Entries for the 'Security' Category
posted on September 07, 2011 08:00
By Sandra Fallon, Training Specialist, National Environmental Services Center
If a natural disaster or other incident strikes your town, local water and wastewater utilities must rely on their own resources immediately following the crisis. It can take 72 hours or longer for assistance to arrive from the state or federal government after a state of emergency is declared. Because first responders, local businesses, community and health services, and the public continue to rely on water services during and after an emergency, and because water service disruptions can make recovery efforts even more difficult, it‚Äôs prudent to plan ahead so that assistance is in place for rapid, effective response and recovery.
Public and private water and wastewater utilities, both large and small, can now participate in the Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (WARN), a utilities-helping-utilities program that uses mutual aid and assistance agreements, which are established and signed prior to an emergency, to help affected utilities quickly obtain resources such as personnel, equipment, materials, and related services from utility signatories to the WARN agreement. In an emergency, WARN support kicks in when local resources are overwhelmed or unable to provide what's needed. WARN can be activated by any impacted signatory utility in response to an emergency, and aid can arrive quickly, saving critical response time. "Simply put, WARN helps ensure continuity of operations" says Kevin Morley, manager of the Security and Preparedness Program with the American Water Works Association (AWWA). "If a system is impaired or impacted, WARN provides an option to recover as fast as possible."
Now is the time to encourage your local water and wastewater systems to join WARN, before disaster strikes. WARN programs are underway in almost all 50 states, and those without a WARN are working on it. You can find your state WARN contact information on the National Warn Web site at www.NationalWARN.org.
Partnerships, Planning, and Mutual Aid
The network is formed through partnerships among public and private water and wastewater utilities and key representatives from professional associations, state water and wastewater regulatory and emergency management agencies, and the regional Environmental Protection Agency. This collaboration helps facilitate pre-disaster planning and training, and encourages sharing information and lessons learned from other disasters. Ongoing communication among WARN leaders and members is essential to keep the network up-to-date and ready to handle an emergency.
The heart of WARN is the mutual aid and assistance agreement, which addresses members' responsibilities, procedures and protocols for providing aid, legal and liability concerns, and issues related to crossing jurisdictional boundaries to provide emergency aid. These agreements are designed to meet National Incident Management System (NIMS) and federal requirements for homeland security grants, and such agreements must be in place prior to an incident for federal disaster assistance reimbursement. According to Morley, all communities are required to become NIMS compliant (http://www.fema.gov/emergency/nims/), and becoming a WARN signatory helps a community achieve this goal.
WARN members in each state use the same pre-established mutual aid and assistance agreement developed by that state's initial WARN leadership team. This agreement takes into account state laws and regulations, establishes a cost recovery process for utilities, and addresses expectations for reimbursement. The agreement also addresses how workers‚Äô compensation, insurance, or damaged equipment on loan will be handled. The WARN agreements address hazards ranging from small incidents like power outages and major line breaks to large, catastrophic disasters, and facilitate assistance from across state lines if necessary.
Benefits of Joining WARN
WARN offers a practical and affordable approach with multiple benefits for the utility and community. "WARN functions like a no-cost insurance policy," says Morley. There is no cost to join the network, and in an emergency each utility decides whether it can respond on a case-by-case basis; there is no obligation. The utility may incur some planning and coordination costs such as staff time to attend meetings, conducting legal reviews, or communication efforts. Overall, the costs are small and well worth the benefits.
AWWA conducted a survey to determine the economic benefits of WARN and found that WARN participation improves a utility's ability to respond to emergencies and reduces their costs to respond. Cost savings include reduced costs to purchase and maintain back-up power capabilities, such as portable generators, and to borrow rather than purchase and store other emergency supplies and equipment. Utilities also indicate reduced loss of water and wastewater revenues due to expedited recovery of services. WARN membership can be a positive factor in risk assessments for insurance purposes, resulting in reduced insurance costs.
Encourage Local Utilities to Join WARN
No community or utility is immune to disaster, and past experience suggests that outside help can be a long time coming. WARN helps the water and wastewater sector become more self-reliant and offers rapid, specialized assistance for emergency response and recovery. Securing this help requires a utility to join its WARN program before disaster occurs. Trying to figure out who can help when your treatment plant is flooded is not good business. According to AWWA's Morley, "WARN participation should be a key part of every utility's business continuity and risk management plans. The costs are small and the benefits to the utility and the community it serves are large." By making sure that your local utilities join your state WARN, you'll be taking a positive step to protect your community, its water services, and the water utility's ability to return to normal operations as soon as possible.
This article is part of the Water We Drink series, developed by the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) and the National Environmental Services Center (NESC).
posted on August 31, 2011 08:00
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has released a new document, the Drinking Water Advisory Communication Toolbox. This 162 page document was a collaborative effort among 6 organizations that all work in the drinking water and environmental health fields.
What Is It?
