When the heat was on at Swinfen Hall Prison South Staffs Water Business stepped in and worked through the night to turn the situation around.

Swinfen Hall Prison, in Staffordshire, holds 624 young men serving between four years and life and is known for working with businesses, voluntary organisations, the Learning and Skills Council and education providers to reduce reoffending rates.

With the unprecedented hot, dry weather this summer, the prison’s demand for water exceeded the available supply and their water storage tanks began to run dangerously low.

Worried about the potential for serious unrest amongst prisoners and the safety of both staff and prisoners, Governor Ian West asked water retailer South Staffs Water Business to intervene. The firm’s Key Account Manager, Laura Westwood, immediately understood the reason for his concern as her father worked as a prison Governor and she was determined to help improve storage levels to avoid any problems.

Laura began by contacting the water wholesaler, explaining the potential severity of the situation, and then worked through the night to co-ordinate activities, including liaison with both the wholesaler and bottled water providers.
“When I heard about the situation the prison was in I knew what that could mean and I was concerned to prevent any sort of unrest. I was adamant that this was something that had to be sorted out straightaway. I think the prison appreciated the fact that I was still working on it at 2am and that I made sure that the team at Swinfen were kept fully informed of what was going on,” she said.

Once the immediate risks were addressed Laura and her colleagues then worked to arrange for a leak detection contractor to examine the site to help understand the cause of the problem, as well as bringing in water contingency experts to make sure that a long-term plan was put in place to make sure that such a situation was never repeated.

This contingency plan includes installing unique pressure sustaining valves especially designed for the prison, as well as site based leakage detection and consumption monitoring, so that any problems are alleviated in the future. Regular meetings are now held between South Staffs Water Business and the prison to manage the overall supply situation while data loggers have now been installed ready to allow prison staff to view their consumption levels in real time.

Prison Governor Ian West described the situation as ‘a perfect storm for a catastrophic incident to happen’. He added: “Only when the intervention of Laura Westwood happened did the seriousness of the situation become appreciated; proportionate, time-bound responses and expertise were given, and interim measures put in place that ensured an uninterrupted supply of water 24/7. I can confidently state that until Laura’s intervention, there was little or no appreciation of the seriousness of the situation and a complete lack of urgency to do anything to mitigate the exceptionally high risk.”