Program Seeks Emergency Plans for High-Hazard Dams

June 28, 2014

A new outreach and communications program has been launched to help increase the number of Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) completed for California high-hazard potential (HHP) dams. Supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the outreach program will aid the California Office of Emergency Management (CalOES) efforts to increase public and dam owner awareness of the importance of EAPs for the protection of lives and property.

Dam owners have the legal liability and social responsibility to provide EAPs, although they are not mandatory under current California laws and regulations. About half of 684 state-regulated HHP dams do not have EAPs, according to state records. CalOES Emergency Management Coordinators can provide assistance to dam owners in completing an EAP. Nationally, more than 3,100 state-regulated HHP dams do not have EAPs, so the California shortfall represents more than 10% of the total EAPs needed.

High-Hazard Potential means loss of life would be likely in the event of a dam failure, along with extensive environmental and property damage. The HHP designation does not in any way reflect the current condition of the dam’s structural integrity. HHP dams under state regulation are regularly inspected by dam safety engineers.

An EAP is a plan of action to reduce potential loss of lives in an area affected by a dam failure. An EAP includes a map of the potential inundation area, along with procedures and information for notifying downstream emergency managers. Using the EAP, county and local emergency managers can identify the location of businesses, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, residences, and highways at risk. The EAP also specifies shelters, emergency resources, and other information crucial for an efficient response, including, if necessary, evacuation procedures and routes.

The centerpiece of the outreach program is the website, which is intended for the public as well as dam owners, dam safety officials, and emergency management professionals. The website contains educational materials about the importance of EAPs, links to state and national sources of EAP information, EAP forms, and completed samples of EAPs. Also included is a section on the importance of inundation maps. Links to organizations involved in dam safety are provided, along with downloadable brochures created for the public and dam owners, news features, and graphics.

Many of these tools will help guide and ease the EAP process for dam owners and those working with them.

Persons at risk in a dam failure include those who live, work, or travel through an inundation zone. Campers, hunters, anglers, hikers, other recreationists, and farm and ranch workers also may be in need of the warning system an EAP can help provide. An EAP also helps emergency managers know who is outside the inundation zone and does not need to be evacuated.

Creative Communications Network, Inc. (CCN), based in Liberty, Missouri, is the contractor for this outreach program.