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Appendix A: Glossary of Terms

PAGE 24 of 29

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Note: Terms in this glossary are defined by their use in this toolbox.

Abbreviated message: Brief communication with essential information that directs the reader to a separate location for additional information. It is typically delivered through electronic means, such as a phone message, a text message, a social media format, or a scroll on a television broadcast.

Advisory [Drinking Water Advisory]: Communication to water users (customers) about specific actions to take regarding water use.

After Action Review (AAR): A structured and facilitated discussion among participants in an event to compare what actually happened with what was intended to occur.

ASDWA: Association of State Drinking Water Administrators.

Automated message: Communication delivered through a mechanical system, such as a reverse 911 system.

AWWA: American Water Works Association.

Boil Water Advisory: Communication to customers of a water system about the need to boil water before using it.

Capacity: The ability of an organization to contribute resources, such as staff time, money, and expertise.

CCR: Consumer confidence report.

CDC: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Coliform bacteria: Coliforms are a group of bacteria found in plant material, water, and soil. Coliforms are also present in the digestive tract and feces of humans and animals. Most of the time, these bacteria are not harmful. Total coliforms is another term for the full group of coliforms; they are indicators of possible water contamination.

Coliphage: A virus that infects bacteria is called a phage. Phages infect specific species of bacteria. Coliphages infect coliform bacteria. Coliphages do not infect humans or cause illness. A positive test for coliphages indicates the water may be contaminated with feces or E. coli or viruses.

Consecutive system: A water system that purchases its water supply from another water system.

Contaminant: An unwanted and/or undesirable chemical or microbe found in drinking water.

Corrective Action: The activities taken by a water system to fix an identified deficiency.

Crisis communication: A communication approach that relays the risks and benefits of different actions to agencies, consumers, and other stakeholders during an emergency or disaster.

Critical customer: Customers that receive priority notification during a drinking water advisory.

CS: Customer service.

Drinking Water Advisory: Water systems and state or local agencies issue drinking water advisories when they believe water quality is or may be compromised. Advisories tell individuals, schools, hospitals, businesses, and others about the situation and how to take immediate action.

Debriefing: An informal, semi-structured discussion with stakeholders, partners, and other participants after an advisory, exercise, or event, used to obtain useful information and improve or enhance operations.

Do Not Drink advisory: Communication to customers of a water system to avoid tap water and to use other sources of water for human consumption. A Do Not Drink advisory is used if boiling the water will not kill, inactivate, or remove the contaminant of concern, or if boiling would concentrate or release it into the air.

Do Not Use advisory: Communication to customers of a water system not to use tap water for any purpose, including sanitation and fire protection.

Escherichia coli (E. coli): A species of fecal coliform bacteria. E. coli almost always comes from animal feces. E. coli is considered the best indicator of fecal water contamination. If E. coli is present, harmful bacteria or other pathogens may also be present in the water. Some rare types of E. coli, such as O157:H7, can cause serious illness.

EPA: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

ERP: Emergency response plan.

Evaluation: A process that compares outcomes to expectations. Evaluation consists of systematically collecting information about the characteristics and outcomes of activities and comparing them to practices, protocols, and materials. Based on the comparison, recommended changes to practices, protocols, and materials can be made in order to reduce uncertainties and improve effectiveness in future actions and decisions.

Evaluator: An individual who observes and assesses the interactions and outcomes of an exercise. Evaluators do not participate in the exercise.

Exercise: A practice event based on a scenario to test the effectiveness of planning. Also called drill or tabletop exercise.

Facilitator: A designated individual to structure and run an exercise or debriefing.

Fecal coliform indicators: Groups of microbes, such as E. coli, enterococci, and coliphage, used under the Groundwater Rule to indicate possible water contamination.

Groundwater: Water from wells, springs, or aquifers used by water systems for drinking water.

Health literacy: The ability to receive, process, understand, and act on basic health information.

HSEEP: Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program.

Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5 (HSPD-5): A presidential directive for management of domestic incidents that requires all federal departments and agencies to make adoption of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) by state, tribal, and local organizations a condition for federal preparedness assistance.

