US Army Corps of Engineers
Louisville District

Design and Construction, Downstream Evacuation, Emergency Action Plans

Design and Construction:

The Corps of Engineers designs and constructs dams to be safe under the most severe conditions. A flood control dam is designed to be structurally stable and safely pass the largest flood that can be expected to occur. The design of a dam and its foundation go through many stages of review by experienced engineers trained to make sure the dam will meet all safety requirements. When a dam is built, construction engineers and inspectors are onsite to make sure the dam is constructed correctly and conforms to the design. As technical knowledge improves, older dams are re-evaluated using current safety standards and modified as necessary.


Downstream Evacuation:

Local officials decide if and when to evacuate downstream areas when the Corps notifies them about a dam emergency. Corps of Engineers staff do not evacuate the downstream areas; state and county emergency management agencies are responsible for planning and conducting evacuations. To assist in this planning, the Louisville District provides these agencies with maps of areas likely to be flooded if a reservoir dam fails.


Emergency Action Plans:

Despite the care taken to design, build, maintain and operate dams safely; the possibility of failure still exists. The Louisville District recognizes that an emergency could occur and has planned for emergency response in case of seepage, potential dam failure, or an actual dam failure. A “Dam Safety Plan” has been developed for each reservoir dam to guide the emergency response. A Dam Safety Plan includes:

  • Emergency Identification - How to recognize and judge emergency conditions. Possible problems are described along with their effects on the dam.
  • Emergency Notification - Lists personnel and telephone numbers the project staff should contact. The names and telephone numbers of federal, state and local officials to be notified about a potential or actual dam failure are listed.
  • Emergency Operation - How to respond to potential problems. Corrective measures are described to guide the project staff.

The District regularly reviews and revises the Dam Safety Plan. The district also conducts emergency exercises to test the response and actions that would be used in a real emergency.