In an effort to further enhance communications during emergencies, the Service Authority is turning to what some consider “old school” technology.
Last fall, the SA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Prince William County Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES). The organization, which partnered with the County government after 9/11, consists of 31 licensed amateur radio operators who contribute their qualifications and equipment during disasters.
The operators can serve in a number of ways, including as emergency dispatchers should the Service Authority’s phone system and backup technology go down, said Service Authority Emergency Preparedness & Security Manager Zvi Gruenspecht.
In September of 2018, Gruenspecht reached out to Prince William ARES Emergency Coordinator David Lane to establish the MOU. During their discussions, he helped Lane understand the important role a water and wastewater utility can play in many types of emergencies.
“If there is no water treatment during an emergency, hospitals would have to close, and that makes the Service Authority a pretty important agency,” said Lane. “We are happy to lend support in any way we can.”
“We want to leverage every resource we can to better communicate during an emergency,” said Gruenspecht. “Should all other modes of communication fail, having a formal agreement in place with ARES allows us to better meet our customers’ needs.”
The MOU has even caught the attention of the Environmental Protection Agency, which plans on featuring it as a case study in its upcoming Power Resilience Guide.