Emergency Action Planning for Dam Owners and Operators

Maine State Statute requires development of Emergency Action plans for dams under the State's jurisdiction classified as having a high or significant hazard potential (see MRSA Title 37-B §1126). The Dam Safety Program has developed a model Emergency Action Plan (EAP) for use by dam owners an operators:

The EAP should be:

  • Simple and consistent to avoid confusion when the plan is activated
  • Organized in a format more useful for those involved in carrying out the plan
  • User friendly, to be easy to use in exercises and actual emergencies.

The EAP should contain:

  • Notification Flow Chart
    • Who needs to be notified?
    • When?
    • Up-to-date contact information
  • Inundation Map
    • What is the area that is going to be flooded?
    • How soon?
  • Purpose and Distribution of the EAP
    • Why is a plan needed, and what will it accomplish?
    • Who has a role in the plan, and should have a copy?
  • Project Description and Flood Plain
  • Definition of Emergency Conditions
  • Evacuation Plans
    • Lists of locations that will need to be evacuated
    • Names/contact information for those most at immediate risk
  • Responsibilities of:
    • Dam Owner/Operator
    • Incident Commander
    • Local First Responders
    • Local and County Emergency Management
  • Checklists for all participants

Steps in developing an EAP

  1. Make a map of the valley downstream of your dam.
    Use USGS topo quads. Examine at least 5 miles of the valley downstream of your dam. Make a red circle around all infrastructure that could be affected by a failure of your dam. Consider a breach of the dam and its impact on downstream roads and infrastructure, what roads need closure and how evacuation would occur. Now re-inspect the site and record additional findings. This will be the first of many editions of your “dam breach inundation map”, the heart of your EAP. Develop and update this map incrementally with time and assistance from first responders.
  2. Estimate your dam’s “fair weather breach” (how much water would be released if the dam breached on a typical day, no rain or high water.)
    Estimate its peak flow and the time it will take to reach downstream houses, culverts, bridges, and buildings at 10mph. Sketch in the “dam breach flood zone” using contour lines and the depth of flow at roads and other control points. Amend the evacuation list, road closure points and alternate routes as more reliable information is found.
  3. Identify situations that would trigger an emergency at your dam
    Discuss these scenarios with first responders then decide how you would respond to those situations.
  4. Invite the State Dam Inspector and all officials who will respond to an emergency at your dam to a dam site visit.
    Discuss failure of the dam and expected downstream impacts. Agree on a specific plan of action to facilitate the response to an emergency at your dam. Develop a “notification flowchart” for inclusion in the EAP. It is vital that you engage town, county and state personnel to assist you in developing your EAP. Invite them to all your EAP development meetings.
  5. Agree on your primary communication systems with officials.
    In emergency situations phones and email can go down or become overloaded, and decide what backup systems are available. It’s a good idea to always be in touch with the dispatcher no matter the means of communication.
  6. Make a notification flow chart.
    List all parties to the EAP and place them in the order they would be called. At minimum show the contact name, number, organization and clearly define their role in the emergency process.
  7. Develop a rough draft of the EAP
    Use the map and Notification Flow Chart. Make sure it is clear and easy to follow and include appropriate messages.
  8. Provide a copy of the rough draft to all participants for review.
    Have a follow-up meeting to discuss revisions. Make this a public meeting if possible. Support from the public will strengthen your plan.
  9. Include all feedback into the plan.
    Send a signed copy of the plan to each party. Always keep communication lines open. Test communications regularly and make changes to the plan accordingly.