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Hurricane Preparation for Drinking Water Systems

Environmental Health

With the start of the 2022 hurricane season, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would like to provide you with information regarding precautionary boil water notices (PBWNs) and DEP’s emergency event tracking database. The goal of distributing this information is to ensure effective communication and consistency between DEP, DOH, the county health departments (CHDs), the impacted water system, and the water customers.

Each water supplier should have an emergency response plan and procedures for their public water system and customers. This plan addresses pre-preparation, who to contact, initiating advisories and ending them.  Our Emergency Hurricane Notification List and the Precautionary Boil Water Notices and Hurricane Procedures can be added to your response plan and includes all the emergency contacts for Hillsborough County. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have a Drinking Water Advisory Communication Toolbox to help your pre-planning.

The goal is to enhance communication and coordination between the impacted water system, your water customers, regulatory food agencies, the Florida Department of Health in each county (i.e. county health departments), and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) District Office. Effective communication between entities and consistency in the application for these guidelines is critical for public health protection during emergencies.

The Department of Environmental Protection will activate the the counties in the emergency event tracking database and provide notice of activation to those counties prior to a Hurricane warning.  Florida WATER Tracker should be updated by all facilities as soon as possible AFTER the event with any Precautionary Boil Water Notices (PBWN) issued, status of the system (do you have power), when the PBWN is lifted and to ask for any help or provisions, such as generators, handing out PBWN notices or if your operator needs assistance with sampling.

If you have a power outage or system malfunction that results in zero pressure in portions of, or your whole distribution network, you need to:

  • If it is a localized event, directly notify individual residences and establishments within affected area via door-hangers or other means as appropriate

  • Update Florida WaterTracker to include the date the PBWN was issued and specific area affected.  Also add any supplies and or help you need, such as a generator.

 If you currently do not have access, contact WATERTracker@floridadep.gov

After issuing a PBWN, make corrective actions to the water system, restore pressure and maintain disinfectant residual, perform flushing as needed, and test for coliform bacteria as prescribed by the agency overseeing your system.

Our office encourages you to notify your customers in advance that in the event of a power outage or system malfunction that a PBWN may be issued and what to do.  Our Public Fact Sheet Template explains what your customer can expect for several days if a PBWN is issued. Feel free to modify this template with any additional information. You may want to explain that if the water is off for an extended time to boil their water as a precaution when water is restored until they are notified otherwise.