How are we being proactive and innovative?

Building a resilient organisation

Image of Sydney Water staff planning for emergencies

We are building our resilience by planning for events that put our business at risk now and in the future.

Research by the University of Canterbury in New Zealand found that resilient organisations are able to respond effectively when things go wrong and find opportunity in difficult situations.

As a water utility, we face a large number of potential hazards each day. While we have thorough processes in place, we are planning for events that put our business at risk now and in the future.

We are making a culture shift in how we approach incidents, moving from a reactive mindset to being on the front foot. In 2011, we developed a 10 Year Incident Management Strategy – the first of its type in the Australian water industry.

By 2021, we’ll be proactive and innovative in how we handle incidents. All Sydney Water staff will take ownership of incident management, and we will tap into the experience of experts from around the world to build on knowledge of  hazards.

We are realising the value of social media in communicating key messages, especially within a crisis situation. We have been talking to other utilities about how they use social media to engage with staff and customers in emergencies. We are taking these lessons to develop best practice guidelines for using Facebook, Twitter and our internal network, Yammer.

In November 2011, we finalised our recovery plan for how to respond to the unlikely event that we need to shut down one of our main office facilities. We have now matched each of our main office facilities with one of three recovery sites, based on convenience and the recovery site’s ability to handle extra staff and equipment. This plan will ensure that we can continue operating within a reasonable timeframe.

We are continuing to enhance the recovery plan to ensure that it meets current and future needs of Sydney Water.

We believe in learning from the experiences of other water utilities. In July 2011, we initiated a project to find out what makes organisations resilient to extreme events like floods, droughts, bushfires, storms and heatwaves.

Sydney Water, Queensland Urban Utilities, Gippsland Water, Hunter Water and Actew participated in the study and shared relevant lessons. We are now working with these organisations to implement the study’s actions for best practice in resilience.

Planning for rain, hail or shine

We store specialised contingency equipment such as large capacity generators and pumps, ensuring we can continue our services during widespread blackouts or other emergency situations. The equipment can be used anywhere, anytime across  NSW.

When we are not using the equipment, we still put it to good use. This year, we sent a number of pumps to the Lockyer Valley in Queensland to supply clean drinking water following the devastating floods in 2010.

We are building on this back-up supply of equipment. We now store machinery at our Cascades Water Filtration Plant in the Blue Mountains, to ensure water supply even if bushfires cause power failure.

‘We are continuing to explore how we can use this equipment even more effectively when it is not helping out in an emergency,’ said Gary Hurley, Manager Networks.