7. Can the consequences of dam-related emergency be influenced by human behavior?

The most important issue is to protect people and to prevent loss of life; therefore, the main aim is to have safe dams. All other issues are much less relevant as long as people’s lives are not at risk. That is why the design and use of dams should take into account all possible hazards.

By means of a fully operational water alarm system and emergency planning, the loss of lives can be minimized in the case of a dam failure.

Dam-related hazards can therefore, to some degree, be reduced by safety surveillance involving:

  • regular visual inspection of dam surfaces and foundations, the reservoir and other related constructions;
  • continuous instrumental monitoring of the dam and foundations. 

In the 1970s the time-consuming manual acquisition and processing of instrumental data was mitigated by the development of digital data-loggers and computers. The last step in the automation of monitoring systems was made recently through telemetry systems for remote acquisition of instrumental data: Automatic Data Acquisition Systems (ADAS). The idea of using monitoring systems for dam safety assessment is that continuous monitoring allows the identification of deviations of strains (tilts) in the dam body and its foundation using values providing stability of the edifice and calculated theoretically during dam design.

Training in emergency management is undeniably useful. For this purpose civil defence organisations and other institutions responsible for emergency management must hold regular training courses and people should be aware of what they have to do in the case of an emergency.
All other consequences can only be reduced effectively by land-use planning, which will take a long time to implement.

Finally, economic damage can be insured even if insurance is not the best solution; it only helps to cope with one of the many consequences of dam failure.