The 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County, California, was the state’s most destructive wildfre in history, destroying more than 14,600 homes. The wildfre caused widespread drinking water system chemical contamination resulting in acute and chronic health risks, requiring water use restrictions. Six months after the fre, the research team conducted a rapid community survey of attitudes and experiences that were specifc to building water safety.
Based on the survey and education event, the authors recommend the following actions to be considered to support communities responding and recovering from widespread drinking water contamination:
- Publicly delineate responding organization roles and responsibilities.
- When water advisories or orders are in place for extended periods of time, conduct water safety education events to help residents understand their role/responsibility in water safety.
- Conduct a rapid survey to assess population community health needs and include questions pertaining to building water use and safety.
- Conduct emergency response tabletop exercises to help improve collaborative problem solving, identify key questions to support rapid identifcation and mitigation of the contamination, and respond to community needs.
This work illustrates the advantages of community involvement for resolving ambiguities in how households can respond to building water safety issues following a natural disaster. Further, the authors posit that strong community engagement in this context can reduce both psychological distress and exposure risks.