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Preparing Your Public Water System for a Natural Disaster

Tips to follow before a natural disaster strikes to ensure that your public water system suffers as little interruption of service as possible.

Being prepared for a natural disaster is the first step in minimizing damages and losses, and ensuring non-interruption of critical services. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) offers the following tips to protect your public water system.

General Preparation

  • Work schedule should be adjusted so that key staff members are onsite or can be reached to keep all services operational if the facility remains online or to shutdown and startup facilities if and when necessary.
  • Establish and schedule emergency operations and clean up crews.
  • Review your emergency response plan and make sure it and contacts are current.
  • Notify the TCEQ Public Drinking Water Program at or by phone at (512) 239-4691 if the system’s sampling schedule needs to be adjusted.
  • Notify and set up clear lines of communication with local police and fire department, in case of an injury or other emergencies. Request that local law enforcement check on any water staff that remain on-site at the water plants. If communication channels are down with these sites, this check needs to continue on a routine basis until communication channels are reestablished.
  • If an emergency operating center or command post for the utility is established, notify state and federal agencies of locations and telephone numbers.
  • Establish contacts to request emergency water supply, if necessary.
  • Make arrangements with the local power utility to be prepared to disconnect power to the plant if the plant is evacuated or if power lines are downed and then to restore power as a priority customer.
  • Make arrangements to purchase materials and supplies and to borrow/lease heavy equipment needed to make repairs to the plant.
  • Make arrangements to have materials and chemicals delivered to the plant as soon as it is safe and units are repaired and ready for operation.
  • Notify media on where to access information and press advisories:
    • Have a “Boil Water Notice” prepared, including multilingual.
    • Have “Emergency Disinfection of Drinking Water” guidelines prepared. (see EPA link)
    • Have a “Shelter-in-Place” guidelines ready in case of release of hazardous materials. This is information to be provided to the public that may need to remain indoors.
  • Establish in advance a centralized base of operations with first aid supplies, batteries, flashlights, and cellular phones or other wireless communication devices. Check all normal and emergency communication equipment and charge or replace batteries.
  • Stock an adequate supply of non-perishable food and water for any essential personnel that are required to remain on site.
  • Establish alternative transportation strategies for rotating in core employees to the facility if high water prevents travel. Personnel should bring a jump bag with them, which should contain change of clothes, flashlights, extra batteries, medications, and other essentials.
  • Make sure all essential personnel are trained to shutdown and startup the system in case of emergency.
  • Notify TCEQ regional offices if a plant is taken off-line. An updated map and contact telephone numbers may be found at the website listed below. The utility should access this site and provide copies at all system facilities with the emergency response plan. TCEQ Regional Contact Info and Regional Map.
  • Review distribution maps to ensure they are up to date with isolation valves properly identified. Extra copies may be necessary for staff working in the field.

Grounds and Common Areas

  • Inspect plant perimeter for security concerns. Test backup lights. For all water systems, check backup pumps and controls.
  • In addition to regular preventative maintenance, all systems (surface, ground and purchased) should check backup chemical feeders and all pumps and motors. Verify that spare pumps, motors and other necessary spare parts are available. Check manual controls and oil levels.
  • Fuel and service vehicles. Stock service vehicles with equipment and supplies, and move service vehicles to high ground.
  • Have sufficient supplies of sandbags available and sandbag the entrances, the area around critical equipment, and other critical areas.
  • Ensure that emergency electrical generators are not located in flood-prone areas of the facility. Obtain extra fuel for generators, if needed.
  • Board up critical windows and doors to prevent wind damage.
  • Shutdown exposed pipes at waterway crossings to prevent loss or contamination of potable water if the pipes break.

Administration and Laboratory Buildings

  • Secure important records in a well-protected location, including plant operations manual.
  • Remove all sensitive laboratory equipment from the flood zone, where possible. Remove portable electrical equipment and small motors from the flood zone.
  • Protect computers from potential leaks.
  • Check bacteriological sampling materials- be prepared for increased or special monitoring.
  • Remove or store furnishings in a safe place, when practical.
  • Disconnect electrical power to the building if it is evacuated.

Treatment Plant and Pumping Stations

  • Run diagnostic tests on SCADA and control systems.
  • All pump stations should be located in a well-drained area and be designed to remain in operation during flood events. If not, the pumps should be shut down and protected from electrical damage if they should become submerged. After any major storm event, check raw water intakes to minimize any debris or other materials which could enter. Any wells that were submerged must be disinfected prior to returning to service.
  • Double check that all piping in surface water treatment plants is labeled according to color code as indicated in 30 TAC 290.42 (d)(13)(A).
  • Check that all chemical bulk storage facility and day tanks are properly labeled.
  • Be sure all dry chemicals are stored off the floor in a dry room that is protected against flooding or wetting from floors, walls, and ceilings.
  • Check chemical inventory. A storm event could cause greater disinfectant demand, increased disinfection of broken waterlines and an increase in turbidity, so more disinfectant and coagulant chemicals may be required. Verify that the current supply of calcium hypochlorite is adequate for this potential increased use.
  • Fill empty storage tanks in flood prone areas with water to prevent floating or falling from wind forces.
  • Remove or move chemicals to a safe area. If chemicals are removed from an underground or above ground tank, fill the tank with water to prevent floating.
  • Remove fuel from underground storage tanks to prevent contamination and loss of the fuel. If possible move above ground fuel storage tanks to a safe, high area. Fuel will be needed for emergency and plant vehicles until new supplies arrive.
  • Remove electrical motors, where possible. If not, wrap the motors in plastic and seal as tight as possible, in order to protect the motor from silt, mud, and dirt. Any electrical motors that were submerged, should be cleaned and dried prior to start up to prevent damage.
  • Remove shop tools and electrical hand tools to the emergency operations center or command post.
  • Monitor tank levels. Fill elevated and ground storage tanks to full capacity. Storage tanks should be valved off from the distribution system to prevent loss of water during the storm. Note: If this is done, the system must issue a Boil Water Notice because this can result in pressures dropping below 20 psi.
  • Contact the TCEQ Surface Water Treatment Rule Group at if you have questions about the impacts to compliance and the group for technical assistance.
  • Download data from SCADA and controller(s) in case power outages or electrical damage result in data loss.

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