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National Dam Safety Awareness Day Highlights the Need For Those Living Near Dams to Educate Themselves

By   /   May 22, 2013  /   Comments

Information guide produced by state dam safety officials provides tips and information
for Georgia residents, real estate agents and others

Lexington, Ky. – This year’s National Dam Safety Awareness Day on May 31 marks the 124th anniversary of the historic Johnstown Flood, underscoring the need for Georgia residents to understand both the benefits of dams and the risks associated with potential dam incidents and failures. To help inform people who live, work or play in areas near dams, the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO), with support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, created an informational guide entitled Living With Dams: Know Your Risks.

Dams in Georgia provide important benefits, such as drinking water and flood control, but many people take these benefits for granted. In 2012, there were 4,053 state-regulated dams in Georgia, of which 474 were considered high-hazard-potential dams because they could cause loss of life downstream if they were to fail. The Georgia Dam Safety Program has shared a copy of the Living With Dams guide with every high-hazard-potential dam owner in the state.

“We all have an important role to play in creating a future where all dams are safe, and this guide answers important questions about why people should care about dams and what they should do if they live near a dam,” said Lori Spragens, ASDSO executive director. “We are providing this important information to state dam safety programs, emergency managers, local officials, real estate agents and others to share with their stakeholders and the public.”

The guide provides:

  • An overview of the types of dams and the benefits they provide;
  • An explanation of the potential risks associated with dams;
  • Resources readers can use to find out if they live in a dam failure inundation zone;
  • Tips for preparing for an emergency, and what to do during and after an emergency, such as establishing an evacuation route before a dam incident occurs and shutting off utilities in the event of an evacuation; and
  • Tips for staying safe near dams, such as never fishing, boating or swimming below a dam, and being alert to changes in water levels.

More than half of all U.S. dams are privately owned. Many owners, officials and other stakeholders are not aware that the owner is responsible for the safety of the dam, and financing maintenance, repairs and upgrades.

Members of the public can determine if they live in a dam failure flood inundation zone by contacting their local emergency management agency or the state dam safety program. Among the tips included in theLiving With Dams guide, ASDSO recommends that people who live near dams familiarize themselves with evacuation routes, make sure all family members know what to do in the event of an emergency, and prepare an emergency kit.

In addition, the public should urge their policymakers to take measures to prevent catastrophic dam failures. While good planning and improved dam safety programs at all levels of government have dramatically reduced the loss of life resulting from dam failures in recent years, ongoing attention and investment are necessary to protect lives and property, and preserve the valuable benefits that dams provide. State and federal policymakers can increase the safety of dams by providing strong laws and resources to carry out safety programs.

For copies of the Living With Dams guide, or more information regarding the safety and security of the nation’s 85,000+ dams, contact ASDSO at info@damsafety.org. An online version and downloadable PDF of the guide are also available online.

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