TEXAS
Emergency Action Planning

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Dam Own Responsibilities

Dam Owner Responsibilities

What is the law in Texas?

As noted in "Guidelines for the Operation and Maintenance of Dams in Texas":

Although most dam owners have a high level of confidence in the structures they own and are certain their dams will not fail, history has shown that on occasion dams do fail and that often these failures cause extensive property damage – and sometimes death … An Emergency Action Plan is not a substitute for proper maintenance or remedial construction, but it facilitates recognition of dam-safety problems as they develop and establishes nonstructural means to minimize risk of loss of life and reduce property damage. A plan is essential for dams which have a High-Hazard Potential and should also be prepared for Significant Hazard Dams.

As of January 1, 2009, Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) are required for all non-exempt Significant-Hazard (SHP) and High-Hazard Potential (HHP) dams in Texas. The EAP mandate is found in Rule 61 of Chapter 299 of Texas Administrative Code Chapter 30. The Rule states that dam owners "… shall prepare an emergency action plan to be followed by the owner in the event or threat of a dam emergency."

The plan must follow guidelines and formats provided by the Dam Safety Program staff and must be submitted to the Dam Safety Program staff" unless an extension of the time frame is requested and approved" by the Program staff. As of October 2013 more than 200 SHP dams have been exempted from further routine inspection and EAP requirements due to recent changes in Texas dam safety law. By definition of their classification, these dams remain a potential threat to human life.

As of October 2013, more than 800 of the HHP dams and 396 SHP dams had EAPs. Time extensions were requested on more than 250 other dams by letter to the Dam Safety Program staff showing cause or a reasonable basis for the delay. The Program staff must approve the extension. One example may be a dam owner with many dams needing EAPs and a limited staff or few funds to properly prepare them.

Once an EAP is submitted, it will be reviewed by the Dam Safety Program staff. Dam owners may need to add more information, more comprehensive notification flowcharts for those at risk, or add or enhance inundation maps. Once corrected and accepted the plans are filed in the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s confidential, permanent records.

The Rule states that the owner must review the plan annually, update it as necessary, and submit a copy of the updated portions of the EAP to the Dam Safety Program staff annually beginning in January 2012 (three years after the Rule’s January 1, 2009 effective date). If the EAP has been reviewed by the owner and no updates were necessary, the owner must send written notification to Program staff stating that no updates to the EAP have been adopted or implemented.

Very importantly, the owner also "shall perform a tabletop exercise of the EAP on the frequency provided in the owner's EAP, or at least every five years. A tabletop exercise is a meeting of the owner and the state and local emergency management personnel in a conference room setting.

The Crucial Follow-Up Step: EAP Exercises

In Texas, state emergency planning and response are directed by the Division of Emergency Management (DEM) within the state Department of Public Safety. DEM provides training in how to conduct exercises for Emergency Action Plans.

Why Exercise?

Exercises are conducted to test plans, procedures, equipment, facilities, and training. Exercises are evaluated to determine what went right and what needed improvement. Deficiencies noted during the exercise are documented and discussed in an after action review or report (AAR) and a corrective action plan is developed to identify problems that need to be corrected and who is responsible for correcting them. The corrective action plan thus leads to changes in plans, procedures, equipment, facilities, and training, which are again tested during the next exercise.Photo of tabletop exercise

Tabletop Exercise

The purpose of a tabletop exercise is to facilitate a learning environment where response agencies can come together, face to face, to understand and talk through an integrated response to a specific emergency situation. During tabletop exercise, emergency facilities are not activated and emergency response forces are not deployed. Tabletops provide an ideal environment for learning, discussing, and identifying issues that may not be as obvious when players are physically separated as they are during drills and other exercises. Tabletop exercises provide an excellent opportunity to compare what participants actually expect to do and how they plan to do it with what is written in the local emergency plan, highlighting changes that may need to be made in the plan. Tabletop exercises are frequently conducted as part of the preparation for a later functional or full-scale exercise.

Functional Exercise

A functional exercise is designed to test and evaluate selected emergency functions and the interaction of various levels of government, response organizations, volunteer groups, and industry in a simulated emergency environment. This type of exercise usually involves key decision-makers, the local Emergency Operating Center, and representatives of response and support organizations. Field response units are not normally activated and deployed during a functional exercise. Controllers and simulators initiate exercise events, may simulate certain field response activities, and also represent external organizations pertinent to the exercise scenario that are not participating in the exercise, such as federal agencies. Photo of functional exercise

Full-Scale Exercise

A full-scale exercise includes all the components of the functional exercise plus activation of an incident command post and actual deployment of response personnel and equipment to respond to a simulated emergency situation. Full-scale exercises may also involve participation by mutual aid resources from other jurisdictions and state and federal coordination and response elements. A full-scale exercise is intended to test and evaluate the operational capability of the overall emergency management organization to respond to a realistic scenario. Since full-scale exercises involve deployment and employment of actual response resources, they are often fairly costly to conduct.

DEM staff and local emergency responders can provide dam owners with guidelines and assistance in conducting exercises of their EAPs.