What to expect in your neighborhood when it rains
How We Prepare for Emergencies
South Florida is a land of extreme weather. Our 16-county region from Orlando to the Florida Keys has experienced the highs of torrential rains and the lows of extended droughts, all within a matter of months. Such dramatic changes in weather can result in many different emergency situations, such as flash flooding, brush fires and tornadoes, all of which call for expert emergency readiness. Unpredictable weather – and its potential for destruction – requires a network of resources, people and experience that can respond with skill and speed.
Emergency management is critical to the South Florida Water Management District's mission of managing the water resources for 8.1 million people. The motto for District emergency managers is "Preparedness through Partnerships," which highlights the District's emphasis on establishing a network of resources, people and experience to provide expert readiness before an emergency occurs.
Emergency Management Mission Statement and Strategic Goals
We prepare for, respond to, mitigate and recover from natural and technological emergencies that threaten life or property within the boundaries of the South Florida Water Management District. We ensure the safety and security of the District's employees, work environment, facilities, critical infrastructure and natural resources to better ensure the District can accomplish its mission.
- Provide safety, security and emergency management leadership and technical competencies in a way that fosters an environment of involvement, trust, coordination and cohesion which enhances customer satisfaction.
- Ensure multi-agency coordination and communications by improving technology, building external and internal partnerships and strengthening safety, security and emergency management capabilities and programs.
- Assure a district-wide culture of safety, security and emergency management with professional standards, state-of-the-art practices, consistent focus and new innovative initiatives.
- Develop and strengthen emergency plans and procedures with the support of our employees, partner agencies, county/state emergency managers and constituents.
- Enhance employee and partner agency training and outreach; on topics related to safety, security and emergency management, to better ensure a resilient workforce.
- Conduct emergency exercises to test and validate our emergency plans and procedures; and to better ensure operational readiness and sustainability of the Emergency Operations Center and emergency support personnel.
- Expand our capabilities to prevent and respond to Homeland Security issues and threats.
District's 24-Hour Warning Point
The District's Operations Control Center is the primary Warning Point for the receipt and dissemination of emergency information. The Operations Control Center is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and is the location of District warning systems, including the NOAA weather wire, the State of Florida Emergency Satellite Communication System (ESATCOM) as well as the District's radio and microwave communications.
The purpose of the 24-hour Warning Point is to:
- Cover the statewide emergency information and notification system 24 hours daily.
- Provide a mechanism capable of supplying factual and rapid alerting of key decision makers within the District of an impending emergency situation.
- Ensure the development and maintenance of an adequate warning network.
- Monitor and maintain source meteorological and hydrological data.
- Activate mobilization triggers for District response.
Most decisions about emergency notifications to citizens are made by local, county, state or federal emergency managers.
Emergency Planning, Training and Exercises
In preparation for hurricane season, District Emergency Managers conduct an annual exercise called "Hurricane Freddy" to test the agency's emergency operations response to and recovery from a major hurricane. Trained District staff exercise emergency management and flood control procedures in response to Hurricane Freddy, a simulated hurricane. The virtual scenario includes persistent, heavy rainfall and flooding in portions of the District's 16-county region, challenging water managers to address numerous hurricane-related incidents and demands on the flood control system. Conducting emergency exercises is a critical part of the emergency management process.
During hurricanes and other hazardous situations, the District has the ability to activate its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to accomplish multiple tasks, including assessment of the emergency, drafting operational plans to address the emergency, managing resources, mapping storm activity and planning for recovery operations. The District EOC usually is activated for hurricanes, floods, wild fires and droughts.
In addition, the District assists State emergency management efforts as part of the State Emergency Response Team (SERT) and can provide state resources such as heavy equipment, generators, pumps, personnel and emergency equipment for emergencies in and outside of its 16-county service area. The District's mobile emergency command post is a 48-foot unit equipped with computer and communications equipment.
Damage Assessment Teams
In the event of an emergency, Damage Assessment Teams (DATs) comprised of District Engineering and Construction professionals conduct assessments of damaged facilities to initiate repairs, properly allocate resources, assist in cost recovery and mitigate against future damage.
Coordination with Other Agencies
South Florida Water Management District employees work closely with state emergency responders and teams from other agencies to report damage and request necessary assistance as quickly and safely as possible. If flooding seems likely, the South Florida Water Management District communicates with secondary drainage districts that are responsible for local drainage and localized water conditions when flood waters seem imminent. Our daily monitoring allows first responders to take fast, accurate action when the storm clouds roll in.
Frequently Asked Questions
When a storm threatens, the District's mission of flood control protection becomes the number one priority. Throughout the year the District conducts an active maintenance program on its flood control system. In advance of a storm's arrival, the District may begin a gradual drawdown of its canals. This will provide additional storage capacity in the canal system for flood water.
It depends on how much rainfall occurs. While the intent of the drawdown is to provide adequate storage for stormwater runoff, even such preventive action can't always overcome Mother Nature's whims. In addition, secondary canal systems (those not operated by the District) often become overwhelmed by too much rain or debris clogging the system, which can impede water flow.
In most cases localized flooding is the responsibility of the local county/municipality, secondary drainage districts, and/or neighborhood homeowner associations. While they should always be your first contacts, the District works with and assists them whenever possible.
Yes. Debris and fallen trees along the canals can easily collect around water control structures making them inoperable or only partially functional. That's why the District schedules regular canal clearing maintenance in preparation for hurricanes or other storm events. It is also important for residents along the canals to remove any debris that could be blown into the water.
No. To do so threatens the District's ability to move water through the canal system and it does not ensure protection for boats from potential damage.
The District does not issue boil water orders or health notices regarding drinking water supplies. Any health notices or warnings about drinking water will come from local authorities or water utility companies.
The District will immediately assess the integrity of its water control structures. In the case of hurricanes, canal clearing is a priority because of the impacts from fallen trees. The District discharges water from the regional system until flooding impacts subside.
As a governmental agency, the District may play a vital role no matter where in the state an emergency exists. The District has a full-time emergency manager charged with seeing that the District is prepared for any emergency – not just those related to weather. When the state's Emergency Operations Center is activated, and the emergency exists outside the District boundaries, our emergency manager may be deployed to Tallahassee as the emergency liaison for the state's five water management districts. When a storm emergency exists within District boundaries, our emergency manager activates and oversees the District's Emergency Operations Center. In addition, personnel will be assigned to the various county emergency operation centers within the District's boundaries to represent the District and serve as liaison for requests for information and emergency assistance.
The District offers an informative brochure entitled "Managing Flood Water Before and After the Storm" that explains how the flood control system in south Florida works and the proper maintenance of on-site water management systems.
The District is an active participant in the Governor's Regional Domestic Security Task Force and works closely with local, state and federal partners regarding homeland security prevention, preparedness and response issues.