Neighbors Helping Out: A North Carolina Tradition

When an emergency happens, who can you turn to?  What if you need a generator, work crew or backhoe? Do you know where you could get some help?  N.C. Water WARN was created to fill that need.

N.C. Water WARN is a network of water utilities helping each other respond to and recover from emergencies.  This organization of water systems works independently of state government to assist members during an emergency.  The mission of WARN is to provide expedited access to specialized resources needed to respond to and recover from natural and human caused events that disrupt public and private drinking water and wastewater utilities.

The N.C. AWWA - WEA took a leadership role with support from the Public Water Supply Section, N.C. Rural Water Association, N.C. Water Treatment Operators Association and N.C. League of Municipalities to develop and implement N.C. Water WARN.

Click here to view a more detailed map

Who can use NC Water WARN?

Any public or private drinking water or wastewater utility can participate in N.C. Water WARN, regardless of size. The organization can be activated between utilities in crisis with or without a disaster declaration but integrates with the state's Emergency Operations Center during a declared disaster.


  • Intrastate WARNs are volunteer-based, utility-to-utility networks that prepare for disasters, then help member-utilities respond and recover by getting specialized utility resources-personnel and equipment- when and where they are needed.
  • In times of reduced budgets, revenue interruption can be limited by quickly locating specialized resources to reduce costs associated with restoration and returning service in the shortest time possible. WARNs provide a tool to access and share limited and specialized resources. 
  • Without water, wastewater and power services residents cannot reoccupy their residences due to public health laws.   Early WARN pioneers understood the criticality of restoring water and wastewater service as part of local government disaster recovery. Without water, fire suppression was compromised. Without potable water and wastewater systems, hospitals could not heal.

Formal Agreement and Operational Plan

Memberships and involvement in WARNs are managed through a utility-based volunteer organization, formalized by a Mutual Aid and Assistance Agreement, and mobilization is governed by an Operational Plan. The agreement and plan provide for:

  • Inclusion of public and private utilities and associated resources.
  • Formalization of the provision of mutual aid and assistance to enhance the water and wastewater sector resiliency against natural and human-made disaster to ensure continuity of service to our sectors customers.
  • Deployment of resources, which remain under the authority of the sending utility and can be recalled at any time.
  • Indemnification and worker compensation to protect participating utilities.
  • Maintenance of voluntary response as there is no obligation to respond. 
  • Coordination with other agreements or statewide mutual aid programs. The agreement does not supersede existing agreements or programs.

N.C. Water WARN is similar and complementary to the North Carolina Mutual Aid network as an organized arrangement to facilitate cooperation between local authorities during an emergency. N.C. Water WARN works within the National Incident Management System structure. Interstate aid is facilitated by the nationally adopted Emergency Management Assistance Compact in coordination with the National Response Framework.


The national WARN program has earned multiple emergency management recognitions for innovation and practicality in managing small, local and large disaster conditions:

  • 2007, Emergency Management Assistance Compact Advisory Board Member, National Emergency Management Association
  • 2007, Partners in Preparedness Award, International Emergency Managers Association
  • 2006, Best Practice, National Incident Management System Integration Center

Other states' WARNs successfully responded to these recent events:

  • 2005 Hurricane Katrina (FlaWARN)
  • 2008 Detroit , Oregon Blizzard (ORWARN)
  • 2008 Waterborne Salmonella outbreak Alamosa, CO (CoWARN)
  • 2008 Hurricane Ike (TxWARN)
  • 2009 Ice Storm (ARWARN, TNWARN, KYWARN)

More Information and How to Become a Member

Use the Mutual Aid and Assistance Agreement as a guide to explore the benefits and opportunities of becoming an N.C. Water WARN member. The N.C. Water WARN Operational Plan shows details of how every situation has been anticipated, so that questions are minimized in the event of an emergency. The American Water Works Association encourages mutual aid agreements. AWWA has also prepared a document describing resource typing which is vital to proper mobilization of resources during an event..

For more information or to apply to become an N.C. Water WARN member, please contact either Michael Richardson or Sue Walton.

Back to Security and Emergency Planning