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New tool gives state officials easier access to emergency plans in case dam fails


RALEIGH – Two state agencies have created a web-based tool that enables people to submit and update emergency plans for high and intermediate hazard dams.

The web-based planning application and template enables dam owners to more easily meet a key requirement of the Coal Ash Management Act of 2014. The law requires that people submit by March 1, 2015 emergency action plans for high and intermediate hazard dams to the state departments of Environment and Natural Resources and Public Safety. The law was passed in September.

“This tool will enhance public safety across the state,” said Frank L. Perry, secretary of the N.C. Department of Public Safety.

The web-based tool will create an affordable, secure, statewide repository for emergency action plans that can be accessed at any time by local and state emergency management personnel and dam safety engineers in the event of a dam leak or failure. An emergency action plan for a dam includes information that identifies emergency procedures if a dam leaks or fails and downstream hazard maps to help local emergency officials develop evacuation plans if they are necessary.

Perry said the state Division of Emergency Management actually began work on the development tool several years ago after a county emergency manager requested the state’s help in developing a better, more efficient emergency action plan for dams statewide. The agency partnered with DENR to develop a new, web-based tool that would be based on a similar template plan developed earlier for licensed care facilities.

DENR and DPS officials developed the web-based applicationthat captures the necessary safety requirements and digitally generates an emergency action plan that complies with the state law, based on the individual dam owner’s needs. Dam owners can use direct internet portal access to create their plans and retain them on file with the appropriate local and state authorities. As a digital application, the tool also will allow dam owners to easily update their plans annually as required by the new law.

“This is an ideal example of a great state agency partnership,” John Skvarla, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. “The dam safety staff in DENR provided the technical expertise and outlined the requirements needed for the emergency action plan, while the emergency management staff in DPS provided the funding, project management and determined how to match the requirements with a plan that people could be customized based on their unique situation.”

DENR’s dam safety engineers and staff in the N.C. Division of Emergency Management will be able to collectively review and approve the plans as they are digitally constructed and submitted. Also, local agencies that respond to emergency conditions at dams will have access to dam failure inundation maps and accompanying plans for their counties and will be emailed automatically when any changes are made to those emergency plans.

High or intermediate hazard dam emergency action plans must include an approved downstream inundation map. The inundation maps must depict areas affected by a dam failure and a sudden release of the impoundment. Workshops will be announced soon to provide dam owners with training on the use of this emergency action plan development tool.

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