Emergency Planning and Preparedness Tips for Wastewater and Water Treatment Plant Operators

Use this list to evaluate how prepared your facility is for an emergency.

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You and your staff have been to multiple training sessions and you've written pages of materials for emergency planning and preparedness. But sometimes the most obvious requirements need to be reviewed regularly to ensure everything is in place and up-to-date.

This checklist provides operators and key staff members with information and advice on critical items that should be considered and checked to help you gauge your treatment plant's emergency preparedness status.

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  1. Staff Training - Insure that all staff is familiar with emergency protocols, including assignments and responsibilities. Conduct periodic training exercises. Make sure key staff are trained and have a working knowledge of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the Incident Command System (ICS) in case you are involved with an emergency situation that triggers the use of these management and coordination systems.
  2. Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) - Make sure that your COOP is up-to-date and anticipates how you would continue to keep your facility staffed and operational during a variety of emergency situations. Guidance for developing a comprehensive COOP is available from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. (See "Additional Resources" below.) Develop a list of key people/agencies to contact including how they can be contacted in an emergency. Maintain accurate employee lists and emergency contact lists including EPA and MassDEP regional staff. Develop protocols in case telephone lines are down and cell phones do not work. Consider use of CB radios or satellite phones with a supply of extra batteries.
  3. Emergency Power - Standby power equipment capable of running all equipment, including major pump stations, and consistent with applicable discharge permit requirements shall be provided. This includes both fixed-in-place generators and portable generators. All standby power facilities should be tested monthly, including transfer switches. An adequate fuel supply (10-14 days) should be provided. If necessary, fill all fuel tanks prior to the event.
  4. Hazardous Materials - Conduct an inventory of potentially hazardous chemicals/materials, including those that by themselves may be safe but could potentially be hazardous in combination with other chemicals. Particular attention should be paid to chlorine storage areas and chlorine equipment. Develop safety protocols, including staff training, in case of hazardous release. Develop a list of emergency contacts, including the local fire department, dependent on the problem.
  5. Record Drawings and O&M Manual - Insure that updated copies of record drawings and an O&M Manual are available, both for the treatment facilities and the pump stations.
  6. Identify Flood-Prone Areas - Develop a list of areas potentially subject to flooding, such as manholes, open tanks, pump wells, wells, etc. Any special equipment required when those areas are flooded should be purchased. Also consider having an inventory of sand bags available for limited "flood-proofing" during minor flooding situations.
  7. Spare Parts - Insure that an adequate spare parts inventory is available.
  8. Chemical Inventories - Insure that adequate chemical inventories are available (10-14 days).
  9. Vehicles - Check that all vehicles are in proper working order and fuel tanks are filled.
  10. Supplies - Insure that adequate supplies are available for on-duty personnel during the emergency conditions, including non-perishable food, potable water, flashlights, first aid supplies, and cots.
  11. Protection of Facilities - As appropriate, have plans for protecting and securing windows and exposed equipment. Consider having an inventory of lumber available for use in protecting windows.
  12. Facility Access - To insure access to the facility after a storm, there should be equipment for clearing debris, including chain saws with an adequate fuel supply and axes. If possible, identify an area to stage storm debris until it can be removed from the site. Make sure fuel for emergency equipment is stored safely, in a manner that will not contaminate the drinking water supply.
  13. Interconnections (Water Only) - Locate and exercise all interconnections that may be needed during an emergency.

Additional Resources for Checklist