Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene Emergency Preparedness

Access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation and hygiene are critical for protecting public health. Complex emergencies and outbreaks associated with drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) can be caused by pathogens, chemicals, toxins, natural disasters, or infrastructure failure. Although the U.S. has one of the safest water supply systems, there are still an estimated 240,000 water main breaks each year, resulting in a loss of service and drinking water advisories. WASH-associated contamination, outbreaks, and emergencies have the potential to cause adverse health effects, including:

  • Gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses
  • Chronic diseases, such as cancer
  • Neurological disorders

Complex WASH emergencies trigger emergency responses because of their potential for causing community‐wide outbreaks and disruption. These incidents are expected to increase with a changing climate and aging infrastructure. Local public health departments are at the forefront of preparing for and responding to these events, in addition to coordinating with water suppliers, building managers, emergency management personnel and community organizations.

NACCHO’s upcoming WASH Resource Library will include information, guidance, and tools to help local health departments to address WASH-related emergencies.

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Apply for NACCHO’s WASH Emergency Preparedness Workgroup!

Applications for the 2020-2021 WASH Emergency Preparedness and Response Workgroup open until Sept. 25!

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Apply for NACCHO’s WASH Emergency Preparedness Workgroup!

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A Tabletop Exercise to Improve Water Emergency Preparedness

Learn how a local health department can continue to strengthen capacity and capability to prepare for and respond to water-associated emergencies.

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A Tabletop Exercise to Improve Water Emergency Preparedness

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WASH Emergency Preparedness: Stories from the Field

This compendium features three stories of preparing for and responding to complex water emergencies.

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WASH Emergency Preparedness: Stories from the Field

WASH During COVID-19: Guidance for Local Jurisdictions

The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), held a webinar on June 24, 2020 addressing concerns regarding the current COVID-19 pandemic, and how local health departments (LHDs) can ensure safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) to protect human health. Read about the main takeaways.

For any questions or concerns, contact the Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene team at WASH@naccho.org, or reach out to NACCHO staff.

Environmental Health Program

Chelsea Gridley-Smith

Director of Environmental Health

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Public Health Preparedness Program

Deise G. Leonel

Senior Program Analyst, Public Health Preparedness

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Environmental Health Program

Emily D'Angelo

Program Analyst

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