EM Forum Presentation — November 28, 2012

Water Sector Mutual Aid
How the WARN Program Facilitates Rapid Response
and Recovery of Water Systems

John Whitler
Environmental Protection Specialist
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Water Security Division

Kevin M. Morley, Ph.D.
Security & Preparedness Program Manager
American Water Works Association (AWWA)

Amy Sebring
EIIP Moderator

This transcript contains references to slides which can be downloaded from http://www.emforum.org/vforum/WARN/WARNpresentation.pdf
A video recording of the live session is available at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm121128.wmv or in MP4format at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm121128.mp4
An audio podcast is available at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm121128.mp3

[Welcome / Introduction]

Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone and welcome to EMForum.org. I am Amy Sebring and will serve as your Moderator.  We are very glad you could join us.

When disaster strikes, a community may be left “high and dry” if it loses its water and waste water facilities, so restoring these utilities are a high priority in most communities.  Today we are going to learn about the Water / Wastewater Agency Response Network, a mutual aid initiative designed to facilitate rapid response and recovery for these essential services.  

Today’s recording and a copy of the slides will be available from our site later this afternoon.  A transcript will be available later this week.

[Slide 1]

Now it is my pleasure to introduce today’s speakers:  

Dr. Kevin Morley is the Security & Preparedness Program Manager for the American Water Works Association (AWWA) where he has been responsible for facilitating the expansion of mutual aid and assistance networks within the water sector based on the “Utilities Helping Utilities Action Plan” developed by the association in 2005.

John Whitler is an environmental protection specialist with the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water, Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water, Water Security Division where he has worked on water sector preparedness and emergency response since 2004.

Please see today’s Background Page for further biographical details and related links to resources that will be mentioned during the presentation today, and also the Action Plan I just mentioned.  

Welcome to both of you, and thank you very much for taking the time to be with us again today. I now turn the floor over to Kevin to start us off please.


Kevin Morely: Thank you very much, Amy, and I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the EM Forum.  I think this is quite timely on the heels of Hurricane Sandy that the East Coast experienced a few weeks ago.  To begin, as Amy mentioned, the focus of this discussion is on the WARN program.  That is the shorthand term for Water\Wastewater Agency Response Network.

I think we’ll just begin with a bit of background.  WARN really got its inception from the experience of utilities in California in the early nineties on the backside of the many events that they had in California, principally earthquakes, wildfires, landslides and that nature.  Utilities in that area realized they needed a way to collaborate and work together to respond and recover their communities more quickly and more efficiently.

That process moved along in California. Then in 2004 Florida experienced some significant hurricane activity.  As they considered a similar type of need amongst utilities, they learned of the program in California and developed something similar in Florida based on that model.  

[Slide 2]

That lent itself to the national framework that Amy mentioned—the Utilities Helping Utilities Framework which myself and Ray Reardon—he kind of spirited some of the activities in California and he is now the current co-chair and really helped facilitate the development.  Certainly my colleague John at EPA was very much involved in this.

I wanted to set the tone as to what WARN is.  It is embodied most principally in this agreement—this document that can be found on http://www.NationalWARN.org  and it provides a bit of background, history, and the principles embodied in the agreement.

For those of you that are familiar with the EMAC program—the state-to-state emergency assistance compact—this agreement is very much modeled about that but it is at a local level amongst asset owners and operators that would need unique assistance and resources.
We have heard it many times—planning is great and good but until you need it you don’t know it.  What we attempt to do with the agreement that is here is recognize that assistance is voluntary.  It is not mandatory.  Obviously if you are in a compromised situation you don’t want to be a committee to assets and resources.

It is voluntary.  There is no obligation to participate either to be a signatory to the agreement or no obligation to deploy should that put your own system in place.  There is no cost to be a member of a WARN program.  More importantly, the things that we don’t want to deal with during an emergency like liability, workman’s comp issues, and reimbursement processes—that legalese lawyer stuff is dealt with in the agreement so everybody understand the rules of the sandbox.

Having two young boys, that is an important thing but it is really important when you are in the midst of chaos to really understand the processes and procedures and not be negotiating those things.  The WARN agreement also addresses the elements of NIMS, the National Incident Management System.  In fact by a utility being a participant and signatory to the WARN program they help the community they are a part of to be compliant with the NIMS criteria that has come down from FEMA to the states and to the local community.

