Fri 23 Feb 2018

Handling the water crisis

WITT responded swiftly on Wednesday when the New Plymouth District Council realised the extent of the water supply issue caused by a falling tree.

With the main water supply compromised, the council began posting on its Facebook page notices to the public which were monitored by WITT’s Manager Corporate, Health and Safety,  Linda Dravitski.

“An urgent notice came through at 11am telling people to boil water,” Linda explained. “And about an hour later we received a call asking us to consider closing WITT.”

The council request was made because it would ease pressure on water supplies and a swiftly convened executive meeting headed by Chief Executive Barbara George gave Linda the go ahead to announce the closure of the Polytech.

Communication with staff and students was maintained via Facebook and through emails with the assistance of Natalie Warren, WITT’s Marketing Manager and WITT kept a team on reception to handle face-to-face enquiries. Signs were also posted around the campus.

The closure could not have come at a more inconvenient time because planning for the return of students on Monday including Orientation and a powhiri was in hand.

Communication lines were maintained between WITT and the council and it was subsequently decided to keep WITT closed Thursday and open for staff only on Friday.

To prepare for the Friday return of staff Linda organised to have water bottles brought in and oversaw the purchase of electric jugs to enable staff to boil water. Staff were also encouraged to bring their own water bottles in.

Among other issues to consider was how regulations applied in such circumstances. For example, WITT is obliged to have appropriate water supplies “on tap” – no pun intended. Linda also had to ensure communication lines were opened with key stakeholders and suppliers.

The process worked smoothly, but as with all well-laid plans, the work behind the scenes – and the time spent in setting up for such an event - was not obvious.

Linda said she was pleased with how the planning had worked out and she complimented the District Council for its work and communication.

By Monday WITT will be ready to welcome the influx of students, as well as cater for staff, contractors and staff who work on the WITT site for other organisations such as Te Reo o Taranaki and Taranaki FEATS.

WITT chief executive Barbara George said the background planning in Health and Safety went largely unnoticed, but the value of it was clear when there was an emergency.

“We are fortunate to have Linda watching out for us – she has done a great job determining what the appropriate response was, looking at risks and how best to respond,” she said.