CAIRO, Ga. – Emergency: A Rural Water team starts loading diesel generators onto a semi-trailer while others methodically work through the process of connecting generators and bypass pumps. It’s only a few weeks after hurricanes like Harvey and Irma made landfall, and 83 Rural Water experts from 23 states are in Cairo, Georgia, training for the next potential disaster.
The annual training has been a part of the National Rural Water Association’s focus improving Rural Water’s emergency response capability since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The event was organized and hosted by the Arkansas Rural Water Association, Florida Rural Water Association, Georgia Rural Water Association and Louisiana Rural Water Association at FRWA’s emergency warehouse in Cairo.
“I like to say that emergency response is what you do every day; if a community loses water it’s an emergency for them,” said Gary Williams, FRWA Executive Director. “What we’re training for is when the emergency is more widespread.”
The event is designed to cover all aspects of emergency response, from planning and management, to loading and unloading heavy equipment, to connecting emergency generators. These are the foundational skills for emergency response, but each disaster is unique and they often require responders to adapt to those new situations.
“These hurricanes were bad, but they weren’t like Hurricane Rita,” said Patrick Credeur, LRWA Executive Director, in reference to another, powerful 2005 hurricane that struck Louisiana. “Rita’s 20-foot storm surge washed away over 500 homes in the Holly Beach community and pushed the debris 18 miles inland. It was total devastation.”
Dennis Sternberg and Jeff Ford from ARWA discussed practical equipment upgrades for associations interested in acquiring their own generators or other emergency response equipment. The primary recommendation was to implement a GPS-based fleet tracking solution that would allow the association to track and manage equipment used during the emergency.
Amy Rammo-Kuhs from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division gave a presentation about the operation of Georgia’s State command centers during the recent disaster. She also presented coins to employees from Fort Payne, Alabama, in recognition of the community’s assistance to Georgia after hurricane Irma.
All Photos from the Emergency Response Training