 10 required elements from the Public Notification Rule.
Did You Know?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Public Notification Rule (PNR) Quick Reference Guide [PDF – 4 pages]external icon is a good reference for the required elements of the Public Notification Rule.
Understand the translation needs of your community. Use community partners or professional translation services to translate the message. Avoid using online dictionaries or other computer software.
Community partners are responsible for producing the message in formats that people they serve can read and understand, such as Braille, large font, or text messages. Today’s communication channels are diverse. You will likely need to consider multiple channels in addition to traditional media.
Required Elements of a Public Notice
All public notices must include a clear and readily understandable explanation of each violation containing the following 10 elements from EPA’s Public Notification Rule (PNR) Quick Reference Guide.external icon
- Description of the violation or situation, including contaminant(s) of concern and the contaminant level(s).
- When the violation or situation occurred.
- Any potential adverse health effects from drinking the water and standard language regarding the violation or situation.
- Population at risk, including subpopulations that may be particularly vulnerable if exposed to the contaminant in their drinking water.
- Whether alternate water supplies should be used.
- Actions consumers should take, including when they should seek medical help, if known.
- What the water system is doing to correct the violation or situation.
- When the water system expects to return to compliance or resolve the situation.
- Name, business address, and phone number of the water system owner, operator, or designee who can provide additional information concerning the notice.
- A statement encouraging the notice recipients to share the notice with other persons, where applicable.
Abbreviated messages should include:
- Basic message of action to take
- Contact information
- Where to get more information
Some channels of communication only allow for brief messages because of time or space constraints, but can be disseminated widely and are heavily used by particular age groups that may be difficult to reach through other channels. Brief messages are appropriate for:
- On-screen scroll (e.g., local televised news, cable television, public service television channels, Emergency Broadcast System announcements)
- Text message systems (SMS)
- Social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Reddit)
- Reverse 911 phone message systems
- Opt-in message systems (e.g., CodeRED alerts)
- Highway variable message signs and portable message boards
Abbreviated Message Template—Boil Water Advisory
The [water utility name] is asking customers to boil tap water or use bottled water. For more information, go to [www.watersystemwebsite.org] or call [###-###-####].
The information on which to base the advisory can be captured in the Information for Communication Planning word icon[DOCX – 1 page]
tool. The Required Elements of a Public Notice
outlines the questions and information the drinking water advisory must address in its materials. Key Questions for the Public Information Officer word icon[DOCX – 1 page]
may help in preparation for working with the media.
Once the message has been developed and produced in appropriate formats, follow your communication SOP to have management approve the advisory.
The person to serve as a spokesperson during a drinking water advisory can come from water system management or from an outside partner agency, such as a public health department. The spokesperson should be someone in authority who is honest, credible, competent, accessible, and sensitive to public concerns.
Follow the communication protocols discussed in Section 1 and use essential information to prepare spokespersons for interacting with the public and media. See Basic Elements of a Spokesperson Statement word icon[DOCX – 1 page].
If there is not a designated spokesperson, assess staff options and identify an individual to fill this role. See Spokesperson Assessment Tool. word icon[DOCX – 1 page]
Exchanging information and developing materials, such as news releases, among partners and water systems must be a coordinated effort. Liaisons should be designated staff who are the communications link for issuing an advisory and also for updating and lifting the advisory. Each organization or water system involved in an advisory should identify a liaison.
Work with your partners to assign specific communication roles and responsibilities. Develop a list that identifies who (which partner) will be contacting whom (a specific audience) and when that contact will occur. The water utility does not have to take on all the communication roles. Each partner has its own key contact lists that can help spread the workload and be most efficient and successful in message distribution.