Emergency Preparedness: Got Water?
MMWD has invested heavily in facility upgrades and employee training to help ensure our water is there when needed most. There are also some simple steps you can take on your end to be ready in an emergency.
Preparing for a Winter Freeze
When it comes to protecting outdoor plumbing, the adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” couldn’t apply more. When freezing temperatures are in the forecast, we recommend taking precautions to prevent damage to your pipes and the subsequent flooding.
It’s easy to protect your exposed pipes and it takes just a few minutes. Place foam insulation around exposed pipes and install special blankets made for backflow devices, both available at your local hardware store or irrigation supply house. If you don’t have this type of insulation on hand, use old towels or blankets and wrap them in plastic secured in place with twine or wire to keep the material dry. Disconnect all garden hoses and drain the water from them before coiling them up.
If your pipes do freeze without cracking or breaking, try to turn on the water faucet slowly. The running water will melt the ice. Do not pour boiling water on frozen pipes as they can burst from the extreme change in temperature.
Protect Your Plants, too
Don’t stop with outdoor pipes for freeze protection. Frost-tender plants also can suffer from the freezing weather. Protect them by creating tents over the top of the plants with old sheets or tarps. Be careful not to let the material come into contact with the foliage, which will make it freeze. Use long stakes or lodge poles to hold the material away from the plants.
In extreme cases, for tropical plants like bougainvillea, place a trouble light under the sheeting material with a refrigerator bulb with low wattage during the subfreezing temperatures. Make certain that the extension cord is rated for outdoor usage. If frostbite occurs on foliage, do not prune the damaged plant until the frost season is over, typically March. The damaged parts of the plant will protect the leaves underneath.
Know How to Turn Off Your Water
In the event of an earthquake or an unexpected winter freeze, you may need to turn off your water to prevent damage to your property from broken pipes.
Prepare yourself for this possibility in advance:
- Locate the water main leading into your house and attach a label to it for quick identification (so that you can find it even in the dark).
- Attach a valve wrench to the water line. This tool can be purchased at most hardware stores.
The water can be turned off at either of two locations. We recommend shutting off your water at the water main leading into the house to prevent water from flowing out of your water heater and back into the main line (turn the handle clockwise to shut off the flow). If you can’t turn the water off at the main leading into your house, you can also shut off water at the main meter box (usually by the street), which controls the water flow to the entire property. To shut off, turn valve arrow toward the street.
If you can't turn the water off yourself, call MMWD's emergency line at (415) 945-1500 and we will send someone to turn it off for you.
Store an Emergency Supply
One of the easiest yet most essential steps you can take to prepare for an earthquake or other disaster is to set aside an emergency water supply.
- Keep at least a 72-hour (three-day) supply of water for each person in your household. Store one gallon per person per day, or a total of three gallons per person, for a 72-hour period. You'll want two quarts each for drinking and two quarts for food preparation and sanitation plus extra water for pets and/or family members with special needs.
- Tap water from MMWD can be safely stored in well-sanitized, food-grade containers such as plastic soda bottles. Avoid used milk jugs and containers that will decompose or break. Seal tightly, then label and store in an easily accessible, dark, cool, dry area away from solvents and chemicals. Replace every six months. You can also purchase commercially bottled or packaged water for long-term storage.
- Don’t forget your other emergency supplies and necessities. Get a complete list at Ready.gov.
Identify Other Sources of Water
If a disaster catches you without a stored supply of clean water, you can use the water in your pipes, water heater and ice cube trays. If you’re not certain about the purity of the water, filter and disinfect as described below.
To use the water in your pipes, let air into the plumbing by turning on the faucet in your home at the highest level. A small amount of water will trickle out. Then obtain water from the lowest faucet in the home.
To use the water in your water heater, close the intake valve and cut off the heater’s gas or electricity supply. Open the drain at the bottom of the tank and collect the water in a clean container. You may need to turn on a hot-water faucet in the house to allow air into the tank to start the flow of water. Be sure to refill the tank before turning the gas or electricity back on.
Consider using water from the toilet tank or perhaps a pool or other outdoor water source for washing and cleaning purposes.
Purify Water for Drinking
In an emergency, it's possible available water sources may require additional treatment to be safe to drink.
- Before disinfecting, let any suspended particles settle to the bottom, or strain through clean cloth or paper towels.
- Disinfect water by bringing it to a rolling boil for 3-5 minutes, keeping in mind that some water will evaporate. Let the water cool before drinking. Boiled water will taste better if you put oxygen back into it by pouring the water back and forth between two clean containers.
- If you are not able to boil water, add regular household bleach (5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite; do not use scented, “ultra” or “color safe”). Use 8 drops (1/8 teaspoon) per gallon for clear water or 16 drops (1/4 teaspoon) for cloudy. Mix thoroughly and let stand for 30 minutes. A slight chlorine odor should be detectable. If not, repeat the dosage and let stand an additional 15 minutes. The potency of bleach diminishes with time, so keep a sealed bottle with your emergency kit.
Stay Informed When Disaster Strikes
Tune your radio to your community’s emergency radio station or one of these commercial emergency broadcast stations:
We encourage you to sign up to receive emergency alerts on your cell phone through Marin County's Telephone Emergency Notification System (TENS).
Want to Do More to Prepare?
For emergency preparedness information and training opportunities, visit:
Get Ready Marin
CERT (Community Emergency Response Team)
American Red Cross
At MMWD, We’re Prepared for Emergencies
MMWD’s water delivery system includes more than 60,000 service connections, 3 drinking water treatment plants, 7 reservoirs, a water recycling facility, almost 900 miles of pipeline, 124 storage tanks and 90 pumping stations. The potential for damage from an earthquake or other disaster in southern and central Marin poses some serious response and recovery challenges. That’s why we conducted a comprehensive “vulnerability assessment” soon after the 9/11/01 tragedy and used the findings to update our emergency operations plan. We also invest a great deal of time in training our employees in emergency response procedures.
MMWD Emergency Operations Center (EOC)
Our Operations Center is staffed 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week, 365 days-a year, so we are able to activate our Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at any time to coordinate the actions of MMWD first responders. Our EOC has at its disposal a wide array of resources, including:
- Emergency operations supplies
- Portable generators and pumps
- Miles of temporary piping, fittings and hoses
- A large quantity of large emergency water supply containers
- Communications equipment
- Food, medical supplies, hygienic facilities and sleeping accommodation for emergency staff and first responders
Inter-agency Cooperation and Mutual Aid in Large-Scale Disasters
Disasters are rarely confined to a particular set of political or geographical boundaries. We may require the support of outside agencies to handle an emergency that exceeds our resource capabilities. Likewise, other federal, state or local agencies may request our assistance. When this happens, MMWD will partner with other agencies to share resources and information and to coordinate the response and recovery effort as a part of the Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS). SEMS is regulated by the California Office of Emergency Services and is used throughout the state to manage and coordinate any emergency response involving more than one agency or jurisdiction.
Examples of other agencies MMWD may work with in an emergency include:
- County of Marin Office of Emergency Services (County OES)
- California Office of Emergency Services (State OES)
- Marin Emergency Radio Authority (MERA)
- Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
- Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (WARN)
- Water Information Sharing and Analysis Center (WaterISAC)