For many years, water safety laws and regulations have focused primarily on public water supplies, and on those contaminants that can make the water unsafe to drink — for instance, fecal bacteria like coliforms and E. coli. However, because Legionnaires' disease is actually transmitted by inhalation of bacteria rather than by drinking contaminated water, those preventive measures required to reduce its risk might be less familiar.
Educating your customers as well as the greater public about Legionella is a vital first step in preventing outbreaks and keeping everyone safe.
What do we need to know?
According to the CDC, or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Legionella cases have risen approximately 5,5 times since early 2000, making prevention a critical step. Customers and other users may not be aware that even if water has been treated, the main bacteria responsible for Legionnaires' disease, which is Legionella pneumophila, is still able to multiply within the plumbing system of their premises. In order to prevent outbreaks, efforts need to be made by key players at each step in the water ecosystem.
For example, utilities firms and providers can help reduce Legionella cases by supporting the development of water safety plans for high-risk buildings in their communities. Managers of large buildings might already be aware of the disease but perhaps do not know how to generate a water safety plan — or simply because the idea of writing one can seem daunting. They also may not understand the need of regular testing for Legionella bacteria to guarantee that their plans are efficiently controlling this risk. Utilities firms can leverage their vast water quality expertise to provide guidelines, advice and resources to their customers.
Who should be educated when it comes to Legionella risk?
Everyone can benefit from Legionella training. But engineers, building owners, and facility managers at industrial, commercial, and large residential premises should be the target audience for Legionella education. Particularly important are those involved in the process of maintaining water systems at hospitals and health care facilities and assisted living communities.
Although Legionella growth in larger buildings or premises has the potential to endanger more people, managers of smaller buildings also need to understand the facts so they can actually reduce the risk of this potentially fatal disease.
Spreading the word
The best way to deliver Legionella-related information really depends on the target audience. While social media is useful for communicating with individuals and homeowners, they tend not to reach institutional and commercial building managers the same way.
In-person meetings or even letters, phone calls and emails are truly effective means of communicating with building managers. These are also prime opportunities to build stronger relationships with current or potential customers.