ASDSO Dam Safety Toolbox

Public Safety

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Learn more about public safety at dams from this free webinar

Conditions may exist at or near dams and hydraulic structures that could cause injury or loss of life. Although the most significant hazard and cause of fatalities is the transient submerged hydraulic jump or hydraulic roller that is often attributed to flow over low-head run-of-the-river dams, there are many other hazards that exist at dams that have contributed to accidents and fatalities. Dozens of fatalities, resulting from other hazardous conditions produced by and around dams include: strainers, sudden releases with rapidly increasing flow conditions, confined spaces, unpredictable currents, submerged structures, hidden dam crests, watercraft over spillways, entrapment, stranding, and steep slopes and slippery surfaces.

Dam owners, engineers inspecting and designing dam modifications, regulators and others working around dams need to understand the hazards posed to the public by the presence and operations of dams and levees and be aware of their responsibility for addressing, managing, and when possible eliminating these public safety risks.

When possible, hazards should be completely mitigated by modifying a dam to completely eliminate the risk to the public. When not possible, mitigation measures can include restrictions to entry (fencing) and signage. Public safety education particularly with young people is another strategy to prevent deaths or injuries at these dams.


Learn more about the need to address public safety at dams at

Best Practices Resources

Dam Safety Warning Signs Best Practices (FEMA P-2188), FEMA

Guidelines for Public Safety at Hydropower Projects, FERC


On-Demand Webinar: Introduction to Public Safety Risk Evaluation and Treatment for Dams and Levees

On-Demand Webinar: Identifying Hazards and Improving Public Safety at Low Head Dams

YouTube: Identifying Hazards and Improving Public Safety at Low Head Dams


Revision ID: 7152
Revision Date: 07/11/2023