South Carolina has more than 10,000 dams throughout the state, including 34 federally regulated dams and over 2,317 state regulated dams. At any time, one or more of these dams may be threatened by upstream flash floods, earthquakes, neglect or any combination of the above, which can cause personal injury or death, significant water damage to property or additional failures to dams located downstream.
Before a Dam Failure
- Know your risk. There are more than 10,000 dams located throughout South Carolina. 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. An EAP is a formal document required for all dams regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the US Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), or designated as a “High Hazard” or “Significant Hazard” by the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). Dams designated as “Low Hazard” by DHEC are surveyed every three years. 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
- 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
- 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.