At the beginning it was seen as something for utilities in earthquake or hurricane regions.  Certainly that is where a lot of the growing pains were with this process but as I will show you shortly it is a very much all-hazard capability.  It is not specific to any region or type of event.

With the development of this document and agreement and demonstration we had with Florida being very effective in their response to Hurricane Katrina, and facilitating recovery of systems in Mississippi and Alabama, we learned this could be a very effective approach and at a national level we took the lead in facilitating a series of workshops in collaboration with EPA across the country to introduce this concept and model to the water sector.

I am going to show you a series of slides that are illustrative of this bottom-up approach and how it evolved.

[Slide 3]

In April of 2006 when we really started to kick off the workshops, at the time you’ll recall that shortly after Hurricane Katrina there was Hurricane Rita that really beat up on parts of the Texas coast.  They quickly adopted the model that was already in place in Florida.  In early 2006 we had three states that you will see as green.

Green means that they have multiple utilities as signatories to the WARN agreement in that state and obviously on the backside of Hurricane Katrina the gulf coast states were seriously considering this initiative.  

[Slide 4]

As time went on and we were able to do a series of workshops you can see that this is very much a bottom-up approach.  The signatories to this agreement are the utility owners and operators.  

Whatever the name of the utility in your town, they would be the signatory to the agreement and there are a number of cooperating entities principally state emergency management and the state primacy agencies that have regulatory oversight of the water sector as partners along with the associations.  

It is really important we have this relationship amongst the utilities to evolve our situation awareness and also to provide a more effective means of communication with the emergency management community to understand what is going on in the water sector because of the critical lifeline service that it provides.

Granted we are not a traditional emergency response sector but it is very difficult to put out a fire or manage a hospital if there is no water.  As you can see in May 2007 after we have done a series of workshops in less than a year’s time there is an active acknowledgement of the value of the WARN model amongst utilities in the given states.  By May 2007 you have six states with the WARN program and multiple in progress.

[Slide 5]

By January of 2008 it had jumped up to twenty.

[Slide 6]

As of right now we have 48 WARN programs in the United States which includes the national capital region so technically there could ultimately be 51 in the states.  I’m very proud to say we have two Canadian provinces that have adopted the model and several in consideration.

You can see that the water sector has taken this capability and has demonstrated value from a bottom-up approach to becoming more self-sufficient in the time of emergency.  The types of assets and resources that are available from utilities to assist other utilities are relatively unique.  

Those skill sets are not found within FEMA, EPA who is our federal partners, or to some extent the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which I’ll speak to with regards to response to Sandy.  We are close to each other so we are able to move very quickly.

[Slide 7]

It is also important to understand what it is you need.  One of the things as this program and initiative evolved over time we realized it was very important to be able to talk to each other with the principles of NIMS in mind understanding to be very specific about what it is you need.

[Slide 8]

In that regard we took the initiative to develop a resource typing manual that covers 24 standardized resource teams based on FEMA guides for typing and resources.  That is also available on the NationalWARN.org website.  This is really important because it sets the stage, allows the utilities to think ahead in terms of types of resources they could deploy should they become necessary.

In that case the ever-necessary costing issues that the bean counters at the state emergency management, or insurance companies, or whoever is in charge of reimbursement—they are going to want that documentation.  This sets up the process to begin capturing some of that information that becomes very important.

[Slide 9]

As I said, the NationalWARN.org website has a number of different resources.  There is a page that has the WARN contacts and all the states, Canadian provinces, along with the page I’m displaying here which is actually the WARN resource page.  It has a number of some of the background materials, outreach materials that WARN uses in different states to speak to either local officials or utilities about the value of being a participant in this.

I think John will go into this more but one of the things that he was instrumental in developing were some tabletop exercise resources and operational plans.  I think of it as the WARN agreement is having the car and the ops plan is the driver education class—how you move the thing.  I’ll leave that for John to speak to in greater detail.

[Slide 10]

How does it work?  The point here is the WARN program helps bridge the gap.  It does not require a federal declaration and it does provide for private utilities resources.  While the majority of water systems are municipally based or independent authorities there are systems that are private entities.  The services they provide to that community are just as critical as those provided by municipal governments so it is very important for them to be able to work together.

