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1 Dam Safety, Emergency Action Plans and Water Alarm Systems

1 Dam Safety, Emergency Action Plans and Water Alarm Systems

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Published by: Daliborka Bakojević on Dec 03, 2012
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as far as possible, dangers and damage resulting from the existenceoftheinstallation,frominsufficientmaintenanceorfromtheeffectsof war.”Based on this law a dam safety regulation was established. Thepresentdamsafetyregulationhasbeeninforcesince1January1999,and is a revision of former regulations (Mouvet et al., 2001). Theapplicability of the dam safety regulation to a specific dam is basedon geometric criteria (dam height and reservoir volume) and thedamage potential in the downstream region (inundated area).The regulation defines the duties of the different parties involvedin dam safety, i.e. dam safety authorities, dam owners, dam engi-neers, and dam experts. To facilitate the application of the presentdam safety regulation, the following guidelines were issued by thedam safety authority:1. Criteria for dams subjected to dam safety regulations.2. Structural safety of dams.3. Safety of dams against floods.4. Safety of dams against earthquakes.5. Monitoring and maintenance of dams.
HE modern era of dam construction in Switzerland start-ed some 135 years ago and came to a virtual standstill inthe 1970s. Since then very few new large dams have beenbuilt.However,twomajorarchdamshavebeenheightenedand several dams have been rehabilitated. The average age of theexisting large dams is about 50 years (Figure 1). Typically, the con-cession period for hydro power projects is 80 years; therefore, sev-eral of the older power plants – mainly run-of-river plants – havebeen rehabilitated for the renewal of the concession. The expectedservicelifeoftherehabilitatedpowerplantswillbe160years.Theymust satisfy the current design criteria and safety standards.Besidesageing,themainconcernsarefloodandearthquakesafetywhere safety criteria apply today, which were not applicable at thetime of construction of most existing storage dams. The prerequi-site for a long service life is the structural safety of the dams andappurtenant structures.As a rule of thumb, the service life of a dam is as long as propermaintenance can be guaranteed. This means the service life can bevery long. However, this will not be the case if a dam is no longermaintained and monitored, as is demonstrated by the 272m highEnguriarchdaminGeorgia,whichwasnotmaintainedduringcivilwarandunrestsatthetimeofindependenceintheearly1990s.Thisdam – the world’s highest arch dam – has shown that the safety of a dam may deteriorate very fast and even a new dam may becomepotentially unsafe within a few years.The service life of a well-designed, well-constructed and well-maintained and monitored embankment and concrete dam caneasily reach 100 years. But some elements such as gates and valvesmayhavetobereplacedafter40to50years.Theservicelifeofelec-tro-mechanicalequipmentandelectroniccontrolunitsismuchshort-er and some components may have to be exchanged as frequentlyas office computers as they may become technologically outdatedand maintenance may no longer be available.In the present paper the integral safety concept for large dams isdiscussed, which includes four major elements: structural safety,monitoringsafety,operationalsafety,andemergencyplanning.Thefirst three safety elements are well-known. However, much less isknownaboutemergencyplanning,becausealarmsystemsandevac-uation of the population are often under the control of military orcivil defense authorities. The reason for this is that dams are possi-bletargetsincaseofwarandterroristsareinterestedintargetswithhigh damage potential.
Legal and administrative aspects of dam safety
The Swiss Federal Law Regarding Water Police of 22 June 1877stipulates:“TheFederalCouncilwillensurethatthenecessarystepswillbetakenwithexistingandfuturestorageinstallationstoavoid,
Dam safety is an integral concept,which comprises structural safety, damsafety monitoring, operational safetyand emergency planning, writes MartinWieland and Rudolf Mueller
Dam safety, emergency actionplans and water alarm systems
Figure 1: Grande Dixence gravity dam with a height of 285m, completed in1961, is the world’s highest concrete dam (top). The 250m high Mauvoisindouble curvature arch dam completed in 1957 (bottom). Both dams havebeen in uninterrupted use for some 50 years.
