Nepal Disaster Response

First Water is working with Mercy Chefs to mobilize emergency water purification systems and strike teams to the regions impacted by Typhoon Haiyan.  The need for clean water is extreme and immediate.  If you would like to donate water purifiers to the relief effort, or if you need equipment to support an ongoing operation please give us a call at 770-442-8257.

Below you will find the equipment best suited for response to the Philippines.  All items are available for immediate shipment.  Our non-profit partners are processing donations and equipment deployment.

Clean Sip Straws

These are water purification systems contained in a straw.  Easy to deploy and distribute, they are ideal as a donation item for immediate shipment to the region for distribution to the population.

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Solar powered water purification unit contained in a rugged, briefcase sized case.  It weighs 60 lbs and is capable of producing 2 gallons per minute.  It is ideal for supporting response teams headed to the region.  It can be checked as airline luggage and serve the drinking water, hygiene and food preparation need of response crews as well as typhoon victims.

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This unit has a capacity of 20 gallons per minute and is ideal for a larger, coordinated effort.  It can support communities and villages, public points of distribution and infrastructure such as hospitals and medical shelters.

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Is Bottled Water Enough for Your Facility to Sustain Operations During an Emergency?

Long-term care facilities house the most vulnerable population and during an emergency ensuring their wellbeing and continuity of care can be challenging. Emergencies can be large-scale such as flooding and earthquakes or isolated, such as water-main breaks. Regardless of the type of emergency, potable water is essential, not only for drinking, but for maintaining facility operations, such as food preparation, dialysis, and cleaning and sterilization. Lessons from Hurricane Katrina suggest that having enough supplies and equipment to operate for 72 hours may not be sufficient. So, what does this look like in long-term care facilities?

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published an Emergency Preparedness Checklist for healthcare facilities. The checklist does not specify how to ensure water and for what amount, but rather explains that these vary with population and vulnerabilities. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend healthcare facilities to develop an Emergency Water Supply Plan and provide the Emergency Water Supply Planning Guide for Hospitals and Health Care Facilities. This plan would be incorporated into the facility’s Emergency Operation Plan. In the Guide, the CDC highlights a case study involving a nursing home:

A 165-bed nursing home in Florida experienced a water supply interruption in 2004 because of Hurricane Ivan. As with most hurricanes, there were a few days to prepare before the hurricane made landfall. This facility stocked up on bottled water and other water containers and filled up every available container before landfall.

When the hurricane made landfall, the public water supply was interrupted because of a loss of power and the facility had to use the stocked water supply. As the loss of water service persisted through day one to day two, toilet flushing became a problem because each flush required a few gallons, rather than a few cups, of water, and the facility had shared bathrooms, thus preventing the option to wait longer between flushes.

As the loss of water service continued through day two to day three, facility staff went to the homes of staff who had swimming pools (which is relatively common in Florida) and filled up buckets and containers with pool water to bring back to the facility for toilet flushing. This effort was very labor-intensive (e.g. a gallon of water weighs more than 8 pounds) but it provided an adequate volume of water necessary for toilet flushing.

In this case study, the nursing home facility secured bottled water and water containers. While facilities general depend on bottled water and water containers to maintain limited operations, one would ask if this is really enough in terms of water supply planning. What the case study does not mention is the interruption effects beyond toilet flushing (e.g. food preparation, drinking water, patient care and hygiene, etc).

While bottled water can provide for limited drinking and operation capacities, it has its limitations. Facilities need space to store stockpiles of bottled water. If there is no warning for a water event, as in water-main breaks and severe storms, facilities may not have that stockpile to maintain operations and continuity of care. Bottled water can be rather expensive due to logistics if purchased for an emergency event. If each person had two gallons per day for 3 days of interrupted water supply, in a health care facility, this would amount to a large quantity. For a 165-bed facility, this would be close to 1,000 gallons. During an emergency, factoring logistic costs, bottled water can be around $10-$15/gallon and for 1000 gallons, this would cost the facility about $10,000-$15,000. Also, facilities need to consider handling the waste of empty water containers.

Are there alternatives in securing enough potable water in times of an emergency? Yes. There are some companies in the water industry that offer solutions for facilities to have in-house water purification systems. These purification systems can take any fresh water source, and through a multi-step filtration process, can provide enough potable water to sustain facility operations, including food preparation, consumption, dialysis, showering, laundry, etc. There are different technologies in the market that purifies water at point-of-use for public use and consumption. Typically they include carbon block, ultra-violet light, and/or chlorination. The equipment can be portable and uses less space than what would be needed for a stockpile of bottled water. For most cases, emergency water purification systems can be used for the entire duration of an emergency event.

