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.

The best source of information on developing an Emergency Action Plan is available from the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO).  They have a webpage full of information, videos, fact sheets: 


  1. Develop a new EAP using a model developed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), using MSWord or other word processing program.  We recommend deleting all signatures lines (page 23 in template has several signature lines, the cover has signatures as well).  A good idea in theory, not workable in practice.
  2. Save as an Adobe .pdf file.  Combine with inundation maps which should also be in Adobe .pdf format to make one file that is under 10 MB in size.
    • Larger files are too difficult to distribute electronically by email which is important. Try reducing the file size, by saving as a “reduced size pdf”. If the file is still too large, keep the maps in a separate file. .
  3. Email (or mail) this draft file to the plan holders (county DES, Sheriff, DNRC, your engineer, etc.) Ask them to review the EAP and let you know if they recommend any changes.
  4. Incorporate changes you receive and email (or mail) a final EAP to all plan holders.

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.

  1. Complete a thorough review of the EAP, verifying all content and contact information is still accurate. Check the maps, is there new development downstream? Verify material and equipment suppliers are still able to assist in an emergency.  Update as appropriate.
  2. Provide the updated EAP to your engineer to review as part of their Five-Year Evaluation of the dam. Incorporate their suggestions into your updated document.
  3. Email (or mail) the updated draft file to all plan holders. Ask them to review the EAP and let you know if they recommend any changes.
  4. Incorporate changes you receive and email (or mail) a final EAP to all plan holders.

NOTE:  DNRC cannot renew an operation permit unless the EAP has undergone this comprehensive review.  We recommend you start this process early in the year to not hold up permit renewal.

  1. Review the EAP, call key folks and verify their contact info is the same.
  2. Incorporate changes (if necessary) and email (or mail) the EAP to all plan holders.  Even if there are no changes, please send all plan holders a copy of the EAP.  This assures that the EAP will be fresh in everyone’s mind, and close at hand in case of an emergency.  This also will serve as verification to DNRC that the EAP has been updated and more importantly, shows that you are being a responsible and conscientious dam owner, meeting the standard of care for owning a high hazard dam.

NOTE:  the update can be done using printed hard copies and mail.  However, learning to electronically update the EAP and using email to distribute will be much easier and less expensive.  Feel free to contact the DNRC Dam Safety Program for help and advice if you are having any difficulties in completing this process.

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.

Intervening in a Developing Dam Emergency

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)

Administrative Rules of Montana (Rules)