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The Drinking Water Advisory Communication Toolbox provides information on how to plan for, develop, implement, and evaluate communication activities with the public and stakeholders during drinking water notifications and advisories. The approach presented in this document recognizes the differences in scope, scale, and severity of situations that trigger advisories and notifications—a main break, a hurricane, a drop in pressure, or intentional contamination. These differences affect the types of tools, planning, and communication used by drinking water systems and locality often affects the terminology (e.g., “incidents,” “notices,” “alerts,” “orders,” etc.) used to describe these situations.

This toolbox includes instructions on how to prepare for communication activities before an incident, how to communicate during an incident, templates and tools to use, and recommendations for follow-up actions and assessments after an incident. The purpose of the toolbox is to enable water systems to communicate effectively with partners and the public in order to protect public health.

Remember to use Federal Public Notification language when developing advisories when there are violations of National Primary Drinking Water Regulations under the Safe Drinking Water Act. This information can be found in 40 Code of Federal Regulations Part 141 (subpart Q, appendix B).

Figure 1 shows the process for preparing for, issuing, and following up after a drinking water advisory.

Figure 1: Toolbox Flow Chart

figure 1 - toolbox flow chart showing before an incident, proceeding to during an incident, proceeding to after an incident, and looping back to before an incident.

Each toolbox section includes a checklist of steps. Not every step applies in all circumstances. Each section has a set of tools that applies to its content. The tools can be adapted by water systems to fit their needs.

This toolbox complements the EPA’s Revised Public Notification Handbook.

Different Names for Different Advisories

Individual states have different names for drinking water advisories depending on the situation. Advisories are frequently called “notices,” “alerts,” and “orders.”

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