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Be Aware of Potential Risk of Dam Failure in Your Community

Approximately 14,000 dams in the United States are classified as high-hazard Open spillway at Garrison dam to relieve pressure on the damOpen spillway at Garrison dam to relieve pressure on the dampotential, 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, PA. 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 are a key resource of our national infrastructure that is vulnerable to terrorist attack.

States are primarily responsible 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 step you can take to protect yourself from dam failure is to know your risk. Contact Occupational Safety & Health Administration to learn if an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) is in place for your state. 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. This plan may save lives and prevent property damage through timely evacuations of those who live, work, or enjoy recreation near a high-hazard potential dam.

Resources

More technical resources and publications on dam safety can be found here.

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Last Updated: 
10/25/2013 - 12:12