| Retired water structures potential training tool for emergency responders
AWWA Articles

Retired water structures potential training tool for emergency responders

Below is a condensed version of an article by Keith B. Waterhouse, published in the May 2020 issue of the American Water Works Association’s Opflow magazine.

CWC water tank used by local fire departmentPublic water utility structures -- like tanks, buildings and vaults -- can provide a valuable community service beyond their retirement, according to Keith Waterhouse, construction project supervisor with Connecticut Water Company (CWC).

When these assets are no longer useful for serving local water needs, they can provide a real-life scenario for emergency personnel to practice specialized rescue skills.

This was the case in Guildford, Conn., where a decommissioned water storage tank (pictured above) owned by CWC was used as a training ground for the Guilford Fire Department (GFD) before demolition.

The fire department leads a regional special hazards team that conducts aerial, trench and confined-space rescues. The tank’s height and other characteristics provided an ideal site for a multi-day training for dozens of fire personnel.

According to Michael Shove, GFD assistant chief, “Anytime there’s a scenario that our members are unfamiliar with, it adds to the realism and vastly improves the training experience and the teaching opportunity.”

In addition, after CWC purchased a plot of land to develop a new booster station, it provided GFD access to a vacant house on the property to practice rescue scenarios. The utility is considering offering its decommissioned treatment plant in Vernon, Conn., as a training arena for active-shooter readiness for police and emergency medical personnel.

“These offerings to local first responders builds relationships with them,” said CWC’s Lead Superintendent Donald Schumacher. “It provides a unique training location to strengthen their skills and familiarizes them with our operations.”

Kevin WaterhouseWaterhouse (pictured right) provided the following suggestions to utilities considering lending retired assets for community service:

  • Protect the organization: Perform a comprehensive hazards survey to identify and remediate any hazards that could impact training participants. Post prominent notice of any potential hazards. Share the information with the training agency to help them select proper personal protective equipment and ask them for an additional insured coverage rider.
  • Notify stakeholders: This is a positive contribution to your community, so mention it on your website and social media platforms. Notify the local media about your donation. Ask the training agency using your donated facility to promote this as well.
  • Engage your community: Consider inviting local residents to your donated site to observe some of the activities and learn more about your utility.

“Partnering with first responders demonstrates authentic community engagement by the utility,” stated Waterhouse. “It also gives these local heroes a glimpse of your assets, providing insight that may be helpful if their services are needed in a real emergency.”