How SFPUC Strike Teams Continue to Learn and Come Together to Protect San Francisco With Each Storm

Two nights in a row this storm season, the SFPUC combed the streets throughout San Francisco to clear catch basins and areas of flooding. Several days after the storm passed, the SFPUC staff collect data and information to ensure lessons learned are applied, while they gear up for the next set of heavy rains.

Marsha Van Loan, Assistant Engineer for the SFPUC’s Wasterwater Enterprise.

“It’s a sigh of relief when the storm passes. You get to go home, rest, then go back to our normal jobs. But before we can do that, we have one last call with everyone [in what’s] called a Hot Wash. We talk about what worked well and what we can improve. We document it and make sure we implement the changes. That’s how we make sure we continue to make progress.”

SFPUC Strike Team working in the rain.

“A lot of folks don’t realize it, but our staff is working around the clock, some on a voluntary basis, servicing the city during the heavy rains,” explained Daniel Whitlock, Sewer Repair Supervisor. “There may be potential flooding in some parts of the city.”

Patrick Mullen at the board before everyone goes out.

“It’s technically fascinating to see the combined sewer system perform to its boundaries. You get to learn more about it and see how all the different sections work together. You get to see the whole webbed system [being put to the test] while we lead the whole city as subject matter experts through the storm.”

Strike Team members working in the rain.

While the SFPUC’s Stormwatch and Strike Teams prepare the city for the rains (inspecting, monitoring and cleaning storm drains, pipes and anything in between) Van Loan says there is a collective effort from various city agencies that demonstrates how resilient the city by the bay really is.

“Right before the storm, we rely on our Public Works colleagues to clean streets, respond to fallen branches; and then we have Muni, police, 9-1-1, the Fire Department, the Department of Emergency Management and the City Attorney’s Office. All these colleagues come together to protect San Francisco,” she shared.