Prepare for Emergencies

Dam failures occur every year in this country. Dams may fail on first filling, after a heavy storm, during maintenance efforts, or suddenly after 100 years of “safe” operation. In an event that may stress your dam (hurricane, heavy rain, earthquake, etc.), an effective and up-to-date Emergency Action Plan (EAP) is a critical tool for high and significant hazard dam owners, dam safety officials, and emergency response personnel.

An effective EAP can save lives and protect property. A well prepared EAP will provide details regarding emergency triggers; monitoring of the dam during flood events; incident mitigation methods; communication protocols; incident command duties; and perhaps most importantly, the information necessary to determine where the at-risk population downstream of the dam is located, and how to safely evacuate those persons.

An effective EAP can save lives and protec​t property. A well prepared EAP will provide details regarding emergency triggers; monitoring of the dam during flood events; incident mitigation methods; communication protocols; incident command duties; and perhaps most importantly, the information necessary to determine where the at-risk population downstream of the dam is located, and how to safely evacuate those persons.

Before a Dam Failure or Incident

Know your risk. There are nearly 600 dams located throughout Maryland, and many more smaller dams/ponds. Do you live downstream from a dam? Is the dam a high-hazard or significant-hazard potential dam?

Review the current Emergency Action Plan (EAP) for the dam. Owners of High and Significant Hazard Potential dams in Maryland are required to review and update, as necessary, their EAP on an annual basis. The EAPs are developed and maintained by the dam owners, identify potential emergency conditions at a dam, and specify pre-planned actions to be followed to reduce property damage and loss of life. Please contact the dam owner if you have any questions concerning the EAP for a specific dam.

Know your evacuation route should you be told to evacuate.

Review your insurance policy. Flood coverage is not part of most homeowner, mobile home or renter’s insurance policies. There is a 30-day waiting period for coverage to take effect.

During a Dam Failure or Incident

If told to evacuate, secure your home. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture and move essential items to an upper floor.

Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves, if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.

Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.

Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle can be quickly swept away.

After a Dam Failure or Incident

After a flood, listen for news reports to learn whether the community’s water supply is safe to drink.

Avoid floodwaters; water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage. Water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.

Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Even if the roadway of a bridge or elevated highway looks normal, the support structures below may be damaged.

Stay clear of downed power lines and report them to your power company.

Use extreme caution when entering buildings; there may be hidden damage, particularly to foundations. Stay out of any building that is surrounded by floodwaters.

Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Mud left from floodwater can contain sewage and other harmful chemicals.​

Emergency Action Plan Template 

The Dam Safety Division has modified the national "Model Emergency Action Plan" which was the outcome of a multi-agency work group initiated in 2004 by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO). The Maryland-specific template documents are available at the following hyperlinks in Microsoft Word format. Note that the former individual templates for High or Significant Hazard dams have been combined into a single document that applies to both hazard classes. 


​A description of the template documents, as well as helpful tips for EAP generation, review and updates is available in the following document:


Maryland law requires owners of High and Significant Hazard Potential dams to review and update their EAP on an annual basis. The revised EAP must be submitted to the Dam Safety Division on or before May 1 annually for review and acceptance. Upon acceptance, the dam owner must distribute updated copies of the EAP to all listed record holders.​ 

Emergency Operations Planning: Dam Incident Planning Guide

The FEMA Dam Incident Planning Guide supports state, local, tribal, and territorial emergency managers in planning for dam incidents and failures by summarizing the concepts that a community should consider when creating dam incident-specific elements of local emergency operations plans. Download the Emergency Operations Planning: Dam Incident Planning Guide.​

Federal Guidelines for Emergency Action Planning for Dams  (FEMA P64)  


This FEMA document provides guidance to help dam owners, in coordination with emergency management authorities, effectively develop and exercise Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) for dams. The purpose of the guidance in this document is to meet that need.  Download the Federal Guidelines for Emergency Action Planning for Dams. 

Dam Emergency Intervention Toolbox 


The Dam Emergency Intervention Toolbox is designed to be an educational, interactive tool to assist dam owners and operators in preparing for, identifying, and responding to emergency conditions at their dams. Informative text, tables, and figures as well as forms, where dam owner/operator input or site-specific information is necessary, comprise the main body of the document. In addition to these in-text contents, the outer margin of each page is reserved for owner or operator notes and also contains calculators, resources, and advisory symbols where applicable. Download the Dam Emergency Intervention Toolbox.

Contact Information 

If you have questions regarding Emergency Action Plans for dams you may call us at (410) 537-3538.  Our mailing address is:

Dam Safety Division
Water and Science Administration
Maryland Department of the Environment

1800 Washington Boulevard, Ste. 440
Baltimore, Maryland 21230-1708​​