Florida’s Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network is the formalized system of “utilities helping utilities” to address mutual aid during emergency situations. The project’s infrastructure consists of a secure web-based data bank of available resources and a practical mutual aid agreement designed to reduce bureaucratic red tape in times of emergency. The goal of FlaWARN is to provide immediate relief for member utilities during times of emergencies. The purpose is to get personnel with the necessary tools and equipment that can both assess and assist the impacted water and wastewater system as quickly as possible by whatever means necessary until such time that a permanent solution to the devastation may be implemented.

In responding to many natural disaster emergencies in 2005, FlaWARN demonstrated that a network of “utilities helping utilities” is the best method for responding to the immediate water and wastewater damage caused by natural disasters. By combining a mutual aid network with a security information collaborative FlaWARN has been able to cover all aspects of both natural and manmade emergency assistance.

FlaWARN was modeled after an emergency response network in California named CalWARN, California Water/Wastewater Response Network. CalWARN was designed as strictly a mutual aid assistance network. By combining mutual aid network with security information collaborative, FlaWARN has been able to cover all aspects of both natural and manmade emergency assistance.

During the hurricanes of 2004, utilities throughout the state found it difficult to get the needed assistance without a formalized agreement for the responding utility to get reimbursed for their efforts. FlaWARN resolved this issue by offering member utilities a standardized mutual aid agreement outlining terms and conditions of reimbursement prior to requesting and receiving assistance.

Florida is vulnerable to a variety of natural and manmade hazards that threaten the safety and well being of our communities, businesses and the environment. When Hurricanes Charlie, Frances, Jeanne and Ivan impacted the state of Florida in the fall of 2004, it became very apparent that there was a need to expand the effort statewide. Florida Water-Wastewater Agency Response Network or FlaWARN was borne shortly thereafter in April of 2005.

FDEP funds FlaWARN using a portion from their EPA Water Protection Grant. 66.474 WATER PROTECTION GRANTS TO THE STATES

AUTHORIZATION Safe Drinking Water Act, Section 1442, as amended. Department of Defense and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Recovery from and Response to Terrorist Attacks on the United States Act, 2002; Public Law 107-117; Consolidated Appropriations Resolution of 2003; Public Law 108-7; Consolidated Appropriations Resolution of 2004; Public Law 108-199.

A steering committee provides leadership for FlaWARN. It is composed of representatives of five state water/wastewater professional organizations including: AWWA, FWEA, FWPCOA, FRWA, SEDA; three at large members and a representative of FDEP. The University of Florida Center for Training, Research and Education for Environmental Occupations (UF/TREEO) is responsible for implementing the program. Meetings of the steering committee are conducted via phone conferences or in person as needed.

When there is advance knowledge of an event, such as a hurricane, the steering committee starts pre-planning three to four days out. As the hurricane is tracked, utilities out of the path of the storm gear up to help the affected areas.

Member utilities are able to request assistance through the FlaWARN web site. Since electricity is often out during an emergency, FlaWARN administrators and steering committee members attempt to contact, using emergency contact information, all members in the area of the storm and determine their needs. Administrators may then post any needs to the web page. This is an innovative process because it allows member utilities to match their available resources to requests for assistance. FlaWARN is designed to get the correct resources to the appropriate location within the first days after an event.

FlaWARN is designed to gear up without any notice using the web page and personal contact to respond to any man-made emergencies or other disasters.

FlaWARN responded to four major events in 2005. Starting with Hurricane Dennis in the Florida Panhandle in July and most recently Hurricane Wilma in October, FlaWARN has mobilized member utilities to respond with plant operators, mechanics, electrical technicians, generators, pumps, Vactor-Jet trucks, and water distribution and wastewater collection system repair crews. Working conditions are always difficult and crews are often forced to sleep in their vehicles and eat military rations. Hurricane Katrina presented the greatest logistical challenge since sixteen FlaWARN member utilities responded to requests for assistance in the state of Mississippi. This effort was followed with five member utilities that were sent to Texas after Hurricane Rita.

Forty-five member utilities from Central and North Florida responded to the many affected areas of South Florida impacted by Hurricane Wilma. Over two hundred Florida industry professionals descended on affected areas to restore water and wastewater service. This is thought to be the largest water and wastewater mutual aid response to date in the United States.

FlaWARN is made up of Water and Wastewater Utilities across Florida, assisted by regulatory, technical, and law enforcement agencies. In addition to 125 member utilities, FlaWARN collaborates with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the University Of Florida TREEO Center, the Florida Rural Water Association, the State Emergency Response Team, the Florida Section of American Water Works Association, the Florida Water & Pollution Control Operations Association, the Florida Water Environment Association and the Southeast Desalting Association.