Emergency Action Planning




A Dam Safety Glossary


The following are some of the terms commonly used when discussing dam safety and Emergency Action Plans. For a more thorough and technical glossary of terms, see the publication FEMA 148: Federal Guidelines for Dam Safety: Glossary of Terms

Breach. An opening through the dam resulting in partial or total failure of the dam.

Concurrent floods. Flood flows expected at a point on the river system below a dam at the same time a flood inflow occurs above the dam.

Consequences. Potential loss of life or property damage downstream of a dam caused by floodwaters released at the dam or by waters released by partial or complete failure of dam. Includes effects of landslides upstream of the dam on property located around the reservoir.

Dam failure. Catastrophic type of failure characterized by the sudden, rapid, and uncontrolled release of impounded water or the likelihood of such an uncontrolled release. It is recognized that there are lesser degrees of failure and that any malfunction or abnormality outside the design assumptions and parameters that adversely affect a dam's primary function of impounding water is properly considered a failure. These lesser degrees of failure can progressively lead to or heighten the risk of a catastrophic failure. They are, however, normally amenable to corrective action.

Dam safety. Dam safety is the art and science of ensuring the integrity and viability of dams such that they do not present unacceptable risks to the public, property, and the environment. It requires the collective application of engineering principles and experience, and a philosophy of risk management that recognizes that a dam is a structure whose safe function is not explicitly determined by its original design and construction. It also includes all actions taken to identify or predict deficiencies and consequences related to failure, and to document, publicize, and reduce, eliminate, or remediate to the extent reasonably possible, any unacceptable risks.

Dam safety program purposes. The purposes of a dam safety program are to protect life, property, and the environment by ensuring that all dams are designed, constructed, operated, and maintained as safely and as effectively as is reasonably possible. Accomplishing these purposes requires commitments to continually inspect, evaluate, and document the design, construction, operation, maintenance, rehabilitation, and emergency preparedness of each dam and the associated public. It also requires the archiving of documents on the inspections and histories of dams and the training of personnel who inspect, evaluate, operate, and maintain them. Programs must instill an awareness of dams and the hazards that they may present in the owners, the users, the public, and the local and national decision-makers. On both local and national scales, program purposes also include periodic reporting on the degree of program implementation. Key to accomplishing these purposes is to attract, train, and retain a staff proficient in the art and science of dam design.

Emergency. A condition that develops unexpectedly, which endangers the structural integrity of a dam and/or downstream human life or property, and requires immediate action.

Emergency Action Plan (EAP). A plan of action to be taken to reduce the potential for property damage and loss of life in an area affected by a dam failure or large flood.

Emergency Action Plan (EAP) exercise. An activity designed to promote emergency preparedness; test or evaluate EAP's, procedures, or facilities; train personnel in emergency management duties; and demonstrate operational capability. Exercises consist of the performance of duties, tasks, or operations very similar to the way they would be performed in a real emergency. However, the exercise performance is in response to a simulated event.

EAP Exercise (Comprehensive). An in-depth exercise of an Emergency Action Plan that involves the interaction of the dam owner with the state and local emergency management agencies in a stressful environment with time constraints. Functional and full scale EAP exercises are considered comprehensive EAP exercises.

Emergency Alert System. A federally established network of commercial radio stations that voluntarily provide official emergency instructions or directions to the public during an emergency.

Emergency Management Agency. The state and local agencies responsible for emergency operations, planning, mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery for all hazards. Names of emergency management agencies may vary such as: Division of Emergency Management, Comprehensive Emergency Management, Disaster Emergency Services, Civil Defense Agency, Emergency and Disaster Services.

Emergency Operations Center (EOC). The location or facility where responsible officials gather during an emergency to direct and coordinate emergency operations, to communicate with other jurisdictions and with field emergency forces, and to formulate protective action decisions and recommendations during an emergency.

Flood Hydrograph. A graph showing, for a given point on a stream, the discharge, height, or other characteristic of a flood with respect to time.

Flood Routing. A process of determining progressively over time the amplitude of a flood wave as it moves past a dam or downstream to successive points along a river or stream.

Hazard. A situation that creates the potential for adverse consequences such as loss of life, property damage, or other adverse impacts.

Hazard potential. The possible adverse incremental consequences that result from the release of water or stored contents due to failure of the dam or misoperation of the dam or appurtenances. Impacts may be for a defined area downstream of a dam from flood waters released through spillways and outlet works of the dam or waters released by partial or complete failure of the dam. There may also be impacts for an area upstream of the dam from effects of backwater flooding or landslides around the reservoir perimeter.

Hazard potential classification. A system that categorizes dams according to the degree of adverse incremental consequences of a failure or misoperation of a dam. The hazard potential classification does not reflect in any way on the current condition of the dam (i.e., safety, structural integrity, flood routing capacity).

Headwater. The water immediately upstream from a dam. The water surface elevation varies due to fluctuations in inflow and the amount of water passed through the dam.

Inflow Design Flood. The floodflow above which the incremental increase in water surface elevation due to failure of a dam or other water impounding structure is no longer considered to present an unacceptable threat to downstream life or property. The flood hydrograph used in the design of a dam and its appurtenant works particularly for sizing the spillway and outlet works and for determining maximum temporary storage, height of dam, and freeboard requirements.

Inundation map. A map showing areas that would be affected by flooding from releases from a dam's reservoir. The flooding may be from either controlled or uncontrolled releases or as a result of a dam failure. A series of maps for a dam could show the incremental areas flooded by larger flood releases.

Notification. To inform appropriate individuals about an emergency condition so they can take appropriate action.

Owner. A person who owns, controls, operates, maintains, manages or proposes to construct a dam or reservoir including: the state and its departments, institutions, agencies and political subdivisions, but not the United States government; a municipal or quasi-municipal corporation; a district; a public utility; a natural person, firm, partnership, association, corporation, political subdivision or legal entity; the duly authorized agents or leasees, or trustees of any of the foregoing; or receivers or trustees appointed by any court for any of the foregoing.

Risk. A measure of the likelihood and severity of adverse consequences (National Research Council 1983). Risk is estimated by the mathematical expectation of the consequences of an adverse event occurring, i.e., the product of the probability of occurrence and the consequence, or alternatively, by the triplet of scenario, probability of occurrence, and the consequence.

Risk analysis. A procedure to identify and quantify risks by establishing potential failure modes, providing numerical estimates of the likelihood of an event in a specified time period, and estimating the magnitude of the consequences. The risk analysis should include all potential events that would cause unintentional release of stored water from the reservoir.

Risk assessment. The process of deciding whether existing risks are tolerable and present risk control measures are adequate and, if not, whether alternative risk control measures are justified. Risk assessment incorporates the risk analysis and risk evaluation phases.

Tailwater. The water immediately downstream from a dam. The water surface elevation varies due to fluctuations in the outflow from the structures of a dam. Tailwater monitoring is an important consideration because a failure of a dam will cause a rapid rise in the level of the tailwater.

Watershed. The area drained by a river or river system or portion thereof. The watershed for a dam is the drainage area upstream of the dam.