Posts Tagged ‘ coronavirus ’

AEA’s April 24, 2020 Letter to Gov. Phil Murphy

Posted on: May 12th, 2020 by eric

AEA recently wrote to the Governor to inform him about the extraordinary work members have done during the COVID19 emergency. We commend the DEP and the DCA for their guidance and note that water, wastewater, solid waste  sector workers also need PPE.  
The Hon. Phil Murphy, Governor
Office of Governor
P.O. Box 001 
Trenton, NJ 08625 
Dear Gov. Murphy:
During your many, thorough public COVID-19 briefings, you have noted the heroism of the medical community, first responders, grocery store workers and others. Like you, the members of the Association of Environmental Authorities feel enormous gratitude toward and admiration for these workers. 
The members of AEA are public local, regional, and county authorities and municipal utilities that together provide drinking water, wastewater and solid waste services to most New Jerseyans. We want to take this opportunity to tell you about similar singular and noteworthy efforts in the New Jersey water, wastewater and solid waste sector.
Utilities must always be prepared for emergencies and disasters and so, as COVID-19 was spreading and leaders like you were beginning to sound the alarm, our sector was planning and preparing in order to maintain without interruption vital public health and environmental services: supply of drinking water, collection and treatment of sewage, and collection of trash and recycling. Our members: 

  • Directed administrative and other non-operations staff to work from home
  • Increased disinfection and sanitizing of facilities and equipment
  • Organized operations and other mission-direct staff into squads or groups, developing work schedules that would isolate one group from another. 
  • Created contingency plans and designated on-call staff
  • Implemented procedures to limit or eliminate access of third parties such as vendors to plants and facilities.
  • Arranged to conduct business online and in safe, socially distant ways.
  • Suspended shutoffs for nonpayment. (Note that many public systems don’t do shutoffs for non-payment in any case.)
  • Eliminated non-essential field work and customer site visits in order to protect staff 
  • With the NJDEP, addressed issues such as access sampling sites so that sampling and testing would not be impaired

AEA participates in calls, which involve a cross-section including EPA, NJDEP, OHSP, DOH, NJCICC, NJBPU, investor-owned utilities, publicly owned utilities, and associations. During these calls, we hear updates, share information, trades ideas and strategies, and anticipate collective challenges. We are particularly grateful to Commissioner McCabe, and her staff, and Lt. Gov. Oliver, and the staff at DCA, for their assistance. AEA supports our members with weekly check-in calls. Most utilities are keeping in close touch with neighboring utilities, too. This sharing is not only practical; it provides much-needed moral support as well.
One topic that comes up on every call is the need for PPE. Our workers at wastewater plants and in other aspects of their work need to be protected from COVID19 and other pathogens. We urge you to make PPE for our workers as high a priority as possible.
Thank you, Gov. Murphy, for your great leadership during this crisis. We hope you and your family remain safe. 
Peggy Nolting Gallos
Executive Director
Association of Environmental Authorities

A Refresher on Crisis Communication – by Amy Cook-Menzel, Communications Manager, ACUA

Posted on: April 2nd, 2020 by eric

Good communication is always important, but in a crisis, it is even more essential. The good news is that there are some basic commonsense steps to take to get information to your employees, stakeholders and the public. 

Create a communications team. A small team with key representatives from communications, leadership and Human Resources will help craft and vet messages to be sure they hit the mark.  

Develop your message. Your initial statement should include a clear explanation of what you are doing to manage operations and to keep staff and customers safe. In addition, remember to:

  • Accept responsibility – this applies to all crisis situations. Apologize (sincerely) if necessary and state the pertinent facts.
  • Explain – state the steps you are taking to move towards a solution, share response times and expectations as clearly as possible. 
  • Address questions people will have. Put yourself in their place and consider what you would want to know. Focus on what is important to them.
  • Empathize – show that you understand what is at stake.
  • Express thanks. 

Communicate early and often. Your key team members should work to establish a consistent message that can be shared with stakeholders as soon as possible. Be sure to provide updates often and take steps to monitor and respond to feedback from all communications channels.

Remember that it’s ok to change your mind. Sometimes we can anticipate what might happen, but it’s certainly possible that you may find that situations are changing quickly, and new plans must be implemented. Being transparent and sharing that you are open to making changes based on new information builds trust.

Make it easy for people to find relevant information.Place information on the home page of your website and pin it to the top of social media feeds so people will not have to search to find it.

A note on communicating with employees. Not only are they serving on the front lines, carrying out their work completing essential duties to protect public health, but every one of your employees also serves as an ambassador for your organization as they interact with public. Be sure you have a clear and consistent message companywide that is shared across all departments and employees. Post information in highly visible places, share through email and your company intranet. Communicate with employees often.

In all your communications, and in your daily work like, preparation, commonsense, clarity and sincerity go a long way in building trust and credibility. Look for ways to use this opportunity to help the public learn more about the work that your employees and your facility performs.

Be safe and keep communicating!