Observances of the 124th anniversary of South Fork Dam Failure
"Investing in dam safety is an investment that pays off exponentially."
“The Johnstown flood was not an act of God or nature. It was brought by human failure, human shortsightedness and selfishness.” --David McCullough, Historian and author of The Johnstown Flood (1968)
"All that is left to most of us is the ground the town was built on, and even that is not the same." --George Swank, Editor of the Johnstown Weekly Tribune, June 1889
National Dam Safety Awareness Day was established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 1999 to commemorate the devastation that occurred on May 31, 1889, when the South Fork Dam in Johnstown, Pennsylvania failed. This tragic event resulted in the deaths of 2,209 people and left thousands homeless. The Johnstown disaster remains the worst dam failure in U.S. history.
On the 124th anniversary of the Johnstown Flood, ASDSO, FEMA, and various state and federal agencies encourage the public to learn about 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, ASDSO created an informational guide entitled Living With Dams: Know Your Risks. The booklet tells how to determine if a specific location lies within a dam failure inundation zone, and provides tips on preparing for emergencies and staying safe near dams.
FEMA's press release provided information on the National Dam Safety Program and highlighted Virginia's NDSAD demonstration of its "First Aid for Dams" program.
ASDSO's partner organization, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the trade publication, Hydro Review, posted blogs on NDSAD: ASCE blog -- Hydro Review blog.
A number of state and federal agencies engaged in outreach efforts to mark the event:
California - USACE’s Sacramento District posted a press release on National Dam Safety Awareness Day.
Colorado - State dam safety personnel sent a press release and are working with local and state emergency management officials on public outreach.
Florida - Florida dam safety staff reached out to county emergency managers and their coordinators in each region of Florida to publicize National Dam Safety Awareness Day, ASDSO's "Living With Dams" booklet, and other ASDSO resources.
Kansas - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Kansas City District holds media session at Perry Lake to commemorate National Dam Safety Awareness Day.
Louisiana - The DOT Public Works and Water Resources division sent a notice on NDSAD and the "Living With Dams" booklet to 64 Parish Emergency Operation Center Directors and nine Regional State Directors for further distribution.
Michigan - The departments of Environmental Quality and Natural Resources co-hosted a check presentation to the Ionia Conservation District at the Village of Lyons in Ionia County to remove the local dam. The event also celebrated the success of the new Dam Management Grant Program, which is the funding source for the check. [Related story: Lyons gets grant money for dam removal] Additionally, Michigan Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division tweeted the NDSAD message.
Missouri - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Kansas City District put out a press release on National Dam Safety Awareness Day, and is holding a media opportunity session at Perry Lake.
New Hampshire - National Dam Safety Awareness Day is being promoted through a news release and a display in the lobby of the NH Department of Environmental Services offices, as shown at right. The display will be rotated over the next three months to illustrate various aspects of dam safety, including inspections and hazard classifications, operations, maintenance, dam removal and emergency action plans.
Ohio – Ohio DNR distributed a press release and ASDSO’s “Living With Dams” booklet and ASDSO brochures. A follow-up article in the Columbus Dispatch provided facts about dam safety in Ohio and referenced the “Living With Dams” booklet. The dam safety program has carried out intensive outreach efforts over the past few months with regulated dam owners, local officials, first responders, and others in 22 Ohio counties. DNR has been distributing hard copies of the "Living With Dams" booklet as well as other ASDSO, FEMA, and Ohio Dam Safety materials. Educating owners about their liability and the impacts of dam failures has been an effective means of increasing numbers of EAPs and improving dam maintenance.
Oregon - A distributed press release stressed proper infrastructure investment as a means of preserving the benefits of dams and ensuring the safety of downstream residents and property.
Pennsylvania – The state dam safety program is approaching its 100th year anniversary: Pennsylvania’s first dam safety laws were passed on June 25, 1913. The program sent a press release on NDSAD and notified the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and county emergency management agencies of the press release and provided talking points to them for their use to answer questions from the public. A Dam Owners Workshop held May 29 boosted public awareness of dam safety.
Texas – Outreach efforts of the state dam safety program include EAP presentations at Emergency Management Coordinator Conferences, resulting in a number of contacts and requests for lists of dams in specific counties. A few EMCs have attended state dam owner workshops.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District celebrated National Dam Safety Awareness Day by emphasizing the need to minimize risk at Addicks and Barker dams in Houston.
Virginia – The state Department of Conservation and Recreation hosted a participatory demonstration of DCR’s new “Dam First Aid” program at Echo Lake Park in Henrico County. The program features trailers equipped with a pump and siphon to lower lake levels in emergencies or unsafe conditions at dams to reduce the risk of a dam failure.
Washington - Using ASCE’s “2013 Report Card for Washington’s Infrastructure” as a starting point, the State Department of Ecology has published a blog and tweet, as well as an intranet article on the importance of dam safety efforts and continued funding. The blog links to “Living with Dams” for additional information, and notes that, "..... investing in dam safety is an investment that pays off exponentially." Blog post: Ecology's Dam Safety Office Gets High Marks - But report says state’s aging dams need continual attention and funding (May 28)
USACE's Northwestern Division posted a press release highlighting dam owner responsibilities and the Corps' dam safety mission.