Security Session at ASDWA Annual Conference

On Thursday, October 18, “Security: A Practical Approach for States” was the topic for one of the concurrent sessions at the ASDWA Annual Conference.  What did they talk about?

Kevin Tingley of EPA’s Water Security Division (WSD) spoke about a soon-to-be published document called “Bridging the Gap: Coordination between State Primacy Agencies and State Emergency Management Agencies.”  Creating and publishing this document has been a joint effort between ASDWA’s Security Committee and EPA’s WSD Security Assistance Branch.  The goal is to identify collaborative opportunities between public water and emergency management when an incident requires state involvement.  What does each state agency bring to the response and recovery table?  How can state programs benefit from each other’s strengths?  Where should the state EOC look for information and support about water utility issues?  The Bridging the Gap Fact Sheet looks to provide answers to these questions.

Tingley also spoke about state and Federal exercise initiatives using both tabletop and full scale functional models.  He provided a brief update on the (now published) FedFUNDS tool that can help water and wastewater utilities meet all of the different requirements necessary to apply for and receive Federal funding support after a crisis event and also spoke about the Agency’s Community Based Water Resiliency Tool and the upcoming schedule for additional training workshops on infrastructure protection and crisis response.

Lori Mathieu of the Connecticut Drinking Water Program shared some great lessons learned and next steps as a result of two major storm events in her state – Hurricane Irene and Winter Storm Alfred.  Each event affected a significant number of small systems in different parts of the states.  Downed power lines put many systems on boil orders, about 30% of the state’s small systems issued such orders after Irene and about 25% had to do the same once Alfred dumped multiple feet of snow in an unexpected late October blizzard.  After everything was back to order, Connecticut’s Drinking Water Program sat down and thought about what could have helped them manage the emergencies more effectively and more efficiently.  They looked at communications and identified several issues that could have been managed in advance (such as making sure that they had correct emergency contact information), organization and mission critical staff resources (such as the need for frequent training for multiple staff) and a proactive focus on public health risk reduction (such as making sure that operators are certified appropriately and that owners/decisionmakers understand their responsibilities).  The state is also considering including small system security needs as a focus point within their DWSRF structure.

The outcome of these assessments is a new infusion of energy into the Drinking Water Program.  Staff plan to focus more on preparedness for small community PWS.  Among the array of initiatives, staff is working toward some new regulations that will help small systems be better prepared – requiring asset management plans to be in place so that these systems will know their assets and their liabilities and be able to plan accordingly should the unexpected happen again.  Staff is also working to promote collaborative continuous training with state emergency managers, power companies, local health departments, emergency medical professionals, and especially with CTWARN. Other state-generated training will focus on WebEOC templates and new training on generators and emergency response plans.  Finally, Connecticut is looking forward to additional collaborative opportunities with their state Rural Water affiliate, TEEX, and NM EFC to capitalize on coordination for training and technical assistance under the recently won EPA competitive assistance award.

Ken Bousfield, Dale Pierson, and Scott Anderson of, respectively, Utah’s Drinking Water Program, Utah Rural Water Association, and Woods Cross City, Utah, spoke jointly of their experience in facilitating and hosting a Water Emergency Roundtable Discussion based on the template and guide created by ASDWA and USEPA Region 5.  The purpose of the Roundtable Discussion is to bring together a water utility with their critical customers to discuss “what if” scenarios if a water outage occurs and cannot be rectified for a significant period of time.  Although some could be served with bottled water, that solution does not work in all circumstances.  What would the hospital or health center do without water for sanitation and surgical procedures?  How could the industrial park or bank processing center continue to function without water-cooled HVAC services?  Where would the fire department go if there was no hydrant water to fight fires?  What about schools?  What about shopping malls?  What about the wastewater treatment plant?

Woods Cross invited their critical customers and their emergency responders to sit down, roll up their shirtsleeves, and have this frank and open discussion…what would they do without water after the first few days?  At the end of the discussion, the community agreed to five key action areas that would help them collectively to be better prepared for any type of water emergency.  The following shows each key area and includes at least one of the proposed improvement actions:  communication (develop emergency contact lists); preparedness (critical customers to develop emergency plans); alternative water for public needs (identify distribution locations); prioritization of water needs (based on health, life safety, and property protection, economic benefit); and ongoing planning and events (annual review of city emergency response plans and consider hosting yearly information meetings).

For More Information:  To view the slide presentations that accompanied each of these presentations, please go to www.asdwa.org/annconf2012 and scroll down to the sessions listed for Thursday, October 18.  Of course, you are also invited to download and review all of the sessions and presentations from the Annual Conference at this same website!

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