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DNRC Headquarters
1539 Eleventh Ave. Helena, MT 59601
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Planning for a Dam Emergency

Dam owners are responsible for preparing in advance for a dam emergency.

Preparation includes:

    • Having a map available of what gets flooded downstream
    • Stockpiling materials for intervening in a developing problem
    • Knowing 24-hour contact information for emergency responders
    • Knowing 24-hour contact information for local contractors and pump suppliers
    • Knowing 24-hour contact information for your engineer (and a backup, in case they are unavailable) or a list of engineers familiar with dams.
    • Having a fact sheet of key information on your dam at your fingertips (height, storage, construction, past performance, location, access, etc.)
All of the above are components of an Emergency Action Plan.

Choteau County Dam Failure 2011Choteau County Dam failure in 2011

For instructions and information on developing and updating a Dam Emergency Action Plan please refer to:
Guidelines for Developing and Updating a Dam Emergency Action Plan

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has a fill in the blank emergency action plan template. Nationally, dam owners are moving towards use of this template. Use of a consistent format has many benefits for emergency responders. Dam owners are welcome to use whatever format works best for them.  However, the Montana Dam Safety Program encourages use of the NRCS template. The template can be obtained from the NRCS at this link:

Model Dam Emergency Action Plan (NRCS)

Special Note about getting signatures on the emergency action plans: Although getting signatures seems like a good idea, in practice, waiting for signatures causes problems with distribution and is simply not practical. We recommend deleting the signature page in the NRCS model and the signature on the cover sheet.

Dam Owner Emergency Intervention Toolbox (Gannett Fleming, 2016)

History has shown us that successful intervention has prevented many dam failures. An "intervention" is not always straight forward; sometimes more harm can be done than good. Typically there is limited time to react and prepare. Recognizing the need for such a dam safety resource related to intervention, the Montana DNRC, in collaboration with other partnering State dam safety agencies and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), developed a dam emergency response toolbox for dam owners and other dam safety professionals.

The Dam Owner Emergency Intervention Toolbox is a collection of helpful resources and case study summaries. The toolbox contains innovative and effective emergency response solutions, best practices, response techniques, and other resources related to providing effective intervention during a dam emergency. This toolbox can be used for emergency planning efforts, risk reduction, and dam owner training and outreach.

Click on the links below to download the toolbox:

Dam Owner Emergency Intervention Toolbox 2016 (Adobe Acrobat)
Dam Owner Emergency Intervention Toolbox 2016 - Reader (Adobe Reader)
Toolbox Forms (Adobe Acrobat)
Toolbox Forms - Reader (Adobe Reader)

Other Information

The Association of State Dam Safety Officials maintains a website with information and lessons learned on dam failures that have occurred across the country. Refer to

For more information on Emergency Action Plans, including a variety of resources and webinars, see

Administrative Rules of Montana

Emergency Action Plans
(ARM 36.14.406)