Be Aware of Potential Risk of Dam Failure in Your Community
Approximately 14,000 dams in the United States are classified as high-hazard potential (HHP), meaning that their failure could result in loss of life. Dams can fail for a number of reasons, including overtopping caused by floods, acts of sabotage, or structural failure of materials used in dam construction. The worst dam failure in the United States occurred in 1889 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Over 2,200 died, with many more left homeless. Dams present risks but they also provide many benefits, including irrigation, flood control, and recreation. Dams have been identified as a key resource of our national infrastructure that is vulnerable to terrorist attack.
States have the primary responsibility for protecting their populations from dam failure. Of the approximately 84,000 dams in the United States, State governments regulate about 90 percent. About 27,000 dams throughout our Nation could incur damage or fail, resulting in significant property damage, lifeline disruption (utilities), business disruption, displacement of families from their homes, and environmental damage.
The most important steps you can take to protect yourself from dam failure are to know your risk. Contact government offices to learn if an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) is in place and to evacuate when directed by emergency response officials. An EAP is a formal document that identifies potential emergency conditions at a dam and specifies preplanned actions to be followed by the dam owner to reduce property damage and loss of life. The plan may save lives and property damage through timely evacuations of those who live, work, or enjoy recreation near a high-hazard potential dam.
USACE National Dam Inventory