Chapter 4.45
DISASTER MINIMIZATION

Sections:

4.45.010    Overview of district.

4.45.020    Purpose.

4.45.030    Scope.

4.45.040    Prioritization.

4.45.050    Disaster vulnerability.

4.45.060    Decision tree.

4.45.070    Computer system backup.

4.45.080    Computer system replacement.

4.45.090    Alternate finance office.

4.45.100    Personnel.

4.45.110    Disaster preparedness testing.

4.45.010 Overview of district.

The Cross Valley Water District was created in 1990 and had previously operated as a private water association. A three-member board of commissioners, elected to six-year terms, governs the district. The district provides water services, principally from groundwater aquifer sources. As of December 31, 2010, the district served 6,316 water customers and 110 sewer customers. The majority of the district’s customers are served by the district’s wells. The district’s customers located along its northern border are served by water purchased from the city of Everett. The district also has access to water provided by the Clearview Water Supply Agency (CWSA), of which it is a part-owner, and the Silver Lake Water District. The district runs its operations with five administrative employees and seven utility field workers. [Res. 2011-5-5 (Att.).]

4.45.020 Purpose.

This disaster minimization policy is designed to lessen the impact of a disaster upon the financial, investment, water and sewer utility billing and payroll operations for the Cross Valley Water District. This policy is not intended to prevent disasters from taking place, but is solely focused on managing the financial operations after a disaster. [Res. 2011-5-5 (Att. § 1).]

4.45.030 Scope.

The Cross Valley Water District office is responsible for the billing and collection for the water and sewer utility accounts, fire hydrant meters and miscellaneous accounts receivable. The office is also responsible for payroll/personnel, accounts payable, utility local improvement district (ULID) billings and collections, and investment of district funds and collecting interest on those investments. The scope of this policy is to ensure that operations of the district are not impaired in the event of a disaster. This includes backing up and access to the financial software system and the ability to collect and report revenues and to make sure the district has the ability to pay for emergency repairs and/or payroll in the event of a disaster. The district needs to have properly trained personnel available to continue with normal operations of the office. [Res. 2011-5-5 (Att. § 2).]

4.45.040 Prioritization.

We feel that it is important to define the priorities of the various areas of responsibility of the finance operations. At certain times, these priorities might change because of workloads or at certain times of the year. For example: if a disaster occurs on or around the period bimonthly water or sewer billings are due, provisions need to be in place for the safe collection and depositing of those payments. If a disaster should occur the week of payroll, provisions would be needed to handle the payroll process.

(1) Computer System. The re-establishing of the computer and the computer software would be the highest priority. Without the computer and accompanying software none of the following objectives could be met. Since the type of disaster is uncertain, Cross Valley Water District would need a laptop off site that could be used to reestablish the financial software programs, at an off-site location.

(2) Payroll. Our first priority is to our employees and their families. Without them, completing the various missions and goals of Cross Valley Water District and its customers would not be possible. Our first priority in reestablishing the office operations would be the payroll function. Our employees will need to be paid on a regular basis. We currently have two employees that can process payroll once the software is up and running. The office lead and the finance manager both know how to process payroll all the way through the direct deposits. If either is not available then there is a payroll manual that anyone that has a login can enter and process payroll. The general manager can authorize the payroll file for approval and release on the bank’s online website.

(3) Budgetary. The reestablishment of the budgetary records would be our second priority. Once the computer system is reestablished and the backups installed, the year-to-date data should be up to date. The backup procedure will be discussed later in this policy under “Computer Backup Procedures.”

(4) Utility Billing Collection. In the event that a disaster occurs during a heavy utility billing collection period, all utility payments received via U.S. Mail would be held at the USPS facility in Snohomish for pickup. Cross Valley Water District also receives many payments via electronic deposit by various services such as Checkfree, Metavante, Fidelity BillPay, etc. These payments would likely be uninterrupted, although we would not be able to record any of those payments until our computer system had been reestablished. A secondary location would have to be set up to provide customers who like to pay their bill here at the office an option, should the current office location be destroyed. The website may be down for web payments but the phone payment 1-866 number should still be up and running and be able to take payments that would automatically post to our bank account like the electronic services mentioned above.

(5) Investment of Funds. While we recognize the importance of investing funds in accordance with the Cross Valley Water District investment policy, during a time of disaster, the investment of funds would receive a low priority rating. It is anticipated that excess funds would already be on deposit in the local banks or pooled funds. Should any current investments mature during a time of disaster, those would be dealt with on an individual basis by the financial accounting manager or his/her designee, as soon as practically possible.