This allows the utility to determine at the time the need occurs and they know they are going to have a problem that exceeds their capacity they can call on this system.  It is not the only system but it is a way they can expedite assets and resources that can help them recover.  Oftentimes it takes many weeks for a federal declaration to occur.  We don’t want to wait for that to happen to get assistance to this critical lifeline sector.

[Slide 11]

As events evolve and become much more regional in scale such as Hurricane Irene, Katrina or as we just experienced with Hurricane Sandy, there becomes a need to potentially move assets across state lines.  Given that most utilities are municipal resources there are in some cases state law barriers from moving assets across state lines without appropriate protocols.

The EMAC model helps facilitate that so by having the WARN program embedded as possible with the state emergency operation center as resources exceed the capability of the utilities in that given state they can reach up into the state EOC, put a request out via the EMAC program and ideally that reaches down into surrounding states which then connect into those WARN programs and see if the resources can be obtained.

We had a very excellent experience with our partners at EMAC during Hurricane Sandy that I will explain in a little bit.  For those in emergency management community that are on the webinar today I would strongly encourage you—if you don’t know John and I can provide the contacts with your WARN program—get them into your state EOC.  They are a valuable asset in having operational and situational awareness of the needs and the criticality and prioritization of those recoveries.

They can really help expedite the recovery of the communities that may have been impacted.

[Slide 12]

Has this ever worked?  Yes.  It has worked many times in many places in many different things.  You can see that California has had several instances where they have dealt with earthquakes or fires.  I think one of the more unique situations was with the Colorado WARN program.  They were very effective in addressing a salmonella outbreak and recovering that community very quickly within a matter of weeks.

Florida has dealt with numerous hurricanes and tornados.  Most recently the New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts WARN programs were very busy at the end of October with the response to Hurricane or Super Storm Sandy.

[Slide 13]

With respect to Hurricane Sandy it was the first time for New York to have a very active mobilization especially in the downstate region of Long Island and New York City area.  The types of resources exchanged amongst utilities included chlorination equipment, chainsaw crews, motor dryers for a flooded wastewater facility and generators.

You can see that generators have been a very common thing.  The situation there was upwards of eight million plus people without power—widespread devastation of the electric grid.  Simply put while many utilities have generators, generators are not meant to operate for a week or two weeks without any kind of sustained recovery.  In some cases those things needed to be replaced.

In a case in New Jersey we had a situation where a utility did have emergency generators but they were on natural gas, but the community was going to have to close the natural gas line for safety purposes so they had to bring in a diesel generator.  As those requests stacked up it became clear that the volume of need was going to exceed the state’s capacity and friends within the EMAC program were very effective once we had notification of those resources.  

In fact it cleared upwards of nine or ten resource needs in a matter of less than twenty-four hours to get those assets deployed to the benefit of the water sector.  We are very appreciative of that and are encouraged that it is a system that can be expanded and applied in other states.  Hopefully it won’t be necessary but if and when it does become necessary we know it can work well.

[Slide 14]

I would close here and cede the rest of the time to my friend John.  How valuable is participation?  The benefit from a utility perspective is a reduced loss of revenue.  The faster I can get my utility recovered the faster—obviously for the utility itself it is recovery of the revenue stream of the utility—but it is also important for the economy of that community.

If the water system and wastewater systems are not working we have some real problems.  The average cost of participation is very low.  The utility needs to agree to be a participant.  If the need occurs they deploy.  The value of this public confidence in the utility providing the service is quite priceless.

[Slide 15]

I hope a MasterCard people don’t call us up after this but I think it is an effective way to communicate the use and value of WARN.  The bottom line is I don’t think any utility can afford not to participate.  For our friends in the emergency management community to be a partner with WARN in assuring this vital lifeline sector is sustained and recovers as quickly as possible—I think there will be time at the end for questions.

This is my contact information which I am sure Amy will have posted elsewhere.  I’ll cede the rest of my time to John.

[Slide 16]

John Whitler: Thanks, Kevin.  I’m going to push the slides forward here.  I’m really excited to present with you today and have this captive audience to learn about WARN. I’m going to focus on how EPA has supported the WARN effort and touch on a few other related water sector preparedness response and recovery resources we have.