An example of how this technology was used occurred in at a hospital in Georgia in 2007. A damaged 48” water main caused pressure to drop and water to a hospital to become undrinkable. As the three-day event unfolded, the facility contacted a water vendor and its Strike Team through the Georgia Emergency Management Association (GEMA). The vendor responded with an assortment of water purification equipment and deployed them at strategic ice machines in the emergency department, food service areas and post-mortem floors. They also installed equipment at beverage dispensers. Additional equipments were positioned at sterilizing and dishwashing equipment and other items necessary to maintain a normal surgery schedule. The hospital remained at a normal operating level throughout the entire event.

As with any healthcare facility, budget is always the concern. Depending on the vendor, there are options that factor the facility’s budget and size in determining what equipment is needed. Vendors may have grant options for facilities. Also, vendors can provide a deployment plan in which the equipment would be made available at the time of an emergency. And, the costs are often less than what could amount if the facility is trucking in bottled water. For facilities vulnerable to emergencies (i.e. flooding and storms), this may be a more cost-effective solution.

While there are resources available to help plan for emergencies, smaller facilities such as long-term care and nursing homes may not be equipped to sustain operations during a water emergency event. With improved technologies in water purification, facilities have the option to secure potable water at any given time.

Kentucky Ice Storm

Natural disasters often leave critical infrastructures and utilities compromised.  Water is a primary need for any community or facility in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.  It is necessary not only of immediate survival, but also for efficient recovery.  The ability to provide safe drinking water to impacted citizens, emergency personnel, and community infrastructure will greatly improve any response.

First Water is proud to be emergency water purification partners with the Kentucky Hospital Association.  We have worked to develop a regional solution to support Kentucky hospitals during disasters like the current ice storm.  Water purifiers capable of treating up to 1,200 gallons per hour coupled with Chlorine injection systems provide the state with a comprehensive solution that is easy to deploy as needed.

In support of the KHA, First Water has deployed personnel and assets to the area impacted by the ice storm.  We are staged for support in any water disruption that may be encountered.

Boil Water Advisory Impacts Hospital, Food Service

Heavy rains in Danville, VA impacted the cities ability to provide safe drinking water to Danville Regional Medical Center as well as other businesses.  Read the full story here:


Flooding is a major concern to municipalities, critical facilities and businesses.  During severe floods or even heavy rains, municipal water treatment facilities can become compromised.  In Danville, a large amount of harmful chemicals like fertilizer from early spring planting mixed with heavy rains, overloaded the water treatment facility, and in turn compromised the city water supply.  A boil water advisory was issued to the community.

Businesses were immediately impacted.  All water used for cooking and food preparation had to be boiled before use.  Ice production was no longer possible and ice was shipped in from outside sources.  While local businesses were convienent, Danville Regional Medical Center was under a state of emergency.

Healthcare facilities and hospitals face the unique challenge of caring for patients under any circumstance.  Inconviences can quickly turn into critical situations.  When a hospital looses water, many critical functions are impacted.  From patient care to laboratories to dialysis to food service, safe and clean water is essential.  Hospital CEO, Eric Deaton, said that the facility was using 60 gallons of water every minute.  That equates to 170 thousand gallons each day.  Finding a constant water source to supply demand can quickly become challenging.

First Water offers a line of portable water purification systems that equip hospitals to manage water disruptions and boil water advisories in-house.  Our systems utilize advanced water filtration technologyand ultraviolet disinfection to provide safe drinking water in the wake of emergencies.  We have equipped over 400 commercial hospitals and various state agencies to manage water disruption with their own emergency water purification systems.  Recently, Minot, ND, Nashville, TN and Toledo, ORhave deployed First Water equipment when heavy rains and floods impacted city water treatment much like in Danville.

Toledo Fire Department Deploys First Water Equipment

On January 19 the City of Toledo, Oregon issued a 48 water conservation notice to the public.   After three days of heavy rains and flooding, the city water treatment facility had become inundated with mud and debris from the storm drainage system.  Fire Chief Will Ewing explained that the water supply had become so muddy that it could no longer be treated.

During the event, the Toledo Fire Department deployed it’s FW-720-M, water purification unit capable of 720 gallons per hour.  The city had purchased the equipment during the previous budget cycle with a combination of city funds and grant money.  They system was set up at a local fire station and rainwater was diverted from a roof top into a 3,000 gallon Supply Station where it was held prior to treatment.  Approximately 1,500 gallons was collected.  After the water was treated, it was packaged in 3 gallon AquaBags for final distribution to the public.

To ensure water quality, samples were tested at the city water treatment facility.  Water treated with the FW-720-M was shown to exceed the standards set by the city for drinking water.  “The system works and the water tastes great” said Ewing.