15 employees of the Las Vegas Valley Water District are training at the Center for Domestic Preparedness this week, taking the Incident Command: Capabilities, Planning and Response Actions for All Hazards (IC) course.
The Las Vegas Valley Water District, with its approximately 800-person staff, covers all of southern Nevada. The regional water district serves two million customers daily, as well as the 35 million visitors who travel to the district each year.
One concern for the district is the lack of water, according to the district’s emergency manager, John Hines, one of the students taking the IC course. Las Vegas draws its water from Lake Mead, which is part of the Colorado River. Most of the water that flows into the lake is the result of melting snow. With less and less snow over the past several years, the lake’s water level has dropped 100 feet over the past 10 years, Hines said. The district is installing a multi-million dollar intake pipe that will draw from the bottom of the lake, a project that won’t be finished for a couple more years.
“We’re kicking into high gear on our conservation efforts now,” Hines said. “So, we’re hoping for some better weather. That project will come on line in a few more years.”
Yet another concern that falls directly into Hines area of expertise is the potential for a terrorist attack or other incident or accident that could affect the water district and the region’s water supply.
“Our agency is critical because water and the water sector are identified as critical infrastructure. Just by being that, we’re a target,” Hines explained. “Everybody needs water to drink, to fight fires. Because of that, we need to be on our game.”
In July 2013, the Carpenter 1 fire burned 27,800 acres on Mount Charleston, just 35 miles northwest of the Las Vegas strip. Wildfires are still considered a major risk in the Las Vegas area, according to June 24, article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The emergency management position is a relatively new one for the district and Hines is the first to fill it. He took the position after retiring from the Las Vegas Police Department where his last assignment had been as a sergeant in the All-Hazards Unit. While assigned to the All-Hazards Unit, Hines had taken a couple of the hazardous materials technician courses at the CDP. In his new role, his new supervisor asked him to get the staff trained on emergency management. The district has an emergency operations center on site, but most of the water authority staff does not have an emergency management background. Hines and the CDP are trying to fix that this week.
“One of my directions from bosses were to get the staff trained up on emergency management to help get them integrated into emergency operations centers, so that they will be able to work with first responders in our community when we’re called to the county EOC,” Hines explained. “The first thing that came to my mind was this facility.”
Hines emailed the CDP’s Western Region Training Coordinator, David Hall. “He called me back immediately. He said we have a course coming up. How many people are you looking to send?” Hines started with 10 seats in the IC course, but he had so many colleagues who were interested, that he asked Hall if he could have 15 seats.
Training along with Hines this week is a diverse group from the district, ranging from lab technicians to security personnel.
“What we tried to do was get a cross-section of the company. Depending on the emergency, we’re going to have different people working in the EOC,” Hines said. “If the water is contaminated, we’re going to have lab and security people in there.”
In the end, Hines was able to bring some “fairly key” staff members to training with him. He hopes they will be able to go back and share their newly learned knowledge and instill an interest in CDP training in other employees. He also pointed out the added value for the staff back in Las Vegas this week that have the opportunity to fill a different role while their colleagues are here training.
To prepare for their CDP training, Hines made sure that everyone who was coming to the IC course went online and did their prerequisite work so they’d be familiar with the IC terminology. In addition, he was able to give everyone an informal CDP orientation.
“This is my third trip here, so I was able to give everyone a rundown of what would happen when we got here,” Hines said. “The first thing I said is everything is right there. The training facility is centralized. The food is fantastic and you never leave hungry. And, the instructors have come all over. They have worked real disasters. They were at 9-11; they were at Katrina; they were at Hurricane Sandy; and a lot of these guys have deployed to combat. These guys are the real heroes of the nation. So we are being taught by the best.”
CDP training for state, local and tribal responders is fully funded by DHS, to include travel, lodging and meals. For more information on IC or and other upcoming CDP courses, go to http://cdp.dhs.gov. You can also follow the CDP on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.