Entries for the 'Emergency Response' Category
posted on February 04, 2013 09:59
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.
posted on October 30, 2012 15:41
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.
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.
posted on September 05, 2012 11:04
The St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council Recently reached out to the community for assistance in developing a geographic response plan.
A geographic response plan is a planning document that provides crucial information guiding first responders in quickly and safely assessing and addressing oil or chemical spills that may threaten water sources. The Washington State Department of Ecology has a slideshow available the covers some of the basic information about what these plans are and how they should be developed.
In the case of this particular council, they were seeking information about access points and the availability of access to the river should a spill occur. By receiving permission for and documenting the access points, first responders and cleanup crews will be able to address spills more immediately and limit the area of damage. As the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection explains, “As a response tool the GRP allows quick decisions to be made by providing detailed geographic information on shoreline types, sensitive natural and cultural resources. This information, together with estimates of response equipment requirements, staging locations and pre-identified deployment strategies for protecting sensitive environmental areas, provides a basis for local responder to develop a more effective and coordinated initial response.”
Tribal water operators may find it useful to review local GRPs to understand how a spill and the resultant response plan may affect their operations, and to ensure that they are included in the list of people to be contacted should a spill occur.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s website provides detailed information about how their GRP was developed. While the challenges and constraints for communities in Alaska are unique, the site offers extensive details and examples that may be helpful in guiding tribal communities and rural areas in developing a plan of their own.
posted on July 09, 2012 07:17
I was at an asset management workshop recently that included a number of state regulators. The theme was asset management and certification, but O & M and the tie-in to understanding your assets kept coming up.
O & M Is Tied To Asset Management
I realize the title of this blog post is about SCADA systems, and many small communities don't even have them, but whether you use SCADA or not, the principles behind good O & M are important for all systems. It's all about understanding your system, the equipment, infrastructure, and treatment, as well as the process of running the plant (O & M). I know everyone hears about the importance of testing generators monthly and servicing pumps when recommended, but many times these things are low priority. Weeks turn into months and months turn into years. I was at a plant this summer that was using a federal grant to get a new generator for their water plant. I had just been in the wastewater plant for this same community this last fall where there was a perfectly good generator that would serve the purpose. I brought this up to the consultant managing the grant, but he said it wouldn't work. Unfortunately, the community had no warranty on the generator because they didn't follow the maintenance schedule. It had sat in a garage for number of years and not been ran. As a taxpayer, that's frustrating, but as a small systems advocate, it gives us all a black eye.
So On To Best Practices
At the workshop, someone from Michigan mentioned that one of their larger communities was planning to shut down their SCADA system for a week. This wasn't being done to allow upgrades or changes to the system, this was being done because the Water Supt. wanted to make sure his staff knew how to run the plant. This system is being proactive, both from an emergency standpoint, and also from an operations standpoint. We all rely on technology and automatic this or that for so many things these days, but to really "know" your plant, to be able to troubleshoot and tell when something isn't quite running right, you really have to have a comprehensive understanding of how your system works.
I Know, You Already Know Your Plant That Well
You are thinking, I already have that level of understanding of my plant, I know when something doesn't sound right, look right, or even feel right. Thats great, but what about the next level of support? What happens when you are not there? Do you ever take vacation or have to be out of town for a day or two? Is the person left in charge of your plant as familiar with your system as you are? Do they know your plant well enough to troubleshoot when a problem pops up? They need to have that level of understanding, or have something they can turn to that has those details.
That brings us back to one of those O & M things that are a pain, take time, and because you know the plant so well, keep putting off or don't see a need for. You should have an O & M manual for your plant. No one else can write it, and its only as useful as the information you put into it. It comes down to being prepared and taking full responsibility for the operation of the plant. That also means being prepared in case you can't be there for some reason.
First of all, develop an emergency response plan. There are templates available from a number of sources. You can contact a TA provider you work with, they will be able to get you started. If you want to look at some of the better ones, type in "emergency response plan" in our document keyword search, and use "type = templates". But, for those of you that already have an ERP, take the next step, develop an O & M plan for your plant. Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Florida require O & M plans, I'm sure there are others. New Jersey has an O & M template that operators can use to help them develop their O & M plan, as do Florida, Louisiana, and Vermont. Georgia has a guidance manual as well. It was also brought up at the workshop that Colorado is developing an O & M and training manual geeared toward walking you through developing an O & M plan for your facility. It sounds like it will be a great resource. Once the Colorado document is available, we'll post an update and provide those details. Lastly, if you need some help, email or call us. We can either help you directly or find someone in your area who can help you get started.