Emergency Action Planning



National Dam Safety Awareness Day:
The 125th Anniversary of the Johnstown Flood

May 31st is National Dam Safety Awareness Day, an event that remembers the tragic failure of the South Fork Dam in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. On May 31, 1889, the dam failure resulted in the loss of more than 2,200 lives and was the worst dam failure in the history of the United States. To commemorate the 125th anniversary of the Johnstown flood, the Johnstown Heritage Association, the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) and the National Park Service are working in conjunction with FEMA to host a series of special events.

During the weekend of May 30-June 1, special events hosted at a variety of locations in Johnstown will be open to the general public, including the Johnstown Flood Museum, Peoples Natural Gas Park and Johnstown Flood National Memorial. Event highlights will include a presentation of a requiem, a commemoration ceremony for when the flood hit Johnstown, the luminaria at the dam site, the Path of the Flood Historic Half-Marathon and a Community Day at Peoples Natural Gas Park. A full schedule of events is available online.

For over 30 years, the FEMA-led National Dam Safety Program has been working to reduce the impact of dam failures. National Dam Safety Awareness Day encourages and promotes individual and community responsibility as well as best practices for dam safety. It also highlights the steps people can take to prevent future catastrophic dam failures or lessen the impact of a potential failure. FEMA encourages all communities to promote the benefits that dams can offer during this time of the year.

Dams provide vital benefits, including flood protection, water supply, hydropower, irrigation and recreation. They are owned and operated by different types of owners and serve a range of purposes ranging from a neighborhood association built around a lake to a water supply utility. The failure of even a small dam is capable of causing significant property and environmental damage as well as loss of life. If dams are not maintained and operated correctly, dams can pose risks to those living downstream. When dams age, deteriorate or malfunction, they can release sudden and dangerous flood flows.

Dam safety failures can pose safety risks to an often unaware public. Reducing the risk of failure and ensuring that the public and property owners downstream of dams are informed of the risk of dam failure are the driving forces of the National Dam Safety Program. On this upcoming National Dam Safety Awareness Day, think about how your community recognizes the importance of dam safety: it's a shared responsibility.

If you are not able to visit Johnstown, PA on May 31st, we will have a live video available from 2pm to 5pm: http://events.commpartners.com/webcasts/opp20140531/

For more information about dams, please visit the dam safety website or your local emergency management agency.