[Slide 17]

This is a quick glimpse of the topics I am going to cover today.  Some are WARN activities. There is information about some fact sheets we have on coordinating between water utilities and emergency management agencies and I’ll finish with a discussion of our newly released FedFUNDS tool.

[Slide 18]

I like to start off the presentation by showing this diagram we put together that I think shows how all the pieces of WARN fit together.  Using the foundation of the mutual aid and assistance agreement this shows how the operational plan can help WARN members activate that agreement and use it either in a real incident or an exercise.

We encourage our WARN members to develop after action reports from those incidents or exercises and implement changes to their program based on any concepts they come up with as part of the improvement planning process.  Finally it is showing how some of the documents such as the resource typing manual that Kevin mentioned really support this process.

I think this shows how a lot of the pieces of the WARN program fit together and I wanted to add that as a context at the beginning of my talk.

[Slide 19]

We’ve been supporting tabletop exercises at EPA since 2008.  These are discussion based exercises really intended to bring together people within the WARN that don’t normally have a chance to get together and talk.  Some of our WARN programs are more robust than others and are able to do these meetings and exercises on their own but others need the support of EPA to make this happen.

We’ve been doing these exercises for quite a few years now.  One of the things we like to do is bring as many key participants together as possible.  One of the audiences we have really been targeting lately is emergency management agencies both at the local and state level in figuring out how WARN can interact with those groups.

I would like to highlight the participation of non-WARN members in the exercises.  They get an opportunity to learn about the WARN and to see it in action.  Oftentimes we end up with new WARN members after the exercises.

[Slide 20]

These exercises are objective based.  I wanted to provide a couple of objectives of what these objectives are.  Some WARN programs don’t have operational plans that support their agreement developed yet.  We spend some time at the exercises maybe at a morning seminar to help work through development of operational plans in some cases.

I mentioned this effort to integrate WARN into emergency management agencies.  We often spend time at the exercises working through that and attracting non-members as well.  I’m going to move forward quickly from there.

[Slide 21]

This map shows where we have been able to support exercises between 2008 and 2012.  In green are states that have received support from EPA for an exercise.  Those in the lighter blue color have done exercises on their own.  EPA has supported a total of 36 exercises over the last five years.  In 2013 we plan to host another eight exercises.  We are trying to reach every state that needs or wants support in hosting an exercise and help them to become more robust and more operationally efficient as a program through these exercises.

[Slide 22]

I mentioned the WARN Operational Plan and I’m going to give a quick overview of what that is and how WARN programs use it.  It is basically the operational extension of the agreement that outlines the procedures that are helpful to have in place before the agreement is activated.  I’ll go into more detail in the next couple of slides.

We have developed an operational plan template that is posted on the NationalWARN.org website that provides a nice resource for WARN programs to plug and play their information into that template.  I want to acknowledge that we did not make this concept up.  It is not original to us.  There is a FEMA/NIMS independent study course about operational plans that we based some of our materials off of for our template.

[Slide 23]

This highlights the major categories or sections within the operational plan—the concept of operations, how WARN is activated, how WARN members mobilize resources, how the coordination works, and how they document their efforts.  We also provide some checklists and supporting documents.

One of the things I think that are very valuable within the WARN operational plan template are the checklists on things to consider prior to deploying resources in support of a mutual aid request, understanding what the conditions are going to be where your resources are going to be deployed and also some tips for utilities that are requesting resources on things they should have and provide for the resources they are requesting to make sure they get used in the most efficient and effective way.

There is a wealth of information in this template and quite a few WARN programs that have adopted these operational plans.

[Slide 24]

Very quickly I wanted to highlight one of our latest outreach efforts which has been the development of some WARN videos.  We recently released the first two videos in the series.  One is a short background on what the WARN program is and the second video highlights what the tabletop exercise effort has been about.  

We have two additional videos under development.  The first one will highlight recent WARN responses and how WARN helped utilities repair and recover their systems after an incident.  The final one will talk about successful examples of WARN coordination with emergency management agencies.  The EPA website for the WARN program will be shown here at the end and it is on the EM Forum webpage but you can access those videos from there.

