2023 – Improving Emergency Preparedness Through Realistic Practical Dam Safety Exercises

Damien Bryan

Practical dam safety emergency exercises are a key regulatory requirement for large dam owners in NSW, and an integral element of sound emergency preparedness.
Whilst the preparation and delivery of exercises of this type and scale can be challenging, there are significant benefits for not only the dam owner and site operations team, but emergency services, and other key stakeholders.

Over the past 4 years WaterNSW has been on a journey of defining and developing a practical dam safety exercise program and delivery model as part of a larger dam safety emergency preparedness capability uplift program.

A good practical exercise provides participants with the opportunity to practice their real-time response to a developing dam safety emergency, in a realistic environment. Practical dam safety exercises explore challenges not usually addressed in desktop exercises, including the prioritisation of critical competing tasks with limited personnel and resources.
Practical exercises provide a safe and controlled environment for personnel to develop a better understanding of their likely role during an emergency, build familiarity with emergency response elements, and for dam owners to identify potential gaps in their emergency plans and response procedures. The methodology used by WaterNSW for the delivery of practical dam safety emergency exercises serves as an example of an approach that can be taken to deliver practical dam safety emergency for dams of all sizes.

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