The Toolbox provides protocols for communicating with stakeholders and the public about water advisories and has practical information on how to plan for, develop, implement, and evaluate drinking water advisories.
How is this document different?
It is to date, the most far reaching effort to help prepare and assist drinking water systems in dealing with drinking water advisories to their customers that we have seen. The document recognizes the degrees of severity where advisories might be needed, from a drop in pressure,to a hurricane, and everything in between. It has practical solutions that affect the types of tools, planning, and communication needed for specific situations.
More importantly, it was developed by consensus among a tremendous number of stakeholders, industry folks, water systems, and technical assistance providers. The list of acknowledgements is over 3 pages long and includes over 50 water systems. They really did their research, compiling over 500 documents related to advisories, and conducting over 100 interviews.
What does that mean for me?
It means it will be a useful tool that you can use when you need to prepare a drinking water advisory. It also means the document is well thought out, organized, practical, and useful.
That's a lot to read!
We agree, the problem is that it is 162 pages long. We hope to help with that aspect by breaking the toolbox down in subsequent blog posts and highlighting the things we feel are most relevant for small systems. Stay tuned for more, but if you get the chance, take a look. You can find the report here.
posted on July 25, 2011 08:51
I was at AWWA's Annual Conference June 12-16 and attended several of the small systems sessions. As has been the case over the last few years, one of the prominent topics revolving around capacity development is the potential shortage of operators.
We All Have To Get Involved
It's not enough to take care of your system and just go about your business. All of us, operators, TA providers, vendors, educators, and state/federal authorities, need to get involved in promoting jobs in water/waste water. Most of us know of an operator who is over 70, who's community/system has no idea what they are going to do when that person moves on/retires.
What You Can Do
There are a number of things you can do. One is to contact your state's operator schools and offer to host an intern. Many of the operator training programs are desperate for on-the job opportunities for their students. Talk to your state folks and TA providers and find out what intern opportunities might be available in your state and offer to help.
It's Time To Open Up Your Plant
After 9/11 many plants closed their doors to schools, youth groups, and other civic organizations. I understand the worry and the need to take safety seriously, but its time to start plant tours again. It was one of the best ways to inform the public, and more importantly, the next generation of potential operators, about the need, benefit, and importance of water and waste water treatment. If we want an informed public, we have to let them in and show them what we do. We have to publicize ourselves, toot our own horns, be proud of what we do, and look ahead to what our systems are going to do when its our turn to pass the responsibility down to the next generation.
posted on July 18, 2011 09:56
In June, we announced the kick-off of our internship pilot program. Over the next several months, we'll be documenting the progress, challenges and lessons learned in this experience.
Two Communities So Far
We have found two communities, so far, that we will be working with this summer. They will be utilizing our intern to assist them in developing tools and information that they can use to help run their systems more effectively. Each community is in a different place, and has unique issues they want help with.
Our idea, when we started this program, was to find a few communities interested in developing ERP's, asset management plans, and long range plans, and have our intern, who is a Class C water and Class D wastewater operator in Illinois, provide some of the man power necessary to develop the inventories, look up information, etc.
Every System Is Unique
Boy is this an understatement. Neither community fit the model we envisioned for this project. Community A, for lack a better name, is actually in really good shape. Their operator and village president are on the same page, they have an idea of where they want to go, they have an ERP (with help from ILRWA), and they have a little money in the bank. It's a community of only 800 people, and they are doing a great job managing their system. They actually contacted us, after seeing the article in our newsletter, and asked for specific help with asset management.
The best way to describe the situation in Community A is they are doing well and are being proactive and moving further forward. They are in a classic situation where succession planning needs to be a part of the picture - with the village president and operator on the verge of retiring in 5 years or less. They have the CUPSS software from USEPA and were a little intimidated with trying to work with it, so Nate's main job for them is going to be to get CUPSS set up for them. We are also using the new "AM Kan Work" manual from NMEFC, and plan to have Nate develop both sets of tools for each of the communities that ask for our help.
This community was suggested to us by Illinois RCAP, and we are grateful for their help and support. Community #2 is a community that is starting from scratch. We haven't talked to them yet, our first meeting is tomorrow, but the information we do have suggests that it is a community that has had significant problems in the past, and are now stepping up with new managment and village officers to try and get a handle on their water and wastewater systems. They first need an evaluation of where their systems stand, so Nate will be conducting a Vulnerability Assessment for them. Based on those results we will move forward. Illinois RCAP is also assisting this community, and will be advising Nate as we work with the community.
Working Out Better Than We Had Hoped
The goal of the program is to expose Nate to a variety of community situations that will better prepare him for managing his own system, while providing a measureable benefit to each of the communities that participates. We are already seeing that Nate's exposure to even these two communities, is going to go along way in preparing him for his first head operator position. And for the communities, we are developing plans with Nate that will really help them move forward and meet their needs.
Note #1: We are still looking for 1-2 communities of under 1000 people within an hour of St Louis, that would be interested in participating in this program.