2019 – Quantitative Assessment of Dam Safety Emergency Management Using HEC-LifeSim: Is it Feasible?

Tyson Leong-Cuzack, Chris Nielsen, Chriselyn Kavanagh, Samantha Watt

Flood inundation consequence and emergency evacuation assessment using advanced numerical modelling tools such as HEC-LifeSim is progressively emerging as accepted best practice, due in part to the growing ease in obtaining the necessary datasets and hydraulic numerical modelling results and the increasing computational power readily available to perform analyses. In turn, these tools are being applied to assess dam failure consequence and the effectiveness of emergency response procedures.
An essential resource is an approved Emergency Action Plan (EAP, also known as a Dam Safety Emergency Plan), which describes how dam owners and disaster management groups notify and warn persons at risk of harm during an emergency event. There have been progressive improvements in the effectiveness of EAPs through a series of reviews and lessons learnt from emergency events, legislative and regulatory amendments and general improvements in communications, monitoring, alerts and public awareness. Effectiveness is measured through feedback from training exercises and expert reviews, however a more quantitative measure is not presently available. This limitation can challenge decision makers who need to balance costs associated with emergency preparedness with anticipated reductions in life safety risks.

The paper explores the feasibility of providing a quantitative assessment of the effectiveness of an EAP using advanced consequence modelling (HEC-LifeSim). Using consequence models for two dams in Queensland, EAP effectiveness is assessed for a range of emergency response measures. The accuracy and reliability of the model parameters applied to each simulation and their impact upon the reliability of predictions of potential loss of life (PLL) are analysed and discussed. The feasibility of the approach is discussed and recommendations to be considered for future applications made.

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