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New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services

Emergency Planning

On March 15, 2002 NHDES adopted Administrative Rule Env-Dw 503.21, which requires all community systems to have and maintain an emergency plan (plan). The first plan was required to be submitted to NHDES in 2003 and then every six years after that. So the next submittal due date is April 6, 2015.

It further requires the plan be reviewed annually by the system and updated as needed. Additionally, the plan will be a checklist item during each sanitary survey and lack of one will be a survey deficiency.

To aid systems in preparing an effective plan, NHDES has developed an Emergency Planning Guide that is intended to help people understand and meet the basic standards for an emergency plan. Additional emergency planning documents are also available.

Each system can choose for itself the author or authors of their plan. However, it is ultimately the owner’s responsibility to make sure a plan is completed. Both the owner and operator must sign completed plan. Developing a plan that will effectively meet the needs of a system in the event of an emergency is directly related to the quality of the input that goes into it. The better the input, the better and more effective the plan. Consequently, NHDES strongly recommends that the people most knowledgeable about a system’s users, equipment, infrastructure, and resources be at the forefront of authorship.

NHDES recognizes that every system will be different in terms of the resources they will allocate for their plan. For small systems, a basic plan meeting NHDES requirements should require only a minimal investment of time. However, some systems may want to develop, implement, or maintain their plans at a more advanced level. For more information about plan requirements or for questions and assistance, refer to the rules and publications listed below, or contact program staff.

Documents and Tools

National Incident Management System (NIMS) and Incident Command System (ICS)

Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5 "Management of Domestic Incidents" requires that states, territories, local jurisdictions and tribal entities adopt the National Incident Management System (NIMS). NIMS enables responders from a variety of jurisdictions and disciplines to work together effectively when responding to an emergency. The private sector, including water and wastewater treatment systems, also plays a vital role in NIMS. The implementation of the NIMS creates a baseline capability that, once established, will be the foundation for the nation’s prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery strategies. NIMS compliance benefits include access to Federal preparedness grants (the recipient must be NIMS compliant), strengthened response capabilities by following a nationally adopted, standard practice for emergency response, improved mobilization, deployment, utilization, tracking, and demobilization of needed resources, and established protocols for improved communication with other levels of response.

EPA has been providing training on Incident Command System (ICS) and National Incident Command (NIMS) tailored to the water sector to ensure that water systems are prepared to respond to disasters. These training materials are available to help water and wastewater systems better understand the ICS structure and implement NIMS concepts and principles.

More information regarding NIMS and ICS can also be found on the FEMA website.


If a pandemic flu should occur, it could infect much of New Hampshire’s population and keep much of the work force home. Operators may not be able to come to work for possibly six to eight weeks. Systems need to be prepared as much as possible. Basic supplies and services may be limited for extended periods. Consider if you lost 50 percent or more of your staff. How will your system function and who are your critical employees? Systems should identify operational needs for the most basic functions, consider obstacles to securing those needs and identify necessary resources. Systems should review and update their emergency plan to address:

  • Reduced operational staff (additional automation, basic written instructions for essential equipment and activities, cross training and mutual aid agreements)
  • Problems with equipment and supplies such as chemical deliveries (identify back up suppliers)
  • Problems with other interdependencies/utilities (e.g. electricity)
  • Develop communication mechanisms
  • Develop a sick leave policy and encourage employee health and safety

Documents are available to assist in the planning process.



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NH Department of Environmental Services | 29 Hazen Drive | PO Box 95 | Concord, NH 03302-0095
(603) 271-3503 | TDD Access: Relay NH 1-800-735-2964 | Hours: M-F, 8am-4pm

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