Entries for the 'Emergency Response' Category

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A recent news article highlights eight tribes that are ahead of the curve when it comes to climate change adaptation. For a lot of small or rural systems, we often hear that climate change is a "not now" problem, especially when there are so many "right now" challenges. 

Planning for climate change can simply start with building resiliency, an attribute that not only supports future issues but current challenges as well. Resiliency is simply the ability to promptly respond to unexpected changes and readily cope with the impacts. 

Through a
user-friendly tool and a pilot program, US EPA's Community-Based Water Resiliency initiative seeks to help water systems integrate and coordinate their efforts with community emergency preparedness and response programs. 

This video serves as a useful aid for outreach to community leaders and local government regarding use of the CBWR tool as part of new and existing efforts. A resilient water system will better be able to cope with any issues that may impact service and public health protection. 

27

The USEPA has released a new video that showcases WARNs in action. A WARN is a Water and Wastewater Agency Response Network, or a network of utilities helping utilities, that helps facilitate emergency aid and assistance in the form of personnel, equipment, and other associated services. This video presents the types of events in which WARNs can be utilized and discusses in detail one specific WARN response. The video emphasizes that, despite the type of emergency event, WARN coordination with response partners is crucial to a successful response.

04

In a past blog entry, we’ve talked about the importance of mutual aid agreements and state WARNs in utility emergency response. Here, we highlight two state WARN programs that have assisted small systems in a jam.

MoWARN: Helping Rural Utilities in Missouri

In Missouri, MoWARN is closely affiliated with Missouri Rural Water, which helps operate and maintain the network. Their members currently range in size from a utility with 200 connections to one with 4,500 connections, but they welcome members of any size. Big regional events like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy are frequently cited as examples of WARN helpfulness, but smaller utilities can face other challenges as well. MoWARN chair Randy Norden speaks of helping with drought-related problems, tornadoes, floods, and even a mistake that led to a loss of power at one utility. Missouri Rural Water’s strong commitment to emergency response has meant that they already have a lot of resources in place to help WARN member utilities with requests as they come in.

As with all WARNs, signing up with MoWARN is free, though it does require a membership application and a signed mutual aid agreement. This doesn’t mean you’re signing over your resources to someone else; you still get to decide when to volunteer resources, and you can even recall volunteered resources if you need to. On the other hand, the benefits are many, including quick access to tools, generators, and other help, and the satisfaction of helping other systems get back on their feet. In addition, if you do have to deal with a large-scale disaster, being part of a recognized mutual aid program makes it easier to get reimbursed by SEMA and FEMA. Missouri utilities interested in joining MoWARN should visit the website, or contact Randy Norden if they have questions. As a recent MoWARN email points out, “Membership costs you nothing; benefits are priceless.”

SDWARN: Commended for Their Help

Last summer, a rural county water system in South Dakota experienced a severe main break resulting in a water outage. The South Dakota DENR and SDARWS, the state rural water association, enacted a WARN emergency. Volunteers from SDWARN member Fort Pierre responded, along with two SDARWS circuit riders. Working together, these four volunteers helped to locate and repair the leak and restore service. They also helped haul water from a hydrant twenty miles away to refill the water tower.

In recognition of the hard work put in by these WARN volunteers, SDWARN and the two volunteers received commendations from the DENR secretary and the governor of South Dakota. In his letter to the Fort Pierre utility, DENR secretary Steven Pirner wrote, “It was great to see the resources provided through the South Dakota Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (SDWARN) work as intended. As the SDWARN facilitator [at Ft. Pierre], you and your drinking water team are demonstrating how ‘utilities helping utilities’ in South Dakota truly make a difference.” To learn more about the water leak response from the SDARWS perspective, you can read the pdf found here.

South Dakota utilities wanting to know more about SDWARN can visit the website, where they’ll find a regional directory of members, contact information, and a copy of the mutual aid agreement.

Want to know if there’s a WARN in your state? Check the national WARN regional directory.

30

Hurricane Sandy is giving the public and our industry a reminder that water and wastewater utilities are essential but vulnerable. With reports of sewage treatment plant failure and overflow (Maryland, Connecticut) as well as preventive and reactionary boil water orders (New Jersey), it's an appropriate time to highlight best practices for emergency situations. 

The best source of information - for both utilities and the public - is the
CDC Water-related Emergencies portal. The information is more comprehensive and consolidated than what is found elsewhere. However, the Post-Hurricane Checklist from EPA is the perfect place to start for a utility impacted by an hurricane. It includes a thorough look at all vulnerable points of the system.  

Information for the Public
Communicating with the public may be one of the biggest challenges during an emergency. When internet, phone, and electricity are down - sometimes cellular networks are still up. Twitter is increasingly being used as an
emergency notification tool.

It makes sense to include in your emergency response plan a list of resources you would share with the public. The US EPA has a
guide to emergency disinfection of drinking water. This information is available in many forms (some others below), but you can take some time now to identify which are most helpful. 

Thinking Ahead
If an emergency situation caught you off guard, it may be time to create or update your emergency response plan. Joining a mutual aid network could be part of that effort. Here are a few resources to that end:

 Because those who are impacted by this current disaster may lack access to internet, we hope this guide can also help on-the-ground responders better serve their communities. 

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