May 31st is National Dam Safety Awareness Day. The day provides a good reminder for those living, working or visiting downstream of dams to have an evacuation plan in place and be able to recognize signs of a potential dam-related emergency.
“Dam safety and integrity are critical to our hydroelectric program,” said Jan Nimick, PG&E’s vice president of Power Generation. “PG&E inspects and maintains its dams according to strict safety guidelines, ensuring structural integrity under even extreme conditions. Nonetheless, it is important to be aware of potential hazards and have an evacuation plan in case of a dam emergency.”
National Dam Safety Awareness Day is also a good time to check with your county’s office of emergency services to find out how to receive notifications about emergencies and receive alerts about potential and actual flooding, severe weather and natural disasters.
PG&E’s 95 storage reservoirs are used primarily for generating hydropower and are generally far smaller than state and federal multi-year water storage reservoirs like Lake Oroville and Shasta Lake.
National Dam Safety Awareness Day occurs on May 31st of each year to commemorate the failure of the South Fork Dam in Johnstown, Pa., in 1889. The awareness day was created to encourage and promote individual and community responsibility for dam safety, as well as to provide information for dam owners on what steps can be taken to prevent dam failures.
PG&E participates in local community events, sends informational brochures to customers by mail and coordinates with schools in its service area to raise awareness of dam-related hazards. PG&E wants its customers and the public to be able to recognize signs of a potential dam failure, identify and use safe evacuation routes and know how to contact local emergency response agencies for assistance.
PG&E has also developed plans in cooperation with state and local emergency management agencies to warn the public in the unlikely event of a sudden dam failure. The utility regularly engages in drills with emergency management agencies to test response preparedness. In addition, PG&E places informational posters about flood inundation zones in campgrounds, parks and other public recreation sites throughout its service area.
The following are emergency and safety messages that PG&E is sharing with customers through brochures, posters and on its website:
Have a Plan
• Write down your evacuation route to higher ground.
• Plan how you will evacuate family members who might need assistance.
• Practice your evacuation route with family and agree on your safe family meeting place.
• Keep an emergency kit with enough blankets, flashlights, food, water, medication and supplies to last for three days.
Know the Warning Signs
• Intensified sound of rushing water.
• Increased water speed or depth.
• Unusual amounts of debris in the water.
• Change in water from clear to muddy.
• Unusually cold water temperatures.
What to Do if You’re in the Water
• Drop any items that could weigh you down.
• Stay calm and lie on your back.
• Keep your feet up and pointed downstream to avoid hitting rocks and to prevent your feet from getting tangled.
• Go with the current and move diagonally across it until you reach shore.
• Roll onto dry land to drain your boots or waders.
What to Do if You’re Near the Water
• Head for higher ground.
• Turn on your weather radio to access the National Weather Service’s Emergency Alert System.
• Do not walk through moving water.
• Avoid driving through flooded areas.
• Follow your family’s or authorities’ evacuation plan.
Stay Out and Stay Alive – Stay Out of Canals and Flumes
• For a number of reasons, including safety, not all areas are open for recreation. Recreating in PG&E canals and flumes is strictly prohibited. Stay out of these water conveyances, regardless of who owns them, as they are very dangerous due to slippery sides and fast-moving cold water. Always keep off of elevated flumes.
• Be mindful of signs and warnings and stay out of areas that are signed as restricted, fenced off or buoy-lined.
More information is available on the PG&E website: www.pge.com/hydrosafety and https://damsafety.org/NDSAD.