The supervision of the larger dams, i.e. dams with an impoundingheadofmorethan25m,ordamswithanimpoundingheadofmorethan15mandastoragecapacityofatleast50,000m
,ordamswithanimpoundingheadofmorethan10mandastoragecapacityofatleast 100,000m
, or dams with a storage capacity of at least500,000m
,iscarriedoutbythefederaldamsafetyauthoritywhichemploys specialised dam engineers. The safety of small dams is theresponsibility of the cantons (provinces).The safety authority examines and approves new dam construc-tion projects, as well as projects to rehabilitate existing dams.Therefore, the owner has to submit the project drawings, the analy-sisanddesignreports,andtheresultsofthegeotechnicalandhydro-logic investigations to the authority for approval. The constructionworkmaynotstartbeforeapprovalofthefinaldesignhasbeengiven.During construction it performs inspections and checks compli-ance with the approved plans. All findings are placed on record.Theinitialimpoundingofadamrequirestheauthorisationofthedam safety authority.Duringoperationofthedamtheauthoritysupervisesthesurveil-lance organisation of the owner, of the experienced engineer and of the experts.The reports of the experienced engineer (yearly) as well as theexpert’s appraisals (five-yearly) on condition and behaviour of thedam are immediately notified to the dam safety authority.
If monitoring or inspections call for remedial actions, they haveto be carried out immediately.
Basic elements of dam safety concept 
The two main goals of every safety concept are the minimisation of all risks, and the mastering of the remaining risk in the best possi-ble way (Biedermann 1997). To reach these goals a comprehensivedam safety concept was introduced in Switzerland comprising thefollowingelements:(i)structuralsafety,(ii)dammonitoringanddammaintenance, and (iii) emergency planning.
i) Structural safety
Minimization of the risks calls for an appropriate design and con-structionofthedam.Thismeansthatthedesign(designcriteriaanddesign concepts) should be periodically reviewed to ensure that thestructuralsafetywillbeguaranteedaccordingtothestate-of-the-art.Figure 2 shows the Sefid Rud buttress dam in Iran, which experi-encedmuchstrongerearthquakeactionsthanoriginallyassumedinthe design. The seismic design criteria and methods of dynamicanalysisusedforthedesignofthedamareconsideredobsoletetoday.
ii) Dam monitoring and dam maintenance
Risks can be minimized but never totally eliminated even if a damhas been designed and constructed according to the latest state of knowledge.Therefore,itisnecessarytodetectanysignsofabnormalbehaviour,damage,deficienciesinstructuralsafety,andnewtypesof threatsandhazardsetc.asquicklyaspossible,sothatcorrectivemea-sures can be taken in time. In order to achieve this, periodic inspec-tions of the dam, as well as periodic safety evaluations, are needed.The purpose of the periodic inspections is to monitor the actualbehaviour of the dam. The periodic safety evaluations are used forcontrol of the long-term behaviour as well as for verification of thestructuralsafety.ThedamsurveillancesystemusedinSwitzerlandisshowninTable1.Theresponsibilitiesofthedifferentpartiesinvolvedin dam surveillance and dam safety monitoring are as follows:
Dam owner
: The dam owner has to maintain the dam in goodcondition.Forthispurposeheestablishesanorganizationtomon-itor and maintain the dam. The technical staff of the dam ownerperformsregularvisualinspectionsandmeasurementsonaweeklyor monthly basis. Automatically registered measurements arecheckedmonthlybymanualreadings.Thedamtechnicianchecksthe operational readiness of the outlet gates at least once a year.The results of the observations and measurements are forwardedto an experienced engineer appointed by the dam owner.
Experienced engineer
: The experienced engineer checks the mon-itoring results on a continuous basis, performs an annual inspec-tion of the dam and compiles his interpretation of the dam’sbehaviour and condition in an annual report. The engineer mayalso act as a consultant to the dam owner.
