Drinking Water Security and Emergency Response

The DWS has developed various materials regarding drinking water security and emergency response. The resources and links we’ve provided will enable CT’s public drinking water system staff to access model emergency response plans, security experts, and other critical security tools that can be integrated into daily operational procedures.

In addition to the development of materials, the DWS has also partnered with the CT Section of the American Water Works Association, other CT State agencies and public water system representatives, to create the CT Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network, or CTWARN. The CTWARN enables water and wastewater systems in CT to restore facilities damaged by natural or man-made incidents by sharing resources with other member systems. Additional information on this free service can be found at https://ctawwa.org/CtWARN.

In the event that the DWS receives notice of a credible threat to water system infrastructure or water quality, impacted parties will be notified immediately. The DWS uses a Wide Area Notification System or “WANS”. To assure prompt notification please inform the DWS of any changes to your system’s contact information. For more information about the DPH/DWS’s emergency communication notification systems and a WANS Contact Information Form please see the Statewide CWS Security & Emergency Communication Notification System.

  • Public Water System Guide for Reporting a Water Security Incident  - A guide for reporting a water security incident.

  • Public Drinking Water Security & EmergencyResponse Guide

  • Emergency Response Guide for Small to Medium Community Public Water Systems - EPA's guidance on developing or revising Emergency Response Plans (ERPs) for small- and medium-sized community drinking water systems. An ERP is a documented plan that describes the actions that a Community Water System (CWS) would take in response to various major events.

  • An Introduction to Emergency Preparedness- A “Security Checklist” of What to Do and Who to Call for CT’s Public Water Systems

  • Background check of certified operators and operator applicants - It is the DWS’s position to encourage Public Water Systems (PWS) to have background checks performed on its operators. The purpose is to provide a basic screening to possibly detect if an operator or an operator applicant could be a threat to the operation of a PWS and therefore a threat to the public health.

  • Water Sector-Specific Plan - The Water SSP was released by the Department of Homeland Security in collaboration with the US Environmental Protection Agency on May 29, 2007. The Water SSP is a broad-based Water Sector critical infrastructure protection strategy developed under the Department of Homeland Security's National Infrastructure Protection Plan and was produced by EPA in coordination with Water Sector security partners, which includes the Water Sector Coordinating Council (SCC) and Government Coordinating Council (GCC). The SSP outlines four goals and supporting objectives for the Water Sector: sustain protection of public health and the environment; recognize and reduce risks; maintain a resilient infrastructure; and increase communication, outreach, and public confidence.

  • NIMS/ ICS Training- National Incident Management System (NIMS)/ Incident Command System (ICS) Training Courses through the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Emergency Management Institute Independent Study Program.

The Requirement for a Water Supply Emergency Contingency Plan

The Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies Section 25-32(d)-3(d), requires each water company supplying water to 1,000 or more persons or 250 or more consumers, to have a water supply emergency contingency plan as part of a water supply plan. The regulation requires that the plan identify critical system components and establish procedures for sabotage prevention and response. 

Statewide CWS Security & Emergency Communication Notification System

The DPH/DWS uses the CT Health Alert Network (CT HAN) and the Wide Area Notification System (WANS) communication mechanisms. The CTHAN is a composite of communication mechanisms including broadcast fax, and web based blast e-mail. It is a means of relaying secure and sensitive drinking water security and public health bioterrorism information to all involved parties.

Connecticut’s community water systems serving a population of one thousand or greater have provided contact information of staff that are appropriately designated to handle high priority and sensitive security information. Those chosen to assume this responsibility are considered equivalent to the EPA’s Water Utility Emergency Response Manager (WUERM) designation. A WUERM is an emergency response lead who is the main point of contact and decision maker during a major event affecting your PWS. As a result, the WEURM may receive critical information from the CT DPH during an actual or perceived public health threat or emergency and must be prepared to act accordingly. Information can be filtered to PWS contacts through broadcast fax, blast e-mail, and/or the WANS.  

Please read the WANS Information Form to learn more about the WANS (i.e. what the WANS is, what the messages say, how to respond to the messages you receive, etc.) and your responsibilities within this notification system. If your CWS would like to be involved in the CTHAN, download a WANS Contact Information Form and have the appropriate staff person(s) fill out and return to the DWS. 

WANS Contact Information Form and Instructions

Please contact Rachel Nowek of the DWS with any questions at (860) 509-7333.


A “pandemic” is a global disease outbreak. A flu pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges for which people have little or no immunity, and for which there is no vaccine. The disease spreads easily from person-to-person, causes serious illness, and can sweep across the country and around the world in a very short time.

Public and private drinking water systems must plan and prepare in advance for a potential influenza pandemic. During a natural disaster or pandemic emergency, it should be assumed that public water systems will experience severe staffing shortages.  There could be a 30-40% absentee rate due to those who are ill, those caring for ill persons, those caring for others such as children when schools are closed, and those who will be fearful of exposure.  There is also potential for disruption to communications, transportation, services, utilities, and to public safety.

Experts agree that the question is not “if” a pandemic influenza outbreak will occur, but rather “when” it will occur. Health professionals are concerned that the continued spread of a highly pathogenic avian H5N1 virus across eastern Asia and other countries represents a significant threat to human health. The H5N1 virus has raised concerns about a potential human pandemic because:

  • It is especially virulent
  • It is being spread by migratory birds
  • It can be transmitted from birds to mammals and in some limited circumstances to humans, and
  • Like other influenza viruses, it continues to evolve
The Water Sector has been designated as a Critical Infrastructure by Homeland Security Presidential Directive 7. This means that clean drinking water is an essential function of the United States society and economy. As such it is extremely important that you develop specific plans to protect your employees and maintain operations during a pandemic. As a critical infrastructure, public water systems have a special responsibility to plan for continued operations in a crisis.

The following resources have been compiled for your information as your public water system evaluates critical functions and how those would be covered in a disaster or pandemic situation.