Jump to main content or area navigation.

Contact Us

Water: Mutual Aid and Assistance

Mutual Aid and Assistance

In coordination with the water sector, the Environmental Protection Agency is supporting a number of projects to promote the use of mutual aid and assistance in response to any event that overwhelms a utility's resources.

Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (WARN)

You will need Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page.
See EPA's PDF page to learn more.

A Water and Wastewater Agency Response Network (WARN) is an intrastate network of "utilities helping utilities" to respond to and recover from emergencies by sharing resources with one another. The WARN framework provides a forum for maintaining emergency contacts, providing expedited access to specialized resources, and facilitating training on resource exchange during an emergency. The American Water Works Association published a white paper, titled Utilities Helping Utilities: An Action Plan for Mutual Aid and Assistance Networks for Water and Wastewater Utilities, Exit EPA Disclaimer to provide utilities with the basic building blocks for developing a successful WARN.

At the heart of WARN is a standardized Mutual Aid and Assistance Agreement, Exit EPA Disclaimer which outlines the terms through which utilities provide resources to one another. The agreement covers key issues such as indemnification, workers compensation, and reimbursement. The resolution of these issues in advance expedites resource sharing between utilities during emergencies.


Background on the WARN Initiative
This video presents background on the WARN initiative and describes how WARN programs were started, the current status of WARN programs across the United States, and the benefits of WARN.

new WARNs in Action
This video presents the types of events in which WARNs can be utilized and discusses in detail one specific WARN response. The video emphasizes that, despite the type of emergency event, WARN coordination with response partners is crucial to a successful response.

A WARN can begin to build a framework of supporting components, shown in Figure 1. Utilities can execute a WARN Operational Plan, which can outline the processes and procedures member utilities use to activate and implement their WARN Agreement. To validate and improve their operational plan, utilities conduct preparedness exercises ( See "Tabletop Exercises" tab).


Figure 1 describes the relationship between multiple components of a WARN.  The graphic shows how the WARN agreement is activated and integrated into the WARN response by the mutual aid and assistance operational plan.  The mutual aid and assistance operational plan is supported by Resource Typing and Job Aids.  WARN members follow the operational during their response to an incident or practice their response in an exercise.  After an incident, an After Action Report and an Improvement Plan can help evaluate the response and identify what training is needed to support future WARN responses.

                           Figure 1. Framework of the WARN Initiative

EPA published the following series of Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (WARN) Fact Sheets to describe WARN:

For additional WARN resources, please visit nationalwarn.org.

The following exercise materials are intended to guide each WARN in the development and execution of a tabletop exercise to create, update and/or improve its operational plan and other emergency response procedures.

  • The Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (WARN) Tabletop Exercise Facilitator Guide provides instructions for planning, organizing and conducting a tabletop exercise and includes sample exercise materials such as scenarios (flood, hurricane, and earthquake) and; discussion questions, and presentation slides. The Facilitator Guide Fact Sheet provides an overview of the Exercise Guide and its benefits, while the Sample PowerPoint Presentation Materials offer an example of how an Exercise could be conducted.

Top of page


new WARN Tabletop Exercises
This video presents an overview of WARN tabletop exercises, which are discussion based workshops based on objectives to help WARNs prepare for emergencies. The video includes footage from actual exercises, describes the benefits of tabletop exercises, and discusses key issues that have been discussed at previous exercises.

Top of page

Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC)

The Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) provides a mechanism whereby states can provide interstate (between states) mutual aid and assistance during incidents. EMAC has demonstrated its value in providing interstate mutual aid and assistance for multiple sectors and disciplines and can be used to share water sector resources such as equipment and personnel across state lines.

Other Supporting Publications

    • American Water Works Association (AWWA) Resource Typing Manual Exit EPA Disclaimer
      This Resource Typing Manual was written to provide guidance to water and wastewater utilities when they request and provide mutual aid and assistance resources during and after an emergency. The resources described in this manual are those anticipated to be needed up to the first thirty days following an incident, emergency, disaster, or catastrophe.

    • AWWA WARN Economic Benefits Exit EPA Disclaimer
      The purpose of this report is to explain to utility managers and decision-makers the economic viability of forming and participating in Water/Wastwater Agency Response Network (WARN).

Jump to main content.