OUR Clemson

National Dam Safety Awareness Day is May 31


National Dam Safety Awareness Day, which occurs each year on May 31, seeks to encourage and promote individual and community responsibility and best practices for dam safety, as well as steps that can be taken to prevent future dam failures.

The day was established to commemorate the failure of the South Fork Dam in Johnstown, Pennsylvania on May 31, 1889. The disaster was the worst dam failure in the history of the United States, resulting in over 2,200 lives lost.

There are dams in every state, including over 2,000 dams in South Carolina, according to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO). It is important to know if you and your loved ones live, work or recreate in areas that may be affected by the presence of a dam and what to do if this is the case.

Clemson University’s main campus is bordered by three dams, which expands our campus footprint and creates recreational opportunities, both on the water and on the dams themselves. While these dams are managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Clemson University works closely with USACE to coordinate emergency plans.

If you live or work in a dam-break inundation area or an area prone to flooding as a result of upstream dams, consider the following:

  • Do your research before buying a home and contact your state dam safety agency (DHEC in SC) or your local emergency management to determine your risk.
  • Have multiple ways to receive emergency alerts and understand the warning systems in place to alerts residents of a dam incident.
  • Pre-plan your evacuation routes from home or work.
  • Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Prepare your home for the impacts of flooding.
    • Consider elevating your furnace, water heater and electric panel and installing check valves and a sump pump.
    • Keep important documents in a waterproof container and move valuables to higher levels.
  • Consider purchasing flood insurance

Dams can pose a risk to those engaged in recreational activities, such swimming, fishing and boating. Review these tips from the ASDSO on staying safe around dams.

For more information on dams and how you can be prepared in the event of an emergency, check out the ASDSO’s guide on Living with Dams: Know Your Risks.