[Slide 25]

I am going to shift gears just a little bit here.  This is something that Kevin and I have both touched upon.  This is an effort a little bit separate from the WARN work but very much connected.  This is a fact sheet we put out.  It is eight pages.  Basically we wanted to make sure that utilities and emergency management agencies understood how they can work together, why they should work together and why that relationship is valuable.

You can see here this is an outline of some of the sections that are within the document.  We tried to highlight why this relationship is mutually beneficial.  For example emergency management agencies cannot operate themselves unless they have water in their facilities.  That is a really basic one.  Definitely a lack of water service will complicate any response.  We try to make sure that is emphasized throughout this document as well.

We give some tips on how you can actually build that relationship with your emergency management agency at the local level.

[Slide 26]

In order to help facilitate that process we have provided a checklist of actions that can really help build that relationship.  This is a summary of what is in the checklist—important things to consider such as exchanging emergency contact information, understanding how water is integrated into the local emergency operations center.

We see this time and time again—a lot of local agencies haven’t even considered water infrastructure as part of their response efforts.  We try to encourage that coordination at the emergency operation center level.

Something that Kevin didn’t touch on but has been very active in is the concept of alternative water supplies and understanding the capabilities that exist at the utility level as well as the local and state emergency management agency level.  If the water service is disrupted, are there plans for alternative water supplies?  That is a very important conversation to have in advance of an incident.

I’ll highlight one additional bullet here which is providing a tour of facilities which I think can be valuable in many ways and maybe a fun activity to help attract the emergency management agency to your utility and make them aware of what is located at your facilities and if they ever have to respond there what to expect.

[Slide 27]

One of the other sections of the document I wanted to give some attention to today is we provide some case studies on the benefits that have been realized by utilities and emergency management agencies when they have made this relationship work.  We go through and talk about how a utility receives some funding for security improvements.

A utility also received funding to do some training from their emergency management agency.  We talk about emergency management agencies have helped locate resources for utilities that they otherwise couldn’t get and at times there are resources that through the WARN program may not be available and an emergency management agency can help with that.  There are a lot of good case studies out there and hopefully things utilities can build upon in their own communities.

[Slide 28]

I’m going to move on to the last topic I agreed to present today and that is some information related to funding after an disaster happens that can help a utility recover from an incident and potentially rebuild themselves in a more resilient and sustainable way.

[Slide 29]

The first piece of information that we developed at EPA about this was a fact sheet that we wanted to make sure utilities were aware of the FEMA Public Assistance Program which can be a very valuable funding mechanism for utilities to use after an incident but also a challenging program to use if you haven’t planned in advance to use the program.

It is almost like learning a new language if you are in an incident trying to learn what you need to do to access that funding.  We tried to give utilities some ideas on what work could be covered, how do they actually access the reimbursement and other FAQs are in this document—things like documenting pre and post condition of your infrastructure with pictures is often helpful and making sure you document the hours worked by your staff to make sure that all that is accounted for.

[Slide 30]

We still had demand from our customers and from utilities for additional information related to disaster recovery so I’m very happy to say we recently released our FedFUNDS tool (Federal Funding for Utilities in Natural Disasters).  This is a more comprehensive website web-based tool.  There are five basic sections of the tool.  

There is a section that asks utility questions to determine which funding source is potentially the right source for them to go to.  There is a section that provides resources to help prepare for accessing these funds.  I’ll show a screenshot of one of those in a moment.

There is a basic overview of the six programs that I will mention on the next slide that we have chosen to highlight at FedFUNDS.  One of the most useful sections in my mind is “Utility Examples”—actual utilities that have gone through the process and copies of their applications for funding.  There are training materials and other assistance.  I give more detail about that in a later slide.

Currently in a disaster if you haven’t been able to look at a tool previously we really summarize some of the key things you would need in an actual incident or directly after an incident—some of the forms, cost information and things like that which would be helpful to have at your fingertips.  It is a very powerful tool and it is very resource rich.  I’m going to highlight a couple of additional pieces before we wrap up.

[Slide 31]

I want to show a screenshot of the funding program overview screen.  You can see we highlight the FEMA Public Assistance Grant Program, FEMA Mitigation Program, the USDA Emergency Water Grants program, the EPA State Revolving Funds, HUD Community Grants and SBA Loans. Those are the six programs that are includes.

