Emergency Action Plans for Dams

Introduction

dam photoAn Emergency Action Plan (EAP) is a formal document that identifies potential emergency conditions at a dam and specifies preplanned actions to be followed in order to minimize property damage or loss of life in the case of a dam failure. An EAP is required for all High Hazard or Class I dams, and is strongly recommended for Significant Hazard dams (Class 2).

Three percent of the nearly 1250 dams in Minnesota are classified as High Hazard. This classification is awarded based on the potential for major consequences in the case of dam failure, rather than the likelihood of failure to occur. Failure of a High Hazard dam may result in loss of human life. (Failure of a Significant Hazard dam can cause economic loss, environmental damage, disruption of lifeline facilities, or can impact other concerns, but would not likely cause loss of human life.)

Federal Guidelines

FEMA document cover pagePreventing loss of life from dam failure is the paramount concern of the National Dam Safety Program. As part of a recent initiative to promote the implementation of Emergency Action Plans at all high-hazard potential dams across the United States, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has asked all of the states to adopt the applicable recommendations contained in this paper: Emergency Action Planning for State Regulated High-Hazard Potential Dams: Findings, Recommendations, and Strategies. Another helpful FEMA document includes guidelines which cover basic considerations for preparing an Emergency Action Plan (EAP); the six basic elements of an EAP; and the suggested format for an EAP: Federal Guidelines for Dam Safety: Emergency Action Planning for Dam Owners.

Sample EAP For Earthen Dams

earthen dam photoIn 2004, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) launched a joint effort to develop a sample EAP for earthen high hazard dams. A multi-agency work group was formed. This work group gathered good examples of EAPs from various state and federal agencies, solicited lessons learned from persons who had experienced activations of their EAPs, and developed a draft sample EAP that was routed for comment to many groups and organizations. This sample EAP is available in a fillable format from the Natural Resource Conservation Service.