Emergency FAQ

IRWD uses many safeguards to protect the sanitary quality of your drinking water, but during a natural disaster such as an earthquake or flood, that protection could break down.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about how to prepare for an emergency in Southern California.

Should I store water for an emergency?

Yes. An emergency water supply should be an important part of your family's emergency kit, along with food, medical supplies, flashlights, portable radios, etc.
Store at least 3 gallons of water per person in your household.

(That's one gallon per person, per day.) Seven gallons of stored water per person can last two weeks.

Replace commercially bottled water by the expiration date. Replace water treated with unscented bleach after 6 months. Keep water in all vehicles. Don't forget to keep extra water on hand for pets.

To keep drinking water safe from contamination, it should be stored in carefully cleaned, noncorrosive, tightly covered containers. Commercially bottled water, stored in packing boxes, is one excellent option. All stored water SHOULD BE DATED AND ROTATED EVERY THREE TO SIX MONTHS.

How do I disinfect water for drinking?

To disinfect water for drinking:    Strain water through a clean cloth or handkerchief to remove debris or sediment.Then do ONE of the following:

  • Boil water rapidly for one minute Use water purification tablets by follow directions on the tablets' packaging
  • Add unscented chlorine bleach: Use four drops of bleach per one quart of water OR 1/4 teaspoon bleach per one gallon of water, OR one teaspoon bleach per five gallons of water.After adding bleach, let the water stand 1/2 hour before using. DO NOT USE GRANULAR FORMS OF BLEACH, IT IS POISONOUS.
  • If boiling is not an option, strain the water through paper towels, paper coffee filters, or several layers of clean cloth.
 How should I prepare for an earthquake?

Irvine Ranch Water District is making every preparation to protect the public water and sewer system from natural and manmade disasters. Our employees are trained in emergency response activities and are committed to restore services as quickly as possible. However, in time of emergency, it is possible that your water and sewer service could be temporarily disrupted.

First, be prepared. Assemble a home disaster kit to tide you over for at least three days. Of all the supplies, water may well be the single-most important item for survival.

Before an Earthquake:

Locate main water line, water heater(s) and shut. Mark with fluorescent paint or tape so they can be foundin the dark.

Learn how to operate shut-off valves to water lines, water heater, and how to remove any covers.

Keep wrenches handy and any other tools needed to shut off water lines, water heater and remove covers.

Store at least three gallons of water per person (one gal. per person, per day.) Replace commercially bottled water by the expiration date and water treated with unscented bleach after six months. Keep water in all vehicles.

Keep extra water on hand for pets.

Keep chlorine bleach handy and/or water purification tablets on hand.

Do not add coloring/disinfecting products to toilet tank (a source of emergency water.)

Brace, strap, or anchor the water heater.

Where can I find drinking water sources in an emergency?

A supply of stored water may be your most important survival items. Several gallons of stored water per person can last two weeks. But there are other sources of emergency water available:

Hot water heaters hold 30-60 gallons of water. Turn off electricity or gas to water heater and let the tank cool. Shut off the main water valve to the house. Let air into the tank by opening a hot water faucet, or by disconnecting the hot water line on top of the tank. Open the faucet at the bottom of the tank to drain water into a container.

Toilet reservoir tanks, not the bowl, unless chemicals were put into the tank.

Melted ice cubes, juices in canned foods.

Stored drinking water.


 What should I keep in my emergency preparedness kit?

You may need to survive on your own after an emergency. This means having your own food, water, and other supplies in sufficient quantity to last for at least three days. Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone immediately. You could get help in hours, or it might take days. In addition, basic services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage treament, and telephones may be cut off for days, weeks or longer.
Recommended items to include in a basic emergency supply kit:

Water, one gallon per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation.

Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food.

Battery powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both.

Flashlight and extra batteries.

First aid kit.

Whistle to signal for help.

Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place.

Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation.

Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.

Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food.)

Local maps.

Cell phone with chargers.

Additional items to consider adding to an emergency supply kit:

Prescription medications and glasses.

Infant formula and diapers.

Pet food and extra water for your pet.

Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container.

Cash or traveler's checks and change.

Emergency reference materials such as a first aid book or information from www.ready.gov.

Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional if in a cold-weather climate.

Complete change of clothing including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes.

Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper - when diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. In an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color-safe, or bleaches with added cleaners. Another option is two percent tincture of iodine or water purification tablets.

Fire extinguisher.

Matches in waterproof container.

Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items.

Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, papertowels.

Paper and pencil

Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children.

 Where is my water shut-off valve?

Following a disaster, cracked or broken pipelines could pollute your water supply. Gravity could also drain water from your hot-water heater or toilet tank which might otherwise have been used as a back-up supply of water. To avoid this, it is advised to shut off the main water valve to your house, as soon as you can.

Your family should know where the main water valve is and how to shut it off. So, before disaster strikes, take time to:

Locate the main water shut-off valve

Make sure it can shut off completely. If not, replace it.

Label it with a tag or fluorescent paint/tape for easy identification.

Put needed wrenches to turn the valve in a handy spot.

The house valve shuts off water to the inside of the home, while the customer valve shuts off water to both the inside and outside of the home.

The house valve is located in your meter box on the side closest to your house, not the street. This valve looks like a handle*. When turned 1/4 of the way so that it is perpendicular to the pipe, the water will be turned off.
*Customers in Lake Forest may hae a different type of meter valve. Please contact Customer Service for assistance at (949) 453-5300.

Where can I find more emergency preparedness resources?

 Best Places for Additional Earthquake Information:

There are a number of websites with a wide range of information about preparing your family to ride out and survive an emergency – not only in terms of water and sanitary needs – but also food, clothing, medical, and other requirements. Please check out these websites:

Federal Emergency Management Agency: www.fema.gov

American Red Cross: www.redcross.org

California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services: www.oes.ca.gov

Earthquake Country Alliance/Southern California Earthquake Center: www.earthquakecountry.info/roots

Emergency Survival Program: www.espfocus.org

Ready OC Campaign: www.ReadyOC.org