2005 – Valuing Community Safety in the Management of Dams: Developing the Partnership Between Dam Agencies, the Communities at Risk and Emergency Managers in NSW

Howard and Opper

Dam safety planning is a team game. There are many players involved and there is a need for information to be shared and actions to be properly coordinated. The State Emergency Service is the legislated combat agency for flooding in New South Wales and is responsible for planning for and conducting the warning and evacuation of communities at risk from floods, including floods affected by dams. The successful execution of these responsibilities is dependent upon the continuing development of a strong, cooperative relationship between the dam owners and managers, dam regulators and emergency managers and the effective incorporation of community expectations in dam safety planning.

This paper explores some of the ways that this relationship can help to meet well accepted community expectations in respect of risk to life and property and outlines progress made in dam safety planning to date. The emergency response aspect of dam failure planning is still a relatively immature field in Australia, and it follows that there are lessons to be learned as we proceed. In that context, the paper also describes some of the difficulties the State Emergency Service has encountered in its role as the response planning agency and suggests some guiding principles to enhance future interactions between the key stakeholders.

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