Incident Command System (ICS): A standardized, on-scene management approach used by all levels of government, many nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector to provide organizational structure for emergency response and recovery.

Jurisdiction: The sphere of authority related to legal responsibilities and that can be political/geographic (city, county, state) or functional (water service, public health).

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Mandatory advisory: A notice or communication required by federal or state law and issued to protect public health.

MCL: Maximum Contaminant Level.

Message: The primary instructions, actions, and information expressed in a communication with an audience.

Message map: A risk communication tool to develop the most pertinent information about an incident or emergency. A message map is a set of organized statements that address likely questions about an incident.

MOU: Memorandum of understanding.

National Incident Management System (NIMS): A system to coordinate emergency preparedness and incident management among various federal, state, and local agencies. NIMS provides the template for the management of incidents.

Network: A group of partners that work together to achieve timely, effective, and extensive outreach. Some communities may have an existing collaboration, usually coordinated around emergency management.

Nitrate: Nitrate is a chemical found in most fertilizers, animal manure, and liquid waste discharged from septic tanks. Natural bacteria in soil can convert nitrogen into nitrate.

Notification: The process of communicating information to audiences per Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements.

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Partner: Any organization or agency that can help to plan, develop, and distribute messages.

pH: The measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution on a scale from 0–14.

Precautionary advisory: Communication to customers of a water system issued when contamination is suspected but not confirmed.

PIO: Public Information Officer.

PNR: Public Notification Rule.

Preparedness: Anticipating and planning response and recovery to unpredictable events.

Primacy agency: The agency that regulates and enforces community water systems under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Drinking water programs can be located in a state department of health, a state department of environment, or at the regional Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) level.

Public official: Any elected or appointed member of a jurisdictional or water system governing body.

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Risk communication: An exchange of information and opinion among a water system, consumers, primacy agencies, public health authorities, and other stakeholders in both nonemergency situations and as part of crisis communication. This exchange assists customers as they evaluate information, put it into context, and make health-related decisions for themselves and those who depend on them.

Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA): The main federal law that ensures the quality of Americans’ drinking water. Under the SDWA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets standards for drinking water quality and oversees the states, localities, and water suppliers who implement those standards.

Scope, scale, and severity: Terms used in this project as criteria to help water systems define how much collaboration and outreach is needed for an advisory.

  • Scope: The population, number of water systems, and/or jurisdictions involved with the advisory. The greater the number affected, the larger the scope.
  • Scale: Size of the area affected, such as a neighborhood, entire city, or geographic region. The larger the area affected, the larger the scale of the response.
  • Severity: Is this a routine situation or new? A disease outbreak or natural disaster or cross connection? The greater the threat to public health, the greater the severity.

Single Overriding Communication Objective (SOCO): A communication tool to identify the key point or objective to be conveyed in an interview with the media.

SOP: Standard Operating Procedures.

Spokesperson: An individual responsible for interfacing with the public, the media, and/or other agencies requiring information about an incident.

Strategic communication plan: A business management tool that community water systems can use for decision making and resource allocation in communicating with the public, customers, and other stakeholders.

Surface water: Water that collects on the ground and in an open body of water, such as a lake, stream, river, or pond.

Susceptible populations: Groups of people with conditions or medical needs that make them more vulnerable to the adverse effects of poor water quality. Susceptible populations include babies and young children, pregnant women, and people who are immunocompromised, elderly, or on dialysis.

Tier 1 Public Notice: The top level of public notice, which requires water systems to inform customers within 24 hours of a violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) standards because the situation poses an acute public health risk.

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Variable Message Signs (VMS): VMS, also known as changeable message signs (CMS) or dynamic message signs (DMS), are electronic road signs that display messages.

Web analytics: The collection, measurement, analysis, and reporting of internet data for a specific website. Measures include number of visitors, page views, and time spent on a website.

Wholesale system: A public water system that treats source water as necessary to produce finished water and then delivers some or all of that finished water to another public water system. Delivery may be through a direct connection or through the distribution system of one or more consecutive systems.

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