Massachusetts Professionals Learn More about WARN

More than 50 Massachusetts drinking water and wastewater professionals gathered Sept. 25 at the New England Water Works Association in Holliston to collaborate and learn more about preparing for emergencies with local drinking water or sewer systems -- and how to work together to recover from them.

??The workshop and exercise is one of six funded by EPA in New England, bringing together representatives from Massachusetts municipal water and wastewater utilities, helping them coordinate on how they can assist each other, and work with state and local emergency management agencies to protect public health in the event of an emergency.

?The collaboration is the basis for the Massachusetts "Water and Wastewater Agency Response Network" (WARN) and offers these entities the ability to join the network – a voluntary, no-cost commitment. The workshop features a discussion-based exercise where key personnel enact a hypothetical scenario where the overall network activates to respond to an emergency situation in Massachusetts. Key issues include activating plans, how to match requests for assistance with available resources, and how to fine-tune the processes necessary to facilitate prevention of, response to, and recovery from an incident.

??"The Massachusetts Water and Wastewater Agency Response Network is a great example of a sector who is thinking ahead, preparing for emergencies, and working together on better ways to assist each other to protect the health of the public and our environment," said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office.

??"NEWWA is proud to host and support the MA WARN efforts," said Raymond Raposa, New England Water Works Association executive director. "As first responders in the event of an emergency, water and wastewater agencies play vital roles in ensuring public health is protected. By assisting each other and working together, relief efforts can be expedited."

??WARN networks are a new tool that utilities are using within each U.S. state to get the needed specialized skills and equipment to each other quickly, even prior to or without a disaster declaration. WARN agreements are key to making sure local utilities get Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reimbursement if needed in a federally declared disaster.

??WARN organizations have been formed in over 30 states around the country, with most New England states formed within the past year (Conn., Mass., N.H., R.I. and Vt.). Maine is working to formally launch its own network later this year.

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