2002 – On the Proper Conceptualisation of the Warning, Evacuation and Community Education Tasks in the Context of Planning for Dam Failure

Chas Keys and Steve Opper

As the legislated ‘combat agency’ for dealing with floods, the NSW State Emergency Service has had considerable experience in planning for flooding on the state’s rivers and in developing arrangements to help keep people safe when floods occur. This experience has been put to use over the past decade in the particular context of managing floods caused or exacerbated by dam failure. Some of the complexities of the dam-failure planning problem are explored in this paper, specifically as they relate to warning and evacuation tasks and to the issue of preparing communities for the extreme flooding which dam failure can be expected to cause. The points are made that warning is not just about mechanical alerting devices, evacuation is not restricted to commanding people to move, and public education requires a sensitive comprehension of the problems of disseminating information about rare and difficult-to-believe events.

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