Digging Deeper: Automated emergency alert plans reviewed

If Providence Water ever gets an alarming result during routine testing, it has a plan in place to notify customers as soon as possible.

"We're required to let the Health Department know when we fail one. But then there's another round. If it comes back (with) a bad sample again, out goes the message," said Dave Nickerson of Providence Water.

Nickerson said it pays $37,000 a year for its automated message system.

Automated messages were not sent to Kent County Water Authority customers on Sunday after E. coli bacteria were found in a storage tank during routine testing. About 25,000 residential and business customers in multiple communities were affected.

  • At 9:30 a.m., the KCWA confirmed there was E. coli in a storage tank.
  • At 4 p.m., it sent out the first press release.
  • At 8 p.m., the Health Department sent its own advisory, 11 hours after the test results came in.

Both the KCWA and Health Department were criticized for their response.

Providence Water, however, can respond almost instantly using reverse phone calls. Customers can also sign-up online to have information sent via text or email.

"It's good peace of mind for us and good peace of mind for them," Nickerson said.

KCWA is looking at a similar system.

Rapid Notify has a reverse calling system ready to go.

"We gave them the offer to do a notification free of charge for them to try our system out live and see how it works," said Jim Ledoux of Rapid Notify.

Ledoux said the company is in talks with KCWA about possibly becoming a client.