There are multiple categories of information that are provided about each one of these programs and I don’t have time to go into detail to show you all of that today but I encourage you to check it out on your own.

[Slide 32]

There is also a great deal of information embedded within the tool so there are multiple PDF documents to provide quick summary level information on important topics.  So in addition to that fact sheet on highlighting what the public assistance program is within this FedFUNDS tool we also talk about what some of the lessons learned from utilities that have actually used the program are.

This is a great example of one of the products contained within FedFUNDS that folks might want to check out at some point.

[Slide 33]

This is additional information on utility examples, training and assistance.  What I’ll highlight here are the funding mentors.  We have provided contact information for utilities and other people at the federal level that have agreed to and are available to assist any utility in need of working through some of these federal funding programs.  

Talk about a great resource of being able to call one of your colleagues to understand how they went through the process of obtaining these funds—I think that is a really special component of  the Fed FUNDS tool and I encourage everyone to check it out.

[Slide 34]

While I have the floor I didn’t want to be remiss in mentioning a couple of our other related preparedness products.  We have a plethora of tools.  I have highlighted a couple—a tool that we have on how to do a tabletop exercise.  We offer ICS and NIMS training that has been customized for water utilities.  

We have a laboratory support program within my division.  We provide a database of contaminant information that we support and we also have an economic analysis tool for what happens with a water disruption.

[Slide 35]

Kevin and I have both used this slide multiple times.  It sort of states the obvious.  Emergencies are local and you need a local response capability.  WARN helps provide that at a low or no cost.  We are really interested in making sure utilities can maintain their operations.   Disruptions in service both impact the utility as well as the community.

Anybody who has been through a disaster and has lost their water service can attest to the fact of how great it is to get that water restored as quickly as possible.  We think that WARN and some of these other mechanisms we talked about today can really facilitate that process for us.

[Slide 36]

I appreciate your attention and everybody joining today.  Here is my contact information and the website where some of the resources I have talked about today can be found.  Thank you very much.

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much both of you gentlemen. Excellent program, excellent resources, and an excellent example of neighbors helping neighbors.  We will proceed to our Q & A. Please keep your question or comment related to today’s topic and reasonably concise. If you can address your question to Kevin or John by name, that would be helpful.  

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Richard Vandame: Are there plans to offer any of the resources as NIMS typed resources?

Kevin Morely:  That is a good question.  We have been in some discussions with FEMA on that and I don’t have a resolution to that question.  I can offer is that the water utilities themselves are using this resource to frame their responses.  Sometimes things become quite simple but the purpose of this document is to anticipate things that are potentially a larger scale need.  It addresses both the resources—the actual physical assets like backhoes, trackhoes, Jet-Vac trucks—-and the crews that would be assembled with them.

So it is a team approach which is a mission ready package type model that EMAC is promoting.  EMAC, our partners with NEMA and EMAC have been very encouraged by this and have reference this.  I think FEMA has moved a little bit on some direction on this.  In fact, some of the draft material they put out a couple of years ago leveraged this quite heavily—that process within FEMA, I don’t have clarity as to what the outcome of that will be at this point in time.

Shawn Smith: Kevin:  Does WARN utilize any specific software technologies to facilitate TTXs, resource sharing, or coordinated response efforts?¬

Kevin Morely: I’ll speak to WARN first.  I will say there are different degrees of software applications amongst the WARNs.  Some are more centralized than others and some are a bit more de-centralized in the sense that they rely on not a centralized distribution of resource requests.  It is really amongst the utilities to make the contact amongst each other.

That is where the resource typing material comes into play.  Several—I don’t have a good firm count on top of my head—have a resource database that they host as part of their website on the member’s only side. Let’s just say, I’m here in the D.C. area, let’s say for instance Fairfax decides they need some type of resource.

They can look out and see that folks down in Newport News have that.  “I’m going to call John and see if he is able to bring that to me.”  Other systems are a bit more automated.  I think Texas would be a great example in that they have a very strong capability to have a forward lean where they have a system that can call out to utilities and use—I can’t think of the software off the top of my head but a text email system to get some information about the operational status of the utility.

