Public Safety Around Dams
More than 50 people have drowned at dams on U.S. streams and rivers within the past two years.*
In an effort to raise awareness of safety hazards at dams, the Indiana Silver Jackets team created a documentary, Over, Under, Gone - The Killer in Our Rivers, which premiered November 16 in Indianapolis. The documentary is available for viewing at the following link:
Over, Under, Gone - The Killer in Our Rivers
Please Help Prevent Drownings at Dams:
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Twitter feed - #damdangerous
Do Not Boat or Swim Near Low Head Dams!
Under this raging waterfall is a "low head" or "run-of-the river" dam. The flow of water over these structures often creates a deadly "roller effect" that traps victims within a recirculating, practically inescapable current. Imagine if this truck were a kayaker, boater or swimmer:
Video by Chris Harrod, Anderson County Fire Department, Lawrenceburg, KY
The "Roller Effect"
Click here to view a video that demonstrates the roller effect, or hydraulic jump.
Small dams are deceptively dangerous. They are often hard to see, especially from the upstream side. They don't look dangerous, so people often get too close and become trapped in the hydraulic roller.
ASDSO Resources for Free Download and Distribution
Hidden Dangers and Public Safety at Low-Head Dams. Paper by Bruce A. Tschantz and Kenneth R. Wright, published in the Journal of Dam Safety, V.9 n.1, 2011. Hundreds of people have drowned in the fierce hydraulic currents at low-head dams, but few states regulate these dangerous structures because of their small heights. Structural and non-structural measures can reduce drownings.
What We Know (and don't know) About Low-Head Dams. Paper by Bruce A. Tschantz, published in the Journal of Dam Safety, V.12 n.4, 2014.
Greater public understanding of hazards around low-head dams, posting of warning signs or hazard markers, dam owner education, and establishment of regulatory standards needed to prevent dam drownings.
Identifying Hazards and Improving Public Safety at Low Head Dams. ASDSO Webinar taught by Bruce Tschantz and Paul G. Schweiger, recorded Nov. 12, 2013.
Introduction to Public Safety Risk Evaluation and Treatment for Dams and Levees. ASDSO Webinar taught by Dave Cattanach, recorded Jan. 13, 2015.
- @SafeDams Twitter page
- American Whitewater Accident Database (Scroll down the page for the search menu.)
- "Boat Indiana" animation: Dangers of Low-Head Dams
- Brigham Young University Research Project - Fatal Submerged Hydraulic Jumps (At right: Video image, courtesy of BYU)
- Canadian Dam Association. Public Safety Around Dams. CDA Bulletin, Spring 2009.
- Canadian Dam Association. Guidelines for Public Safety Around Dams (2011). Comprehensive guidelines address dam owner responsibilities; risk identification; creation, implementation and evaluation of safety plans; and more. The document includes technical bulletins on signage, booms and buoys, and audible and visual signals.
- Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Safety Signage at Hydropower Projects (2001)
- Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Evaluation of Public Safety at Run-of-River Dams (2007)
- Indiana Department of Homeland Security. Stay Afloat" Flood Awareness Campaign Children's Activity Book. Included is a page on safety at low-head dams.
- Indiana Silver Jackets Low Head Dams Committee. Low Head Dam Signage and Outreach - Examples throughout the U.S. and Canada. Presentation created by Brad Baldwin, Water Resource Planner, Division of Water, Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
- Indiana Water Monitoring Council. Low-Head Dam Removal and Stream Restoration Symposium, December 17, 2015. Presentations include Low-Head Dams: A Primer (Ken Smith) and The Dangers of Low Head Dams (Terry Hyndman).
- Iowa DNR. Low Head Dams - Information for the Public
- Iowa DNR. Solving Dam Problems - Iowa's 2010 Plan for Dam Mitigation
- Iowa Watch. The Moment of Rescue. Radio broadcast, 9/6/2016. Iowa Watch interview with Des Moines Register photographers Mary Chind Willie and Andrea Melendez, who photographed a dramatic rescue at a Des Moines dam in 2009. Willie won a Pulitzer Prize for her photograph.
- Iowa Whitewater. Dam-related Fatalities.
- Ohio DNR. Lowhead Dams web page
- Page, Terry. Establishing Standardized Procedures for Low Head Dam Responses in Farmington, New Mexico (2013)
- Tschantz, Bruce. Low head Dams web page
- Dangers Posed by Low-Head Dams. Short animated presentation posted on the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation website illustrates the dangers of the low-head dam "drowning machine."
- Wisconsin Public Service. Dam Site Safety web page
- YouTube (Enter 'low head' in search box to find numerous videos illustrating the dangers of low head dams.)
Safety at Dams in the News
More than 50 drownings have occurred at dams throughout the U.S. over the past two years. See stories from 2016 and 2015. Additional incidents and resources can be researched through the ASDSO Bibliography.
Suggested keywords: accidents, fatalities, low-head dams, public awareness, public safety
Source: Canadian Dam Association Guidelines for Public Safety Around Dams.