2015 – Towards consistency in potential loss of life estimates: Testing the new Reclamation Consequence Estimating Methodology

Chriselyn Meneses, Simon Lang, Peter Hill, Mark Arnold

Risk is the product of likelihood and consequences. Much effort is put into the risk assessment process for large dams to ensure there is a consistent approach to estimating failure likelihoods across an owner’s portfolio. For example, the use of common peer review teams and methods like the ‘piping toolbox’ allow the risk assessment team to apply repeatable logic and processes when estimating failure likelihoods. However, the methods for estimating life safety consequences are often not applied consistently. This inconsistency leads to estimates of potential loss of life (PLL) that vary between dams in unexpected ways, because results from the most commonly applied method (Graham, 1999) are sensitive to threshold changes in flood severity and dam failure warning time.
The recently released Reclamation Consequence Estimating Methodology (RCEM) is intended to supersede Graham (1999). RCEM varies fatality rates continuously with DV, and is therefore less sensitive to changes in flood severity. In this paper, estimates of PLL from RCEM are compared with results from Graham (1999) for five dams. Results from the latest US Army Corps of Engineers model for estimating the consequences of dam failure (HEC-FIA 3.0) are also compared with RCEM and Graham (1999) for one dam. Comment is then made about the important considerations for applying RCEM consistently across a portfolio of dams.
Keywords: potential loss of life, dam safety, risk analysis

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