: Larger dams with an impounding head of at least 40m,or 10m with a reservoir capacity in excess of 1Mm
, must under-goacomprehensivesafetyreviewbynominatedexpertseveryfiveyears.Theexperts,beingcivilengineersandgeologists,arerecog-
Level Responsibility Activities Reports
1 Owner (dam safety Regular inspection of condition (by visual observations) and behaviour Monitoring records and test protocolsengineer, technical staff) (by measurements). Tests of spillway and bottom outlet gates.2 Experienced engineer Analysis of the measured data and observations. Annual inspection Yearly report on condition and on(civil engineer) of the dam. measured behaviour.3 Experts (civil engineer Inspection and appraisal of the dam safety every five years. Report on condition and long-term behaviour.and geologist) Analysis of special safety related questions.4 Dam Safety Authority On-site inspection. Review of the annual reports and the expert’s Interventions if measures have toappraisal. Verification of the implementation of the necessary measures. be implemented.
Figure 2: Repair and strengthening of Sefid Rud buttress dam in Iran, whichwas damaged during the magnitude 7.5 Manjil earthquake of 21 June 1990:downstream view of dam (top), strengthening of all 25 buttresses with rockanchors with a capacity of 100 MN per block (bottom)
nizedspecialistsindamengineeringandareappointedbytheownerin agreement with the dam safety authority.
Dam safety authority
:Thedamsafetyauthorityreviewstheannualreportsoftheexperiencedengineersaswellasthefive-yearappraisalsoftheexperts.Italsocarriesouton-siteinspectionsandverifiesthatthe recommendations stated in the annual report and five-yearreportsareobservedandthenecessarymeasuresareimplemented.
iii) Emergency planning 
In case of an identified hazard to the dam the situation is managedaccordingtotheemergencyplanningconcept.Itisimportantthatthemeasurestobetakenhavebeenpreparedinadvance.Thesemeasuresconsist of a strategy and of emergency plans. The potentially floodedareaincaseofadambreakhastobedetermined,andtheresultsshouldbepresentedinafloodwaveinundationmap.Thismapallowsevac-uation of the population in the flooded area to be planned. Furtheremergency planning measures include the installation or at least thespecification of the alarm devices, and the organizational provisionsfor ensuring the evacuation of the population. The emergency strate-gy defines three danger levels. Specific technical and operational pro-visionsaswellasemergencyactionsareassignedtoeverydangerlevel.
Today, a comprehensive safety concept is used for projects withlarge damage potential such as large storage dams, nuclear facili-ties etc. For dams it includes the following key elements: (i) struc-tural safety, (ii) dam safety monitoring, (iii) operational safety andmaintenance, and (iv) emergency planning. Usually design engi-neers are primarily concerned with structural safety; however, forcritical infrastructures like large storage dams, safety goes beyondstructural safety and must include items (ii) to (iv) listed above.Operational safety, which is not considered explicitly in the Swissdam safety concept, is an important issue, which has to be con-sidered. A typical example is the failure of the upper reservoir of the Taum Sauk pump storage scheme in the US, which failed inDecember 2005 (see page XX).Theconsequencesofdamfailureare:lossoflife(reductionoflossof life is the top priority of emergency planning); environmentaldamage; property damage in flood plain; damage of infrastructure;loss of power plant and electricity production; socio-economicimpact; political impact, etc.Theseconsequencescanbereducedbyanumberofstructuralandnon-structural measures. The structural measures are mainly relat-ed to the safety of the dam, i.e. flood safety, earthquake safety, andsite conditions. The non-structural measures include the following:safe operational guidelines for reservoir under normal and abnor-mal operational conditions; implementation of emergency actionplans; implementation of water alarm systems; training of person-nel; lowering of reservoir level in case of safety concerns; periodicsafety checks; engineering back-up to cope effectively with abnor-malandemergencysituations;landuseplanning(politicaldecision);insurance coverage, third party liability coverage (protection fromeconomic losses), etc. The non-structural measures are often moreeffective than structural measures.
