Access to clean, safe water is essential before, during and after hurricane emergencies. Although the official hurricane season is June 1 through November 30, named storms can occur as early as May. For Tampa Bay Water and other utilities across the state, planning for hurricane season starts months in advance.
Prior to hurricane season, staff conducts an annual review of the utility’s hurricane plan and pre-storm checklists, incorporating lessons learned from previous seasons. Utility staff coordinate closely with its member governments, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties and the cities of New Port Richey, St. Petersburg and Tampa, by sharing emergency contact lists, generator plans and locations, and our operating scenarios in case of service disruptions. The goal is to avoid service interruptions to the extent possible, and to quickly restore service, if lost.
Tampa Bay Water plans with its employees to determine who will serve as primary responders during a storm. These essential employees shelter in place at the utility’s Cypress Creek Infrastructure and Emergency Management (IEM) facility, which is built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. Outer offices are used as sleeping quarters, and hurricane supplies are stocked in the facility.
Clean, safe water is essential before, during and after a hurricane. When preparing for an approaching storm, remember there is plenty of tap water available for storing. Here are some ways you can store tap water ahead of the storm.
When a hurricane is approaching the area, Tampa Bay Water provides its essential employees the opportunity to secure their homes and families, beginning with primary responders. Then, staff is placed into teams and shifts for working before, during and after a storm. The utility switches its facilities over to generators before a storm to help keep drinking water flowing in the event commercial power is lost.
The IEM facility becomes Tampa Bay Water’s Emergency Operation Center and follows an Incident Command System (ICS) that provides clearly defined roles and responsibilities for employees responding to emergencies. The command system is similar to other unified command centers within Florida to ensure seamless communications. This chain of command, along with comprehensive checklists, helps all employees to know what to do in virtually every foreseeable instance. The utility’s checklists outline activities it performs 72, 48 and 24 hours before landfall and well into the recovery phase.
“Our goal after a hurricane is to return to normal operations as quickly as possible, providing our member governments and their customers clean, safe water,” said Tampa Bay Water’s interim general manager, Chuck Carden.
After a storm passes, primary responders go home and remaining employees return to work to assess damage, complete water quality testing and coordinate recovery efforts with member governments, other utilities and communities needing assistance.
These preparations ensure our members, and the more than 2.5 million customers they serve, can count on Tampa Bay Water.