Resources by Topic

Resources by Topic: Dam Safety Program Management


Dam safety programs are organized efforts to assure that dams will be safe for continued operation. These programs help to protect property and people from the disastrous effects of avoidable dam incidents and failures and in establishing emergency procedures for unforeseen occurrences.

Dam owners and regulators each operate dam safety programs. Dam owners' safety programs include the financial responsibility for operation, maintenance, and correction of deficiencies. Dams that are monitored by owners will typically also be within the inventory of the agency(s) responsible for their regulation. Dam safety programs of regulatory agencies address the compliance of the dams with established statutes, rules, and/or regulations.

Both types of programs help to protect property and people from the disastrous effects of avoidable dam accidents and failures and in establishing emergency procedures for unforeseen occurrences.

Dam safety programs can be of varying sizes, depending primarily on the number of dams within a particular entity’s dam inventory. Programs that are smaller in size have owners/operators that are typically:

  • Individuals
  • Local governments
  • Water companies
  • Homeowners’ associations
  • Recreational groups
  • Special purpose districts, such as watershed or irrigation districts, and
  • Mining companies

Programs that are more extensive in size have owners/operators that are typically:

  • Governmental agencies (federal or state)
  • Water supply agencies or companies
  • Power generating utilities
  • Irrigation districts

The goals of a Dam Safety Program are to help owners/operators and regulators to:

  • Prevent accidents and failures at dams. This includes advance planning for emergencies.
  • Detect and correct dam safety deficiencies. This involves inspections, investigations, and analysis to allow deficiencies to be recognized and remedies made.
  • Protect investments
  • Meet legal obligations

These website pages present a brief overview of the process to organize and manage a dam safety program.


To be proficient in this area one needs to understand and/or have experience in the following areas

Dealing with the Media & Public Relations

Owner's Dam Safety Programs

  • Lessons Learned From Dam Failure Case Histories
  • Dam Owner Training
  • Teaching Owners How to Design and Implement EAPs

Regulatory Dam Safety Programs

  • Review of Consultant Dam Safety Inspection Reports and Analysis
  • Technical & Regulatory Review of Plans & Specifications for Dams

Classroom and Web-Based Training

ASDSO offers the following courses on this topic:

ASDSO Dam Owner Education Workshops may be requested by individual state dam safety program directors. Courses:

  1. The Need-to-Know Basics of Owning a Dam
  2. Dam Engineering for Non-Engineers
  3. Dam Operation & Maintenance

ASDSO Technical Seminars: Classroom
Plans and Specs Review (basic)

Additional Classroom Training: FERC Workshop (on request)
Case Histories of Dam Failures and Lessons Learned

Self-Directed Training:Training Aids for Dam Safety (TADS)* TADS Dam Safety Awareness, Organization & Implementation Module consists of the following 5 components.

  1. Dam Safety Awareness (workbook and video)
  2. How to Organize a Dam Safety Program (workbook)
  3. How to Organize an Operation and Maintenance Program (workbook)
  4. How to Develop and Implement an Emergency Action Plan (workbook and video)
  5. Identification of Visual Dam Safety Deficiencies (workbook and video)

*TADS, developed by the Interagency Committee on Dam Safety (ICODS), is a program of 21 self-contained modules in 3 components:

  1. Dam Safety Inspection
  2. Dam Safety Awareness, Organization & Implementation
  3. Data Review, Investigation, Analysis & Remedial Actions

Course materials are workbooks and 9 videos. Order the full course DVD from FEMA.

Search the ASDSO Training Directory for additional training opportunities by ASDSO and others.

Guidelines and Suggested References

Some of the most highly recommended resources in this area are listed below. (See also: TADS materials, listed above under "Courses.") For additional resources, search the ASDSO Bibliography. Suggested search terms: guidelines, state programs, program management, quality control.

  • Washington State Guidelines
  • Model State Dam Safety Program (Association of State Dam Safety Officials and FEMA. 2006), 306 pp.
  • Dam Safety: An Owner’s Guidance Manual - FEMA 145 (July 1987), 117 pp.
  • Engineering Guidelines for the Evaluation of Hydropower Projects: Chapter 14 - Dam Safety Performance Monitoring Program (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. 2005), 137 pp.
  • Dam Safety Preparedness - EP 1110-2-13 (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 1996), 58 pp.
  • Preparation of Water Control Manuals, Project and Basin-Wide for Lakes, Dams and Reservoirs, Tidal Barriers, Locks and Dams, Reregulating Structures, Controlled Channels and Floodways - EM 1110-2-8156 (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 1995), 54 pp.
  • Safety of dams - Policy and Procedure - ER 1110-2-1156 (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 2003), 168 pp.
  • Safety Evaluation of Existing Dams (U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. 1992), 178 pp.
  • National Engineering Handbook, Part 642 – Specifications for Construction Contracts - H.210.NEH.642 (USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. February 2007)
  • National Operation and Maintenance Manual ((USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. 2003)
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Low Hazard Dams Standing Operating Procedures (2008), 399 pp.


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