In recognition of National Dam Safety Awareness Day on May 31, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) urges those living, working or visiting downstream of dams to have an evacuation plan and be able to recognize signs of a potential dam breach.
PG&E takes its role as steward of waterways and its hydroelectric system very seriously and the safety of its customers and the public is always its most important responsibility.
“Dam safety and integrity are critical to our hydroelectric program,” said Debbie Powell, PG&E’s vice president of power generation. “PG&E inspects and maintains its dams according to strict safety guidelines, ensuring structural integrity under even extreme conditions. Nonetheless, it is important to be aware of potential flooding and have an evacuation plan should a dam fail.”
In 2017, damage to the State of California’s Oroville Dam spillway led to evacuations in Butte, Yuba and Sutter counties. The incident served as a reminder to those living and working near dams to have a family emergency plan. It is also a good time to check with your county’s office of emergency services to find out how to get notified during emergencies to receive alerts about potential and actual flooding, severe weather and natural disasters.
PG&E’s 96 storage reservoirs are used primarily for generating hydropower and are generally far smaller than state and federal multi-year water storage reservoirs like Lake Oroville and Shasta Lake.
National Dam Safety Awareness Day occurs on May 31 of each year to commemorate the failure of the South Fork Dam in Johnstown, Pa. in 1889. The awareness day was created to encourage and promote individual and community responsibility for dam safety, as well as to provide information for dam owners on what steps can be taken to prevent dam failures.
PG&E participates in local community events, sends informational brochures to customers by mail, and coordinates with schools in its service area to advise them of the need to recognize the signs of a potential dam failure, be able to identify evacuation routes and know how to contact local emergency response agencies for assistance.
PG&E has also developed plans in cooperation with state and local emergency agencies to warn the public in the unlikely event of a sudden dam failure. The energy company regularly engages in drills with emergency agencies to test response. In addition, PG&E also places informational posters about flood inundation zones in campgrounds, parks and other recreation sites throughout its service area.
The following are emergency and safety messages that PG&E is sharing with customers through brochures, posters and on its website:
Have a Plan
- Write down your evacuation route to higher ground.
- Plan how you will evacuate family members who might need assistance.
- Practice your evacuation route with family and agree on your safe family meeting place.
- Keep an emergency kit with blankets, flashlights, food, water, medication and supplies to last for three days.
- Intensified sound of rushing water.
- Increased water speed or depth.
- Unusual amounts of debris in the water.
- Change in water from clear to muddy.
- Unusually cold water temperatures.
What to Do if You’re in the Water
- Drop any items that could weigh you down.
- Stay calm and lie on your back.
- Keep your feet up and pointed downstream to avoid hitting rocks and to prevent your feet from getting tangled.
- Go with the current and move diagonally across it until you reach shore.
- Roll onto dry land to drain your boots or waders.
What to Do if You’re Near the Water
- Head for higher ground.
- Turn on your weather radio to access the National Weather Service’s Emergency Alert System.
- Do not walk through moving water.
- Avoid driving through flooded areas.
- Follow your family’s or authorities’ evacuation plan.
Stay Out and Stay Alive - Stay Out of Canals and Flumes
- Recreating in PG&E canals and flumes is strictly prohibited. Stay out of these water conveyances, regardless of who owns them, as they are very dangerous due to slippery sides and fast-moving cold water. For a number of reasons, not all areas are open for recreation. Keep off of elevated flumes. Be mindful of signs and warnings. Stay out of areas that are signed as restricted, fenced off or buoy lined.
More information is available on the PG&E website: www.pge.com/hydrosafety and the FEMA website: www.fema.gov/protecting-our-communities/dam-safety