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Roberts trains for emergency management

Kristen Sailer, St. Croix County emergency management coordinator, and John Bond, Roberts Public Works director, discuss some of the details of the Village of Roberts Waterworks Emergency Response Tabletop Exercise on Wednesday, Dec. 12.

What would happen if a large water main broke and drained Roberts's water tower to dangerously low levels?

Village of Roberts Public Works employees, Village of Roberts representatives and representatives of other local governments and state government agencies met to answer this question during an emergency response tabletop exercise on Wednesday, Dec. 12, in the Roberts Village meeting room.

The exercise was led by Jo Ann Wipperfurth of Pre-Emergency Planning, LLC, a company that creates and runs events to help municipalities prepare for any possible future emergencies.

Roberts Public Works Director John Bond said Wipperfurth was able to do a tabletop exercise in Roberts, thanks to a state grant. The point of the exercise was to help Roberts' public works utility assess their preparedness for a waterworks emergency.

At the event, Wipperfurth presented the assembled group with a scenario, and then discussed with them how they would react in the situation.

The "emergency" situation was as follows: on a Saturday, with Bond on vacation, the emergency alert system on the village's water tower sends a message to public works employee Brian Anderson. The tank is dangerously low, and Roberts residents' water pressure is dropping, especially in higher-elevation areas.

Public works employees Brian Anderson and Mark Friedrich had to figure out what they would do in that situation, to fix the problem. Anderson and Friedrich determined a leak in a large water main would have caused the problem. Then they went over the process of fixing the leak, which involved driving around the village, looking for water leaking from the affected water main, closing off the water main, repairing it and chlorinating the water for the public's protection.

The Roberts Public Works Department would be well-able to handle this process, even on a Saturday with Bond himself on vacation, Bond said.

"That's a very strong point," Bond said. "Normally, we can have whatever the problem is repaired quite rapidly."

This doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement, Bond said.

"The biggest thing that we would look at improving is how we would notify the public," Bond said. The tabletop exercise brought to light options Bond said he had not previously been aware of, for example, a telephone-based warning system run by the county and one run by St. Croix Central School District, both of which he said could be utilized during an emergency. He said local media would also be notified.

He said the point of the tabletop exercise was to help identify areas like this that could be improved.

All in all, Bond said the tabletop exercise was a valuable experience, making Roberts more prepared for a waterworks emergency, should one occur.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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