In many parts of the upper Midwest, the transition from winter to spring foreshadows the threat of floodwaters. Flooding and other natural disasters can completely debilitate municipal water and wastewater utilities. That’s why it’s prudent for utilities to participate in an intrastate network called a “WARN” to help each other respond to, or recover from catastrophic emergencies.
WARN stands for Water and Wastewater Agency Response Network. WARN provides an organized framework for maintaining emergency contacts. It also allows expedited access to specialized resources, and helps facilitate resource exchanges between utilities/communities during an emergency. Tornados, wildfires, and hurricanes are other situations when a WARN could be useful. Several states in the region have already developed WARN programs to promote “communities helping communities.”
One of the primary components of a WARN is the Mutual Aid and Assistance Agreement, which identifies the terms under which utilities will share resources. The American Water Works Association (AWWA) has prepared a sample agreement that covers key issues such as indemnification, workers compensation, and reimbursement. Coming to an agreement on these issues prior to an emergency is the key to a good working relationship during a crisis situation, as it allows WARN communities to respond rapidly. AWWA has also published a white paper that outlines the steps to developing a WARN in your state. To access AWWA’s information, click.
Click on your state to learn how your community can become involved in a WARN:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has also produced a video about the importance of the WARN system. You can view it by clicking.