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Do You Have Plans For 2023? – Newsletter From Patti Kay Wisniewski, Drinking Water Security/Preparedness Coordinator, USEPA, Region 3, Philadelphia, PA

Do you have plans for 2023?

Happy New Year!

As 2022 ended, you likely thought about New Year’s resolutions for your personal life.  Dieting, more walking, more time with family, and like many of us, more sleep. But have you thought about your plans for 2023 for your water system?  Do you want to spend time on staff preparedness and response activities and need a place to start?

I suggest developing a plan or list then checking off your items one at a time, by selecting an item to work on each month (or if your list is long, one each week or over a two-week period).  Perhaps your team members also have ideas. Be sure to reach out to gather their ideas or assess their needs in order to know how to meet these needs during the coming months.

Why do you need a plan for training and exercises? 

Remember the proverb from Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Having a plan helps you to address these tasks. Providing training and conducting exercises enhances staff preparedness and allows everyone to practice response roles. Practice allows for improvements to plans and to identify areas for future training.

 

So, how do you develop a training and exercise plan (T&E Plan)?  The EPA has many tools to help water utilities.  You may wish to start with this tool for planning found at: https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2015-05/documents/how_to_develop_a_multi-year_training_and_exercise_plan_a_tool_for_the_water_sector.pdf

Other EPA tools include templates, incident action checklists, and resiliency guides. Each tool could be a weekly/monthly focus, and before you know it, you will have accomplished everything on your checklist and started another list for 2024.

You may want to consider joining with a neighboring utility to train, exercise and practice together. Remember, many hands make light work, and you both are likely to have similar concerns and needs. And don’t forget your WARN Chair, WARN members, and local emergency responders. Knowing others and the resources they have that may be available to assist you in an emergency is half the battle of getting ready. This will enhance your capability to respond in an emergency without too much time wasted.

Do not hesitate to reach out to your state drinking water primacy agency. They aren’t just about enforcement. These agencies lend a hand with training and exercises. And remember, you will need them during an emergency impacting your water system, so include them and use their expertise.

Here are a few more tools from EPA’s Water Infrastructure and Cyber Resilience Division (formerly the Water Security Division) to help you take actions to plan, assess, prepare, and respond.

Update drinking water and wastewater Emergency Response Plans (ERPs) and all contact information as this frequently changes. The link below is to a template offered by EPA but not required to be used. You can have your own format. Your state may also offer a similar ERP template.  Be sure to train on and practice your ERP.  This is a means to raising awareness about everyone’s role and procedures.  Practicing can also identify gaps in your plan which can be addressed in the near future with revisions and further training.

https://www.epa.gov/waterutilityresponse/develop-or-update-emergency-response-plan

Remember that the America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA) requires your ERP to be reviewed and updated every five years.  But as you practice your plan, be sure to update to capture new ideas or make adjustments while these are fresh in your mind.

The Incident Action Checklists have numerous ideas for steps to undertake to prepare, respond and recover: https://www.epa.gov/waterutilityresponse/incident-action-checklists-water-utilities.  These actions can be incorporated into your ERP or added to your T&E Plan for future action(s).

And don’t forget about seeking funding.  Reach out to your state revolving loan fund agency to better understand their policies and procedures so you can get your projects in order and ready to apply for and receive funding.

Stay tuned for future articles with more tools from EPA to assist in your readiness and for addressing concerns about cybersecurity and climate change.

Patti Kay Wisniewski, Drinking Water Security/Preparedness Coordinator

USEPA, Region 3, Philadelphia, PA

Wisniewski.patti-kay@epa.gov

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