(6) Accounts Payable. Accounts payable processing would be limited until we were back up and running with a computer and a printer.

(7) ULID Payments. In the event that a disaster occurs during a utility local improvement district (ULID) collection period, all ULID payments received via U.S. Mail would be held at the USPS facility in Snohomish for pickup. A secondary location would have to be set up to provide customers who like to pay their ULID payment here at the office an option, should the current office location be destroyed. [Amended during 2015 codification; Res. 2011-5-5 (Att. § 3).]

4.45.050 Disaster vulnerability.

We have reviewed our situation and have determined that we are subject to the following disaster situations: flood, earthquake, fire, thunderstorms with lightning, rainstorms with wind that may bring down trees, ice/winter storm, small aircraft accident and terrorists.

The district’s building sits near the top of a hill in Clearview at about 500-foot altitude and would not be subject to flooding from the Snohomish River but may have minor flooding if the million-gallon reservoir broke open in a natural disaster.

(1) Earthquake. The district has had some minor earthquakes but the epicenters were far enough away that the district did not receive any damage. There is potential for some structural damage if the earthquake were severe enough. We may incur some flooding if the Vine Street Reservoir was severely damaged in a natural disaster.

(2) Fire. The district administration buildings are surrounded by old growth trees that are very tall. The buildings were built and completed in 2004 out of brick, wooden shingle facings and metal roofing. There are smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in all of the buildings. The garage is made out of metal so damage may be limited unless chemicals were involved. Also, our offices are located fairly close to the fire department, so hopefully any fire that does start would have short response time, since the fire department is about a block away.

(3) Thunderstorms and Lightning. Cross Valley Water District has been affected by thunderstorms with lightning knocking out our power, telephone and alarm systems. We have generators on site wired into the building and power would resume momentarily and the alarm system would not affect the finance office except for the noise of the alarm going off. We would issue earplugs to deal with the alarm. If the phones were out, then we could try cellular phones. If not then we have mobile radios.

(4) Rainstorms/High Winds. The district is surrounded by old growth trees that are very tall around the site so we may be subject to high winds which may bring a tree down on the building, knocking out our power, telephone and alarm systems.

(5) Ice/Winter Storm. During the winter months, ice and severe winter storms may occur. Heavy snow and ice could result in possible damage to the building, depending on the severity of the storm. Also with winter storms, travel tends to become hazardous, therefore leading to a possibility of some office personnel not being able to make it to work safely. Because the building is on a backup generator, power outages would not be a major issue, unless the power outages were for an extended period with no fuel available if the back-up generator failed.

(6) Small Aircraft Accident. We have a small airport located less than 10 miles from the district offices. There is a possibility of an accident although we feel this is unlikely.

(7) Terrorist Activity. Although the possibility exists of a terrorist-related event happening here we believe that the possibility is low. Our district is not high enough in the spotlight to warrant that kind of activity. A slightly larger possibility exists of having an irate customer do something in a moment of rage. We have a code word phrase that alerts someone outside of view of the irate person to the fact that there is a problem and they will call 911.

(8) Loss of Building. Cross Valley Water District has an old cinder block building that would survive any fire or other type of loss that would destroy our main building. If we had to, the finance staff could meet up there and we would get new phones and computers and furniture to start rebuilding what we had lost. [Amended during 2015 codification; Res. 2011-5-5 (Att. § 4).]

4.45.060 Decision tree.

In the event of a disaster, normal lines of communication may be interrupted. In the event that an employee is injured or killed, communication and normal operations would be disrupted for an indefinite period of time. Below is a list of areas that we would address if a disaster occurred.

(1) Communications. It may be necessary to contact employees if a disaster were to occur after hours when no one is at the district offices. In this event, the general manager would be notified and then would call the financial accounting manager and the operations supervisor. Each would then be responsible for contacting their employees in their department and giving instructions on the next business day’s operations. In the event that injury or death occurs, the same line of communication would be established, adjusting it where necessary, depending on the people injured or killed.

The general manager, financial accounting manager and operations supervisor would have to determine if the current offices are operable for normal business, or if operations would need to be moved to one of the alternate sites listed above. Office personnel would have to be notified of this information immediately, so they would know where to report for work.

