As dam failures and incidents occur both nationally and internationally, there is a pressing need to understand the underlying causes for failure to help minimize such occurrences in the future. Current information on historical dam incidents is scattered, incomplete, missing, and sometimes misleading – making it difficult for owners and practitioners to easily access meaningful information that could assist them with critical design and operational decisions. If lessons learned and best practices are not effectively communicated, there is a possibility that poor practices will be repeated and preventable incidents will not be averted.
In late 2013, James Demby, Jr., P.E. and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) authorized a Gannett Fleming project team to research past dam failures and incidents and select the most appropriate information to include in a compendium of lessons learned supported by case histories. The primary goal of this project was to convey educational information relating to and resulting from dam failures and incidents in an innovative, user-friendly manner that is appealing to contemporary users. As a result, this Lessons Learned from Dam Incidents and Failures website was created. The site is currently hosted and maintained by the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) with oversight and ongoing contributions by the ASDSO Dam Failures and Incidents Committee.
Presented within this website are links to individual case studies as well as lessons learned pages that summarize historical dam incidents and failures and the valuable information gleaned from them. Each page contains a background and description, photographs, videos, best practices, and other resources related to the case study or lessons learned being addressed. The contents of this webpage encompass a range of failure modes, dam types, and dam safety topics including best practices regarding engineering and design practices, human factors, emergency planning and response, operation and maintenance, and regulatory issues. Dam safety engineers, dam operators, dam owners, regulators, emergency managers, academia, and students are encouraged to use the material presented herein.