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How to Handle Wastewater Crisis Communications in The Instant Information Age
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How to Handle Wastewater Crisis Communications in The Instant Information Age

 Export to Your Calendar 8/5/2020
When: Wednesday, August 5
12pm - 1pm
Where: Virtual
United States
Contact: Jeff Coyne

Online registration is available until: 8/5/2020
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The VWEA Operations Committee presents:

How to Handle Wastewater Crisis Communications in The Instant Information Age

Speaker:  Mike McGill, WaterPIO

A wastewater utility's customers receive information that they believe is important without having to ask for it; they're sent notifications dozens of times a day. As a result, expectations have risen with service providers, especially those people who pay every month, every other month, or every quarter to ensure their quality of life.


When emergencies occur, especially those that make news throughout an entire area like a significant sewage spill, a utility must quickly act to assure the public that the crisis is being responded to and that the potential for any long-term impacts are being mitigated. If a consent decree is involved, then there are wider-ranging issues to address, such as the utility's level of success fulfilling the requirements of the decree.


What many people don't realize is that successful crisis communications responses are actually rooted in a utility's efforts to proactively inform their customers about their services before an emergency occurs. Regular releases of information to the press, the public, and key stakeholders about the good work a utility does 24/7/365 or, say, communications that provide helpful tips to, for example, keep FOG out of a customer's pipes, goes a long way to building trust and respect for the utility's work. And that trust is important because it will be called upon in a crisis.


The presentation will provide practical information and detail just how successful proactive communication can be, and how to carry it out; J.D. Power water utility surveys show a 15-30% hike in customer satisfaction score with regular communications. The discussion will then move into how to handle internal and external communications during a wastewater crisis, in this case, a 500,000-gallon sanitary sewer overflow (SSO) alongside a commuter route during rush hour that flowed into a creek known for its wildlife and boating activity.


The talk will walk attendees through the creation and implementation of a crisis communications plan for this kind of emergency and discuss how to handle all of the moving parts in the chaotic first moments. The speaker will show the tactics used to help diffuse the initial negative reaction and turn the actions of the utility into a positive, not only by showcasing the response but continuing to provide information after the immediate crisis has passed.


Utilities can actually IMPROVE their standing with the public after a major SSO by regularly providing information about the improvement of the waterway involved day, after day, after day. We will show how to use press updates, interviews, stakeholder briefings, and social media photos, videos, posts, and threads to keep everyone informed at all hours of the day and night, even with limited staff. These channels are essential and keep the public - and especially the press - actively engaged with the utility throughout an incident.


Continuing Education:  1 CPE for wastewater operators and 1 CEU for Professional Engineers

Cost:  Member:  $10 | Non-member: $20

Group Member:  $30 | Group Non-member: $50 (Up to 8 registrants at one location)



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