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Mississippi Hosts Successful Water Exercise

On May 8th, the Mississippi Department of Health, in concert with the state’s Department of Emergency Management and Department of Environmental Quality, US EPA, and the Mississippi Rural Water Association hosted a statewide Emergency Response/Recovery Exercise for the Water Sector.  Using a New Madrid-like earthquake scenario, approximately 70 participants from the state’s water and wastewater utilities, local emergency management representatives, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Department of Homeland Security joined the Federal and States hosts to assess how they would partner, coordinate, communicate, and collaborate in the face of a catastrophic event such as the region-wide earthquake described in the scenario.  Participants considered their ability to respond across a timeline that spanned from the first hours after the incident through several months post event.
Much of the discussion had its foundation in Mississippi’s longstanding experience with hurricanes — most significantly, the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina.  However, lessons learned were even being gleaned from the response to the tornadoes that swept across the state just the week before the exercise.  Participants were asked to consider the likely consequences from an earthquake — loss of service and/or pressure from ruptured pipes; dislocated well housings; inaccessible roads to/from facilities; downed bridges and power lines; disrupted supply chains; lack of adequate medical services if hospitals and clinics suffered structural damage; and fear and uncertainty within all of the affected communities.
At the end of the day, numerous “next steps” were identified for all of the agencies and organizations in the room.  All agreed that regardless of how many storms or supply challenges they had faced in the past, there’s always more to be learned and improvements that can be implemented.