Emergency procedures include a plan on how to warn the authori-ties and how to alert the population (Pougatsch et al., 1998).Thedamownermustprovideafloodwaveinundationmapshow-ing the flooded area, the energy head level and the arrival time of the flood wave.For dams with a storage capacity of more than 2Mm
a wateralarmsystemismandatoryintheso-calledclosezone.Thiszonewillbefloodedwithintwohoursatmost.Thiscorrespondstoadistanceof about 30km downstream of the dam. The water alarm systemconsistsofspecialsirensthatcanbeactivateddirectlyfromthedam.It has to be maintained and tested on a regular basis by the damowner. In the distant zone – the rest of the flooded area – the alarmisreleasedwiththecivildefencegeneralalarmsirensandbroadcastdirectives.Thisalarmsystemisinstalledandmaintainedbythecan-tons.Inthefact,anewgenerationofsirensaretobeinstalledwhichcan operate both as water alarm sirens and as general alarm sirens.For smaller dams with minor flooded areas the water alarm isreleased using the civil defence general alarm sirens.The cantons and the municipalities are responsible for the plan-ningandpreparationoftheemergencydirectivesandforevacuationof the population.The flood wave inundation maps are used on the one hand foremergency planning purposes and on the other hand to define theapplicabilityoftheregulationstoaspecificdam.Theintensityofthefloodwaveisdefinedastheproductofthewaterdepthwiththeflowvelocity and must be assessed with the limit values given in Table 2.
The main objective of emergency planning is to save lives. The eco-nomical losses of the dam owner and the owners in the flood plaincan be covered by insurance.Emergency Action Plans (EAP) are intended to help the damowner and operator, and emergency officials to minimize the con-sequences of flooding caused by dam failure or the uncontrolledrelease of water from a reservoir. The EAP will guide the responsi-ble personnel in identifying, monitoring, responding to, and miti-gating emergency situations. It outlines “who does what, where,when, and how” in an emergency situation or unusual occurrenceaffectingthesafetyofthedamandthepowerplant.TheEAPshouldbe updated regularly and after important emergency events.Basically, the dam owner is responsible for maintaining a safe damby means of safety monitoring, operations manual, maintenance,repair, and rehabilitation.Inanemergencysituation,thedamownerisresponsibleformon-itoring,determiningappropriatealarmlevels,makingnotifications,implementing emergency actions at the dam, determining when anemergencysituationnolongerexists,anddocumentingallactivities.Inthecaseofanemergency,thedamownerisresponsibleforimme-diate notification of the authorities, who are in charge of warningandevacuationoftheaffectedpopulation.Warningisperformedbyspecial water alarm systems as discussed in the subsequent section.Thebasisforevacuationplanningisadambreachfloodwaveanaly-sis, which shows the inundated area for the worst case failure sce-nario,i.e.thesuddenfailureofthedam.Inaddition,thearrivaltimeof the flood wave, flow velocities and water depth are resultsobtained from such an analysis. As a rule of thumb, it takes abouttwo hours for a flood wave to propagate 30km.
Table 2. Definition of dangerlevels of flood waves
(h:water depth; v:flow velocity)
Danger levels and Dam safety regulations applyintensity of flooding if danger levels are exceeded
High danger 
h > 2m or v·h > 2m
 /sec People inside massive buildings, in railway coaches, in passenger cars, or on campingsites are in danger.
Medium danger 
2 m
h > 1m or 2m
 /sec People inside buildings, in passenger cars
v·h > 1m
 /sec or on camping sites are in danger.
Moderate danger 
1 m
h > 0.5m or 1m
 /sec People in passenger cars and on camping
v·h > 0.5m
 /sec sites are in danger.
Low danger 
0.5m or v·h
 /sec The regulations do not apply.

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