Working to improve communication between Sedgwick County and the city of Wichita

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WICHITA, Kan (KSNW) – A lapse in communication is how Sedgwick County leaders describe what happened one week ago, when a water main broke, prompting a boil water advisory for Wichita and surrounding communities.

On Thursday, Oct 7, at 1:32 p.m., the power went out at the water treatment plant, causing pumps to shut down. Within minutes, the pumps were restarted but started to lose pressure. At 2 p.m., city crews found the water main break. Fifteen minutes later, they notified the KDHE, then a boil advisory was issued at 3 p.m.

The city held a press conference at 3:30 p.m. It is where county leaders take issue. City staff did not notify the county emergency manager until after 4 p.m. County leaders are working to keep everyone in the loop during emergencies.

“I think that we have to learn from exactly the events that took place and how we can implement different strategies so that it doesn’t happen in the future,” said Sedgwick County Commissioner Lacey Cruse.

“There was a lot of things that did not happen that shouldn’t have happened,” said Sedwick County Commissioner Jim Howell.

Confusion between two levels of government, Howell said the county was not notified last Thursday, but Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple said the city did all they could.

“We tried to reach out to the county as best we could, but the reality is we had an emergency in the city, and we had to get the information out and move on without the county. If we can’t get in touch with them, we still have to keep governing,” said Whipple.

Plans are now in motion to make sure the county and city are on the same page.

“Historically, governments have been sort of reactionary, that’s how laws get changed. That’s how things get developed is when something happens, you, you change for the better right, and so hopefully, we can start being a little bit more proactive about things,” said Cruse.

Commissioner Howell said the county emergency manager is now working to ensure all cities are informed about what to do in a future case of emergency.

“Her primary responsibility is to make sure that we are constantly practicing and going over the plans. Even though nothing bad happens today, or maybe nothing bad happens this year. That day still coming,” said Commissioner Howell.

Commissioner Cruse said the county is also working on an emergency text alert system to notify everyone when a future emergency happens.

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