This was very useful during events like Hurricane Ike or Gustav—I can’t remember which one.  I think they got a little piece of both of those.  If they got no response they knew there were likely to be communication issues so they were able to use that information.

They have—I think this is an important point to make—Texas and many other states, the WARN actually has a seat either physically or virtually in the EOC as a part of Emergency Support Function Number Three which is where we fall into the National Framework.  That has been extremely effective.  

In fact, New York did not have that status prior to Sandy and I think based on the knowledge that the New York WARN program was able to share with state emergency management they have come to the realization that they need to have a more direct communication link.  There are varying degrees and no formal process by which that can occur because that becomes resource intensive from a financial perspective.  That is why the partnership with the emergency management community is really critical.  

Amy Sebring:  These WARNs are basically run at the state level under the framework—how are they typically organized in terms of being a board or something like that to shepherd it along?

Kevin Morely:  There are a number of associate members in addition to the signatory so most of the national associations have state level sections or affiliates—the AFWA, Water Environment Federation—and many of those associations provide some of the administrative support if you will.  There is some sort of steering committee or board that oversees the agreement and facilitates information exchanges during an incident as necessary. They are kind of autonomous.  The agreement is only active when there is a need between two entities.

Amy Sebring: Do these typically have to go through some state legislative approval or are the existing mutual aid laws in most of the states already available?

Kevin Morely:  In most states the laws of mutual aid are permissive of municipalities or entities within a municipality to enter into this type of agreement.  The only exception there would be in a few states there are some awkward prohibitions on the inclusions of the “private sector”.  It is not like we are having Wal-Mart or Home Depot be a signatory, it is a critical lifeline sector that happens to be privately held.

The mechanism by which a utility or community gets approval is usually through their board or city council giving them the go ahead to be a signatory to the agreement.

Clarence Warnstaff: Please expand on the Water Laboratory Alliance.

John Whitler:  I’m not the expert on our Water Laboratory Alliance Program but basically that program has been set up in response to HSPD-9 to enable the water sector to have the appropriate level of capacity of laboratory resources should there be a large scale disaster especially one involving CBRN contaminants which most folks know have specialized laboratory requirements.

The EPA working under the umbrella of the Environmental Response Laboratory Network and the partners at CDC and other federal agencies have been supporting this concept of a more robust and coordinated laboratory program.  There is a lot of information via the web link provided at the end of my presentation to access that..

Richard Pedlar: Who is responsible for making contact with WLA, WARN or EOC?

John Whitler: Should a utility require assistance that may be accessed through the WLA—I think there are a variety of mechanisms to access that support. It could be directly through the utility to the state primacy agency to the EPA region or there could be emergency management agencies that are also linked in and would know how to contact the appropriate contact within the WLA for that.  

It would vary.  We actually have developed a response plan and do exercises related to that activity to make sure everyone knows.

Robert Forgione: There seem to be numerous resources available through various agencies (AWWA, EPA, FEMA, etc.).  Can you provide a single list of what resources a WARN utility member should have in a file for reference in case of an emergency?

John Whitler:  I am not sure what you are asking. Could you expand on the question?

Robert Forgione: I saw requests for Hurricane Sandy assistance from Water ISAC, but not from VA WARN.  From speaking with our local WARN folks, it appears that there is no link from a State's request for help to adjacent state WARNS.  What is being done to change this?  

Kevin Morley: I’m not sure specifically what the Water ISAC request may have been about but I’ll apply the example from Hurricane Sandy and pass events.  I host a daily call with the WARNs if it is an event of the scale of Sandy to have some coordination and situation awareness amongst the WARNs which then results in a daily situation briefing that we post to the WARN situation report page.

The Water ISAC is involved with that.  I suspect the communication that they may be referencing—and I’ll be happy to follow up afterwards—may have reflected on some of the issues that were coming out of that situation briefing amongst them principally being generator issues but also fuel supply issues were critical.

That wouldn’t necessarily be a resource that a utility would supply to another although that did occur.  It may have been also the Water ISAC shared information with the National Infrastructure Coordination Center and sometimes they receive specific information requests, or requests for information from DHS that they communicate out.

