Massachusetts water and wastewater utilities have developed a Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (WARN). The Massachusetts WARN is intended to facilitate a utilities-helping-utilities approach to providing assistance to water and wastewater utilities during times of crisis. The WARN is to provides a method for water and wastewater utilities that have sustained damage from natural or manmade events to obtain emergency assistance in the form of personnel, equipment, materials and other associated services as necessary from other utilities. The objective is to provide rapid, short-term deployment of emergency services to restore the critical operation of the affected utility. The benefits of the WARN include:

  • Minimal or no cost to participants
  • Like investing in a no cost insurance policy to access resources when needed
  • Increases emergency preparedness and coordination
  • Enhances access to specialized resources
  • Provides access to resources statewide through a single agreement
  • Expedites the arrival of aid
  • Contains indemnification and worker's compensation provisions to protect participating utilities
  • Provides reimbursement protocols
  • Meets FEMA requirements for reimbursement

The Massachusetts WARN supports and promotes statewide emergency preparedness, disaster response, and mutual aid assistance for public and private water and wastewater utilities. A pre-existing, well-drafted, mutual aid/assistance agreement, such as a WARN, is key to receiving FEMA reimbursement, if such financial assistance is available. FEMA will only reimburse mutual aid/assistance costs if the following conditions are met:

  • The agreement is written and was in effect prior to the disaster;
  • The agreement is not contingent upon declaration of a major disaster or emergency;
  • A presidential disaster has been declared;
  • The entity that received the aid was charged for the aid; and
  • The entity can provide documentation of rates and payments for services, if requested.

The establishment of mutual aid and assistance networks is a core principal of the National Preparedness Goal developed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Developing agreements before a crisis occurs can enhance local emergency response capabilities. An additional driving force behind such agreements is the National Incident Management System (NIMS). NIMS supports handling emergencies at the lowest possible level first, then the state level, and finally at the federal level if necessary. A NIMS compliance requirement for tribal and local government is to participate in and promote intrastate and interagency mutual aid agreements, including agreements with private sector and non-government organizations.

For more information on joining the Massachusetts WARN, please visit: www.mawarn.org.