This week, during Fire Prevention Week, I join local water utilities throughout Maine in reminding residents about the critical but often overlooked role that local water supplies and the systems that deliver them play in fighting fires and protecting public safety.

A properly functioning, well-maintained water system provides reliable supplies at the high pressure and volume that can mean the difference between a small, manageable fire and a destructive, raging inferno.

A community’s ability to deliver sufficient, reliable water for fire suppression also heavily influences new-home construction, business-location decisions, and residential and commercial insurance rates.

However, the water infrastructure essential for protecting communities from the ever-present threat of fires — pipes, distribution mains, wells and pumps invisible to the public eye — is aging and rapidly deteriorating.

This condition is especially critical in New England, where many community water systems are more than 100 years old.

Reinvestment in rehabilitating, improving and replacing local water infrastructure is imperative so that sufficient, life-saving water can flow uninterrupted from the source of supply, through a network of underground pipes, to the corner hydrant.

I encourage residents to support the National Fire Protection Association’s “Have 2 Ways Out” campaign, which stresses the importance of fire-escape planning and practices in our homes (www.nfpa.org for more information).

During Fire Prevention Week, water works professionals throughout New England applaud our region’s firefighters for their courageous, dedicated and selfless public service.

Raymond J. Raposa

Executive director, New England

Water Works Association

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