Tuesday, December 9, 2008

About boiling water, or not

When you get up one morning at 7 a.m., and it 14 degrees, and you have no water, your first thought is, oh my gosh, our pipes are frozen and they will burst and we will have water all over everything and it will be a mess and oh no.

Then when at 7:45 a.m. you happen to turn a faucet on in a "I forgot we have no water" kind of way, and water comes out, your first reaction is relief -- and then you kind of forget about it because, really, 1) your pipes are not frozen and 2) you have water now, so that emergency is over.

Unless you also have a boil water advisory and don't know it.

I suppose if I were really smart and quick I might have deduced we'd be boiling water for awhile, but hey, it was Sunday morning and I had a Christmas tree to buy and decorate.

So it was several hours later that we discovered we should have been boiling our water before drinking it. Which we had done.

But you know, talk about mixed messages: So a computer failure caused the lack of water pressure, and a reboot fixed it. So no contamination was found in the water. So it should be okay. But you still have to boil it for ... 48 hours. But if you don't know about the advisory ... and you don't boil it ... what happens?

If you didn't have a TV on Sunday morning--or if you were watching a less-than-local channel--you wouldn't have seen the advisory scrolling. If you don't watch local news--and on Sunday, we don't even have any local news on until evening--you don't know about the advisory. And since it wasn't in the Sunday morning paper, it would be Monday morning at the earliest that you could read about it.

Which has got me thinking--while this boil-water advisory seems to be precautionary only (for I have had no ill effects from the drinking of said water (so far)--what if the water interruption had been for a more serious reason, something involving a busted water main, where contamination could really happen? How do you let people know about a very real danger?

Seems to me that the utility ought to have a mass-phone calling, emailing, and/or texting system in place, such as universities use now for campus emergencies.

Because on Sunday mornings, traditional mass media just doesn't get the message across.

(At least, the advisory is over now.)

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