The Environmental Health section of the Hoke County Health Department is planning to hold a tabletop exercise next month to be better prepared for emergencies involving local water supplies.
The exercise, set for July 21, will likely be a mix of in-person but socially distanced training, and online instruction. The preparedness work is just a precaution so that the local water systems and Environmental Health are ready in the event of a problem such as a water main break.
Hoke County and the city of Raeford utility departments, and Northwest and Hillcrest water providers were all invited to take part. Major local entities including the hospitals and nursing homes were also invited to be part of the exercise, Environmental Health Specialist Melissa Ham said.
“It’s a similar scenario like if we had a water main break, how would the hospital respond to it, how would the nursing homes respond to it,” she said. “Those are real life things, those do happen, so we feel like that would help.”
Hoke experienced a problem with water line breaks in 2016, when Hurricane Matthew and an unusually heavy rainfall just a week apart washed out roads and damaged water pipes in some parts of the county. Other issues such as possible contamination of a water system are also something that water emergency training can help address, so staffers are ready before an incident happens.
The department doesn’t hold water emergency exercises every year, but it does try to stay on top of training, Ham said. It especially helps staff members and local leaders to stay in touch, and know who is in which position at different water suppliers if they need to contact them in an actual emergency.
“It’s to improve communications between various agencies,” Ham said.
It also gives medical care facilities a chance to brush up on their emergency policies, such as planning to have bottled water delivered if necessary.
The exercise could be a mix of virtual and in-person training due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.