Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Info Sharing and the Water Supply

A brief article in today's Tallahassee Democrat discusses an audit of that city's security plan for its water treatment systems. It's well known that water systems are potential targets for attack, for two reasons:

  1. Many of them use dangerous chemicals to purify water (i.e., chlorine and ammonia)
  2. The water system would be an excellent means of distributing poisons or other dangerous substances to an entire community.
City auditors found that Tallahassee's security plan was lacking in a few key areas:
Among its findings, the Jan. 9 audit noted that: some city employees weren't properly notified of what would be expected of them in an emergency; the locations of valves needed to isolate the water supply weren't identified in the emergency plan and access to a city wastewater plant was too lax.

The city has made good headway, the audit found, but the written plan needs to locate valves that isolate water supply to critical customers such as hospitals, nursing homes, day care centers and schools because "the ability of the Water Utility to quickly locate and shut off valves may be hindered without this information."

It also needs to be formally communicated to the staff who would potentially execute it, he said.

"The thought process was that the employees already knew what to do," said City Auditor Sam McCall. "But this actually spells out what you should be doing."
This is another demonstration that a good plan is next-to-useless unless you share information with others who need to know.

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