During the storm-related power outages of 2012, many in this region experienced temporary shortages of water from private well and public water systems alike. It was the first time since the National Incident Management System was adopted that such prolonged multi-power outages occurred in this area. Emergency managers still encourage everyone to stock several days of potable water, but what will really happen when the next water emergency evolves? What is the plan if a local river becomes polluted, or a drought, a flood or another two-week power outage occurs?
Region 4's emergency managers and Local Emergency Planning Committees in the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are developing a series of regionwide preparedness exercises to assist in future planning for water emergencies.
The role of emergency management in disaster is the coordination of responding assets and situational awareness. Agencies such as Public Service Districts must exhaust all of their resources before the local emergency manager can assist them. In the real-world example of the 2012 storms, we found many disaster plans to be unrealistic because they did not plan for such a wide-area, prolonged problem.
To validate this exercise, we need all local agencies and private businesses that would be affected by a critical surface or ground water shortage of any kind to participate. This includes, but is not limited to health, agriculture, sewage treatment, water suppliers, recreational and the well-drilling industry. The scope and objectives of this exercise will be decided over a series of planning meetings.
The initial planning meeting will take place at 1 p.m., Wednesday Sept. 18 in Upshur County. There will be video conference capablities set up for the region. Please contact your local emergency manager for details on where the nearest video link will be held. You can reserve a seat at the Upshur County location by calling the Office of Emergency Management at 304-472-4983.