(2) Alternate Decision Making. Depending on the type of disaster and injury or loss of life, alternate decision making powers may have to be assigned on a temporary basis to an individual who would not typically have certain decision making authorities. If the general manager, financial accounting manager or operations supervisor were injured, killed, or otherwise unavailable, critical decisions would be handled by their next most senior surviving staff member. The office lead would be the next most senior office staff after the financial accounting manager. Any other decisions that did not need to be made immediately could wait for the board of commissioners to hold an emergency meeting. Alternate decision making powers would only be granted on an emergency basis.

(3) Check Writing. Since Cross Valley Water District currently has four separate individuals who are authorized to sign checks, check writing would not be a problem. All checks, however, would have to be approved by the general manager and/or the board of commissioners depending on the circumstances.

(4) Scheduling. Depending on the type and scope of the disaster, full staff may not be needed. This decision would be made based on time of year, condition of the building and safety of the employees and their families. [Res. 2011-5-5 (Att. § 5).]

4.45.070 Computer system backup.

Our computer automatically backs up the system data every Friday night at 5:00 p.m. and sends a copy of it off site to scalable size storage. The system also does an incremental daily backup at 5:00 p.m. The most information we would lose would be one day’s worth of data. Because of the pattern of our work flow, we believe that the loss of one day’s computer entry would not have a large negative impact on our operations. We have the source code files stored off site in a secure area by our software vendor. Our PCs use network file storage so all of the data not stored on their C: drives is backed up with the nightly backup. The employees are reminded occasionally that anything on their C: drive is not backed up so do not use their My Documents directory. [Res. 2011-5-5 (Att.).]

4.45.080 Computer system replacement.

We could utilize the old server that we replaced last year as a backup that would help us until something more permanent could be purchased and installed. The old server could be located at the alternate finance office (AFO) and updated on our network after installing a network connection up in the old building. There would be no Internet up in that office in the event of a disaster that destroyed our main building but the purpose is to get the HMS servers and the files from the domain controller so that we could at least run at a minimum until something more permanent could be put in place.

The web server would probably not come back up right away unless we loaded the main web page on Gravity Square’s server. There are two problems for the web server. One, the backup server would not have connectivity to allow the posting of receipts made upon that web server. Two, the web server if hosted at Gravity Square would need a static IP address. We could still receive customer payments if they used their own online banking or the phone credit card service with the 1-866 number to HPConveniencePay. If we needed to upload any files in the course of payroll or accounts payable, then we could put it on a flash drive and upload where there is a connection. [Res. 2011-5-5 (Att.).]

4.45.090 Alternate finance office.

We will develop and supply an AFO as described in the “Disaster Preparedness for Finance and Treasury” manual from the Association of Public Treasurers of United States and Canada. We have adequate supplies of blank check stock, deposit tickets, blank forms for utility, personnel and finance departments. We also have computer instructional sheets along with backup copies off site of our data that would be used to rebuild the personnel, finance and utility files. The AFO would be stored off site at the old building above us. If that building were unavailable then a residence of an employee or possibly a neighboring water district could be used. [Res. 2011-5-5 (Att.).]

4.45.100 Personnel.

In order to minimize the effects due to the loss of office staff, we have been actively engaged in a program of cross-training our staff. This cross-training is not designed to make experts out of each job operation, but it is intended to familiarize each employee with the general operations of other positions. This general knowledge along with the instruction manual created with screenshots should enable our staff to carry on with the mission. The office lead is prepared to perform the financial accounting manager’s (FAM) job duties should the FAM be gone. The two customer service/account clerks (CS/AC) have each been trained as backup to the office lead in the utility system and one is trained as the accounts payable backup and the other new CS/AC will be trained in payroll and then cross-trained so that they can both do payroll and accounts payable. Again there are manuals so that any one of the employees in a pinch can do all of the functions. [Amended during 2015 codification; Res. 2011-5-5 (Att.).]

4.45.110 Disaster preparedness testing.

We will be conducting testing of our procedures for payroll/personnel, accounts payable and utility billing in 2011. We will see if there are any problems or areas not completely addressed, so that we can modify our procedures to correct those areas. We will be testing the ULID and investment areas later. These two areas are not as mission critical because they are not a daily function and we believe that the procedures that we have in place are adequate in the event of a disaster, for the time being.

Once we have all areas tested and corrected, we will test yearly one of the mission critical areas to insure that the policy and procedures are current. [Res. 2011-5-5 (Att.).]