WILLIAMS, Ariz. - Disasters, whether they are natural or man-caused, are unfortunately a part of life. How each city or community deals with these disasters is usually based on location, availability of resources, and population/size. Coast cities deal with hurricanes and tsunamis, cities near fault lines deal with earthquakes, inland and southern areas deal with tornadoes, too much rain or a broken dam could lead to flooding just about anywhere, and of course no city is ever immune to fires, especially the intensely warm and dry ones.
So what does a northern Arizona city like Williams deal with? Flash flooding? Possibly, if enough rain were actually to drop. Power outages? Another possibility, with lightning storms, strong winds, etc. Brown water? Hopefully never again. Fire? That's the most likely, with warm dry air, a lack of rain, lightning storms, and forests all encompassing.
"The police department and the fire department are perfectly capable of dealing with a wide range of issues and have taken care of some of those different issues we've had in the past," said City Manager Brandon Buchanan. "All our officers, fire and police, are NIMS [National Incident Management System] certified which is the national standard for incident management. They all know the protocols for communication, how to handle a specific incident, and when to bring in additional resources if necessary. It's quite a system that's been put together."
Buchanan went on to say how confident he is of the fire department and how most fires within the city limits they are very capable of dealing with. He added if a fire or any situation gets too wide or severe then they look to the county for additional assistance and additional resources that they can then bring to the table along with their excellent emergency management staff.
"Once it gets beyond our scope of expertise or capability, we work with the county and they provide us with extra help when needed," Buchanan said. "And we've worked with them previously and formulated books and procedures on how to respond to different incidents collectively or separately."
Buchanan said in times of crisis he and his staff are there to support the police and fire departments as they essentially take charge of handling the situation or situations. He also said how impressed he is with the Fire Service and how quickly they respond and help when necessary, and how well they work with the city of Williams too.
The power system is owned by the city of Williams, however Arizona Public Service (APS) runs and maintains it. There is a backup power source in case of emergencies, which would keep essential, but minimal, services running. In fact, all major facilities within the city infrastructure have some form of a backup system. For example, the water plant has a backup generator, the lift stations have backup protocols for removing waste water, and of course the fire and police departments have backup systems to keep them operating as well.
The county itself deals with most flooding issues, there is a tax collected specifically by the county for that reason to deal with flood control projects and issues. Williams has used some of this money, for instance, on Ninth Street and the problems that have historically occurred there.
Most citizens will likely remember the brown water issues from last summer, however Buchanan stressed that last year saw the perfect storm of unusual events to cause that dark discoloration. According to Buchanan, today there are now three different backups in place to prevent that from ever happening again.
"We had higher than we'd seen in a long time manganese levels in the lakes, and both of our wells went down," he said. "Manganese is the mineral in the lake that spikes in the summertime, and it creates that brown color when it reacts with chlorine. So we had no well water, it was all lake water, and manganese is only found in the surface water like the lakes and reservoirs we draw from. So we had to draw that water because we didn't have our two wells running that we should have had running in the first place.
"Normally, when the manganese spikes in the summer, like this summer, we go to almost all well water so we don't have to deal with any of that manganese in the summertime. And then once it calms down in the wintertime we can go back to the lake water. And this system also helps us preserve water throughout the summer when it's getting low like right now.
"So now we've got the wells fixed, and then we've also got two different chemical backup systems in place to further clarify the water so we don't have to deal with manganese anymore. The last thing anybody around here wants to deal with is the brown water again, for a variety of reasons. We're all feeling pretty confident that we've got that problem pretty well under control."