ASDSO Dam Safety Toolbox

Risk Management for Dam Safety

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“The term ‘risk,’ when used in the context of dam safety, is comprised of three parts: (1) the likelihood of occurrence of a load (e.g., flood earthquake, etc.), (2) the likelihood of an adverse structural response (e.g., dam failure, damaging spillway discharge, etc.), and (3) the magnitude of the consequences resulting from that adverse event (e.g., life loss, economic damages, environmental damages, etc.).” [1]

According to the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), risk is defined as “the measure of the probability and severity of undesirable consequences”.[2] Risk is further defined by the USACE as the product of the frequency of an event, the probability of occurrence of that event, and the consequences of that event. In recent years, risk has become a major factor in identifying where resources should be expended to achieve the highest increase in public safety. The process of using risk in this manner is known as Risk-Informed Decision Making (RIDM) and includes an entire process of identifying and analyzing potential failure modes to reduce the overall risk of a dam failure.

Risk Processes for Dam Safety


Learn the basics of risk-informed decision-making for dams at

Best Practices Resources

Best Practices in Dam and Levee Safety Risk Analysis, USACE/USBR

Risk-Informed Decision Making (RIDM) Interim Policy Guidance, FERC

Federal Guidelines for Dam Safety Risk Management, FEMA

Dam and Levee Safety: Using Risk-Informed Decision Making, USACE


On-Demand Webinar: The History of Dam Safety Governance in the US Including Risk Analysis

On-Demand Webinar: What Can I Really Expect to Get Out of a Semi-Quantitative Risk Analyses (SQRA)?

On-Demand Webinar: How to Conduct a Successful PFMA - Lessons Learned from Past Successes and Failures

On-Demand Webinar: Risk Communication for Dams

On-Demand Webinar: Tolerable Risk Guidelines for Dams: How Safe is Safe Enough

On-Demand Webinar: Risk Assessment Basics for an Individual Dam

On-Demand Webinar: Risk Management for a Portfolio of Dams

Fundamental Dam and Levee Safety Training, USACE


Revision ID: 7635
Revision Date: 08/16/2023