Written by: Pam Platt, WaterStep Communications Specialist
Necessity is the mother of invention for WaterStep, too, and this story of next-level, next-generation disaster relief in Kentucky is a timely story for National Preparedness Month, observed every September.
The Louisville-based non-profit organization has been on the forefront of putting safe water within reach of people and communities throughout the world since its founding in 1995. The group’s easy-to-use ChlorineGenerators and BleachMakers, along with training on how to use them, have helped 11 million people establish sustainable water supplies in 70 countries by using existing water sources and the equipment to make water safe to drink and use.
Over the years, the equipment also has been deployed in disaster relief in Haiti, Turkey and Ukraine.
And, closer to home, it was used in two recent catastrophic natural disasters in Kentucky.
Here’s where we pick up the next-level, next-gen disaster relief story:
WaterStep was on site in Western Kentucky after the 2021 tornadoes and in Eastern Kentucky to help mitigate the danger and misery of the 2022 floods. In both cases equipment and trained operators provided first responders and stricken residents alike with plentiful supplies of safe water for drinking, cooking, bathing, and laundry for weeks on end – without having to truck in pallets upon pallets of water packaged in environmentally harmful plastic bottles.
Lessons from these local disasters prompted the formation of the Lily Pad Disaster Response Network, in which WaterStep is partnering with nonprofit groups, corporations, and local officials and state agencies, and others interested in community preparedness for emergency response.
This agile network will include the chlorine- and bleach-making equipment – carried on WaterStep Water on Wheels (WoW) carts – that already will be stationed strategically throughout the state, on the ground and within one hour of any Kentucky community before disasters happen, with trained operators at the ready, too.
No need for machines or people to travel great distances because they’d already be in place, meaning this life-saving assistance could happen in hours instead of days.
Money donated to WaterStep’s disaster relief fund is being used to fund the costs of the WoW carts in at least a dozen positions around the state. And state agencies such as the Kentucky Division of Water and the Department for Public Health will help select the locations for the Lily Pads, develop guidelines for and test the water, and train the operators throughout the state.
In addition to the carts and chlorine and bleach equipment, two Disaster Response Command Center trailers are being customized to support regional Lily Pad teams.
Kentucky is the first state to develop such a plan and network with this equipment, and other states are interested in what’s happening here.
It’s early days for this unfolding story, so stay tuned right here for more updates about the Lily Pad Disaster Response Network as it blooms and grows.