National Rural Water Association

2915 S. 13th Street

Duncan, OK 73533

580-252-0629   FAX 580-255-4476

Contact:  Chris Wilson, nrwacw@nrwa.org

May 20, 2009
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Rural Water experts certified at Emergency Response training

NEW ORLEANS, La. – Hurricane Alpha is bearing down on the Florida Panhandle and groups are scrambling to make plans and arrange supplies for the eminent landfall. Fortunately for the harried groups, this is only an exercise. The tabletop exercise was part of a three-day track of emergency response training presented during the National Rural Water Association’s in-service, held May 12-14 in New Orleans, La.
                “This is one step to getting us to our dream – systems helping systems,” said Robert Johnson, NRWA CEO.
                The training program was designed as the first step in creating a nation-wide network of emergency responders to deal with disasters that affect rural and small water utilities. Fifty delegates, one from each of the NRWA’s state affiliates, attended the session. The group was trained in a range of emergency response topics, from preparation to hands-on assistance, so that the attendees could return to their home states to train their staff and utilities.
                The highlight of the training was a session of hands-on training conducted at Jefferson Parish Water Works. Louisiana Rural Water coordinated between parish officials and KDM Generators to provide several hands-on stations, covering generator connection, bypass pumps, variable frequency drives, maintenance and safety. Superintendent Doug Pertuit also provided a tour of the facility’s emergency equipment, including the emergency generators and an elevated safe house designed to withstand winds up to 250 miles per hour.
                The training also included a variety of classroom training and thought exercises. A table-top exercise provided the class an opportunity to think through the problems facing a system as a hurricane approached.
                “What we’re trying to simulate is an emergency event that you have some prior knowledge,” explained Gary Williams, executive director of the Florida Rural Water Association.
                The exercise put groups in a position to consider, plan and decide in all the areas affected by an impending disaster – operations, finances, logistics, and planning. The scenario was designed by Florida Rural Water to prepare rural utilities for the decisions and plans needed in emergency response.
                “This is really a great exercise because it forces people to think outside of their comfort zone,” said Patrick Credeur, executive director of the Louisiana Rural Water Association.
                “The most important thing is the conversations you’ve had in these groups,” Williams added. “This is where utilities share ideas and build relationships.”
                Other sections focused on the preparations needed before an emergency, especially communication and coordination with other agencies.
                “We’re trying to get you to start communicating now,” said Rusty Reeves, LRWA Water Circuit Rider. “You have to become part of your state response now.”
                The training covered other aspects directly-related to sending staff into impacted areas to provide assistance, such as supplies, payroll and immunizations. The training even covered issues with the stress and grief of providing assistance to impacted areas.
                The training was designed and presented by water professionals with extensive experience in emergency response and disaster relief, including Patrick Credeur and Rusty Reeves from the Louisiana Rural Water Association; Gary Williams, Troy Hamburger, Robert McVay and Scott Phillips of the Florida Rural Water Association; Larry Bell of the Texas Rural Water Association; Jeff Ford of the Arkansas Rural Water Association; and Tom Abernathy of the Mississippi Rural Water Association.
                Each delegate received a Certificate of Demonstrated Competence, making them the first certified emergency responders in rural water.
                “You are now a part of what I’m calling the Rural Water Emergency Response team,” Credeur said. “If something happens in my state, I know who to call and I’m asking for you guys by name.”
                The certificates were a formality for many in the class, who already had experience responding to floods, tornados, ice storms and hurricanes. Even without specific disaster experience, Williams pointed out that rural water field staff is still in the business of emergency response.

                “You are all in the emergency response business,” he said. “When you provide technical assistance to a system, it’s an emergency to that system. The only difference is when it’s a widespread disaster, that assistance is at another level.”

See In-Service Photos below:                                  

Gallery 1 Gallery 2 Gallery 3 Gallery 4 Gallery 5 Gallery 6

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