Water is a vital component of our daily lives – we consume it every day, but we also need it for our safety during emergencies such as fires. To illustrate how OCWA helps protect people against fire emergencies, we are happy to bring you a three-part series that covers: 1) how we communicate with local fire departments, 2) our proactive hydrant inspection/maintenance program and 3) our integrated water transportation network.

We’ll begin the series with how we stay in touch with fire departments in our five-county service territory during major fires.

When a structure fire occurs, OCWA is automatically notified of the exact location by 911 emergency services or fire control so that we can begin to evaluate how best to provide the necessary flow of water to hydrants in the area. From our 24/7 Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) centers, we are able to monitor and manage water levels of our entire water system in real time. If firefighters require additional water to certain areas, they can contact OCWA through 911 or fire control and we will deliver as much flow and pressure as possible via SCADA.  In addition, the incident commander can request that an OCWA employee come directly to the scene to provide real-time guidance on how to obtain optimal flow from our system. 

Once the fire is extinguished, OCWA will typically send out field maintenance personnel to inspect the fire hydrants used.  This not only ensures that hydrants are ready for use again, but also confirms whether excess water has been pumped out. This is necessary because water that has not been pumped out will freeze during the winter months and the affected hydrants will be inoperable for use unless properly thawed.

When a major fire occurs, it is not at all unusual for residents and businesses in the affected area to experience low water pressure when using appliances or fixtures. This is normal, as water in the area is typically diverted to the water system being used to fight the fire. Water pressure will revert to normal levels once the fire has been extinguished and less water is being used.

Using resources proactively enhances communication and information-sharing so that fire departments can know their water systems better and prepare for major fires.

One way in which we accomplish this is by our Water System Engineering Department providing free trainings to fire departments upon request that cover topics such as water systems, operating concepts and pressure zones. These trainings help fire departments to better understand the pressure, pipe size and flow of fire hydrants (as these vary) and identify high-risk areas in their service territory. Through these trainings, firefighters can more effectively use their water resources wherever a fire is located as well as prevent pipe breaks from pulling more water than a fire hydrant can handle.

Our long-standing commitment is to have ongoing coordination and communication with fire  departments and emergency response personnel within the five counties we proudly serve. Through our technological capabilities and proactive approach, we are better able to serve 500,000+ residents and businesses in our five-county service area.