National Rural Water Association
2915 S. 13th Street
Duncan, OK 73533
580-252-0629   FAX 580-255-4476
Contact:  Chris Wilson, nrwacw@nrwa.org
August 4, 2009
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Directors trained as emergency response Incident Commanders
 
NEW ORLEANS, La. – Executive Directors are scrambling to set-up staging areas and organizesupplies – a hurricane is moving toward the coast. Plans have to be reviewed, equipment secured and staff prepared: Luckily this hurricane is only a drill. The exercise, named Hurricane Alpha, was part of the detailed emergency response training during the National Rural Water Association’s Executive Director In-Service, held late July in New Orleans.
                 “This training is very similar to what we provided to the field staff in May, but it was focused more for the directors,” said Patrick Credeur, executive director of the Louisiana Rural Water Association, and one of the directors leading the training.
                 Executive Directors lead the state rural water associations that provided training and technical assistance to small utilities in every state. Field staff members from each state association were trained the emergency response at the in-service held in May. That training session included training on safety, assessment and the installation of emergency power generators. The director’s training session was less focused on hands-on skills.
                 “This training was set-up to prepare executive directors to be incident commanders during an emergency,” explained Gary Williams, executive director for the Florida Rural Water Association, and another leader in emergency response. “It’s to further the leadership of rural water in emergency response.”
                 “Incident commander” is a term for the individual coordinating and making decisions during an association’s response to an emergency. Executive directors have taken on the role during past emergencies and disaster, but this is the first time those directors will have the training to prepare them.
                 “We talked to them about setting up command centers and staging areas,” Credeur explained. “We talked to them about setting up standard operating procedures and plans.”
                 Directors got a chance to try their new skills during a table-top training exercise. The scenario, titled Hurricane Alpha, was modeled after a hurricane that hit the Florida Panhandle. The exercise poses questions relating to logistics, planning, budget and operations, the actual assistance being provided.
                 “It generated a lot of discussion about timelines and preparations,” Williams said of the exercise.
                 The hurricane scenario allows for some warning and preparation, but other scenarios have much shorter warning.
                 “You have to prepare yourself, because there’s no warning for tornadoes or flash floods,” Credeur said.
                   The training didn’t just focus on emergency pumps and power generators, but included a section on documentation, records and accounting.
                 “We taught them to document every receipt, record all the hours and mileage of their employees and track any purchases they make,” Credeur said.
                 Williams explained that documentation is important, so that utilities and associations can seek reimbursement from state and federal agencies.
                 “It’s all designed to be NIMS compliant,” Williams said.
                 The National Incident Management System is a national system to coordinate emergency responses between several agencies. Ensuring rural water associations can operate within the NIMS system will allow them to coordinate with other agencies and better seek reimbursement for their efforts.
                 Each director received a Certificate of Demonstrated Competence in Incident Management for successfully completing the training. Both trainers considered the session a success and more training is planned for field staff.
                 “We had a lot of participation and generated a lot of discussion,” Williams said.
                 “Several of the directors talked to us afterward and asked us to do another session for the field staff,” Credeur added.
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