There was one in regard to chemical supply issues that may have emerged. It could be a variety of things.  I assure you though that we do speak with each other.  I’m not saying it can’t be improved.

Peter Navratil: I work in a region with a population of 2M spread around 22 municipalities with a Regional district that provide source water to municipalities.   I would like to propose a WARN mutual aid model.  Any suggestions on how to coordinate the mutual aid effort during the event? Does WARN encourage a unified command model?

Kevin Morley:  I think the short answer is yes. But again in that case it is why it is so critical for the emergency management community to have some representation from the water sector in the EOC to help facilitate that communication.  WARN doesn’t solve all those problems.  Some of these things are cascading upon each other.  Having that in the EOC really helps channel that information so you can get good visibility on the situation.  I’d be happy to follow up more on the particular community he is mentioning.

John Whitler:  We definitely utilize the concepts and operate within the constraints of ICS and NIMS.  Our guidance documents show how we do that.

Paula Scalingi: Does EPA have an infrastructure interdependencies analysis tool that can be customized for water utilities to use in-house or with local and regional utilities and service providers?

John Whitler: I wouldn’t say there is a specific interdependency tool but there are a variety of resources that we do maintain on our website that relate to interdependencies and also provide guidance on how to work with critical customers and helping them understand the impacts of loss of water service.  I would direct you to our website to find those pieces of information.

Kevin Morley:  I would add two examples of that we have been involved in is a document on planning for emergency water supply and a more detailed one that CDC was a part of on a similar thing but specifically for hospitals and health care facilities.  A lot of these systems take the water system for granted.

It is very rare that the water system goes out compared to power.  Not to knock power, but when water goes off people get grumpy very quickly.  They don’t often think about that it could actually go away.  Those two documents address those issues amongst the other things John noted.

Bob Davisson: My local community is served by a central well with 160 housing units. We are categorized as a public water system, but have little in the way of resources that we could offer to others in case of an incident. What value can we bring to WARN in our state (MoWARN)?

Kevin Morley:  There has often been a discussion that this is a big systems thing versus a small systems thing.  I would submit that just because you don’t have a backhoe or crew truck or materials, you certainly have knowledge.  Whether you act as a member of the steering committee to facilitate information exchange—sometimes the thing that is of greatest need is people.

Maybe you only have a crew of five or ten people but if they can potentially rotate in to let a guy who has had his house wash away go home and rest that is just as important as physical equipment.

Marsha Hovey: Not a question.  Just FYI for Emergency Managers.  Northern California has developed a County and Local Government Emergency Operations Center Plan and Job Aids for Water and Wastewater that we're willing to share. Marsha Hovey marshahovey@mac.com

Avagene Moore: Gentlemen: It's good to see you are stressing the value and mutual benefits of the utilities and local EMA working together.  Are you receiving good examples of the reception of the concept plus how it has enhanced preparedness and response activities?

John Whitler:  Yes, absolutely.  I think one of the places that I am observing this coordination is when we support these tabletop exercises.  Sometimes going into the exercise the utilities and their emergency management agencies aren’t as well-connected as they would like to be and we have actually seen as a direct result of these tabletop exercises WARN programs receiving dedicated seats at state emergency operation centers as well as utilities being acknowledged within their local or county level emergency management agency operation center.

I just think we are seeing more and more of that across the country and it is very encouraging to see those relationships developing because that coordination is really essential during an emergency.

Amy Sebring: If we have emergency managers here in our audience and they haven’t heard from their WARN they maybe they should go look for them.

John Whitler: Indeed.


Amy Sebring: We have run over on our time but lots good questions and comments. If we could not get to your question today that contact information is available in the slide deck so please do feel free to get in touch with our quests.

On behalf of Avagene, myself, and all our participants today, thank you very much Kevin and John for being with us and taking the time, and all your efforts on this worthwhile initiative.  We wish you continued success with it in the future.

Folks, before you go, PLEASE take a moment to do the rating and enter any additional comments you may have.  

Our next program is scheduled for December 12th when our topic will be pre-disaster recovery planning and our guest will be Carolyn Harshman, President of Emergency Planning Consultants, located in San Diego, California.  Please make a note on your calendar and plan to join us then.

Have a great afternoon everyone!  We are adjourned. Thank you.