The public water supply must have an emergency plan DESCRIBING PROCEDURES to be followed to correct problems with the distribution system, wells and source water.

The plan should detail the following:

  1. Identification of possible disruption threats.
  2. Designation of an emergency coordinator for the public water supply.
  3. Equipment and material resources.
  4. Procedures to shut down and isolate the threatened or contaminated water from the distribution system.
  5. Procedures to coordinate with county and state emergency response agencies.
  6. Procedures to effectively communicate with the water users.
  7. Sources of emergency water for drinking and other household uses as well as sources of equipment to transport, disinfect and distribute the water.
  8. Procedures to decontaminate the distribution system and the well.
  9. Sources of emergency funds and procedures for requesting and dispersing such funds.
  10. Replacement source.

Possible disruption threats include chemical or fuel spills, leaking above or underground storage tanks, pipeline leaks, flooding, pump failure, main breaks, power outages and vandalism. Pay particular attention to transportation corridors (highway and rail) through the source water protection area. A major highway, rail line or industrial area near your well or intake may increase the chances of an emergency. The inventory step should have identified many of these potential threats already. Water system users can also assist in the recognition of emergency situations by providing public education through an annual water bill insert.

Once a problem is identified and reported, response personnel need to be notified. A roster with names, telephone numbers, responsibilities and back-up personnel should be created and kept up to date. A chain of command should describe each individual’s responsibility and one person should be designated as the emergency coordinator. The legal authority under which you act can be identified through discussions with the local emergency management coordinator or the local governing body. It is especially important for non-municipal public water systems to know what authority they can use to protect their water supply in the event a crisis occurs.

A list of existing and needed equipment and materials (spare parts, disinfection chemicals, spill containment supplies, personnel protective equipment) should be compiled. Sources for outside assistance and equipment that may be needed in an emergency such as well drillers, excavators, portable pumps, generators, emergency disinfection equipment and technical consultants should be identified. A contact sheet listing the need and probable source should be generated.

Signing up with PA-WARN through AWWA PA Section may be very helpful to locate needed resources. PaWARN is a statewide Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (WARN) of “utilities helping utilities” to prepare for the next natural or human-caused emergency. Click here to learn more.

A map of your distribution system with important valve locations should be included in the contingency plan. It may be possible to color code various sections of your system on the map to clearly identify sections that you can isolate and where the valves are located. Include a description of your maintenance schedule for important valves. The map should also show possible sample points to be used in the event a contaminant is isolated in certain parts of the system.

DETAILS: Developing Your Emergency Plan. Go >>


Additional Information and Resources

PA DEP Emergency Response Program

The Department of Environmental Protection’s mission during emergencies and disasters is to respond quickly and professionally to any incident which adversely affects the health and safety or the environment of the citizens of the Commonwealth. First on-scene is usually the Environmental Emergency Response Team whose members are highly trained, experienced emergency first responders.



1309 Bridge Street – Lower Level
New Cumberland, PA 17070
Phone: 717-774-8870
Fax: 717-774-0288

PaWARN provides water and wastewater utilities with:

  • A Mutual Aid Agreement and process for sharing emergency resources among water and wastewater agencies statewide.
  • A mutual assistance program consistent with other statewide mutual aid and assistance programs and the National Incident Management System.
  • The resources to respond and recover more quickly from a natural or human caused disaster.
  • A forum for developing and maintaining emergency contacts and relationships.

Pennsylvania Emergency Preparedness Guide (from

Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA)


EPA Water Security website:

EPA’s Water Security Initiative Consequence Management Plans Development Guidance:

EPA’s FedFUNDS tool:


ASDWA Security Information:

ASDWA and EPA’s Bridging the Gap fact sheet:



A Water and Wastewater Agency Response Network is a network of utilities helping other utilities to respond to and recover from emergencies. The purpose of a WARN is to provide a method whereby water/wastewater utilities that have sustained or anticipate damages from natural or human-caused incidents can provide and receive emergency aid and assistance in the form of personnel, equipment, materials and other associated services as necessary from other water/wastewater utilities.

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