Members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, and Clemson University participated in dam safety tabletop exercises at Hartwell and Clemson Diversion Dams July 27-28. The exercises help foster dialogue between the Corps and stakeholders and prepares them to respond more effectively and efficiently to an emergency with the dam.
Tabletop exercises are sessions where hypothetical emergency scenarios are discussed by key personnel assigned to emergency management roles and the team simulates the actions they would take during a real word crisis.
“This creates an optimum training environment for participants to validate plans, roles and responsibilities that would occur during an actual emergency,” said Matthew Collins, an emergency management specialist with the Savannah District.
Collins said the results of the exercise can help identify opportunities to improve response capabilities by revealing gaps, training and equipment needs, other shortfalls, or required changes that can be corrected before a real event occurs.
The exercises are conducted every five years as part of the Corps’ Dam Safety Program.
Lucia Wimberly, the safety program manager for the Savannah District, said that one of the biggest benefits of the exercises are the networking opportunities.
“This is the main way we develop relationships with other emergency mangers,” said Wimberly. “The Corps Dam Safety Program is constantly changing, so this is also a great way to convey any updates we have with the emergency management community.”
Wimberly said one of the main updates is the release of new inundation maps, which will help provide visual cues about which structures and homes could be at risk during a flood event. The maps are publicly accessible through the National Inventory of Dams database.
The Corps is part of the federal government's unified national response to disasters and emergencies. The Corps also assists the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency as the primary agency for public works and engineering-related emergency support.
Savannah District operates three dams along the Savannah River — Hartwell, Richard B. Russell, and J. Strom Thurmond — which may be crucial to reducing flooding if a storm produces a lot of rainfall in the upper part of the Savannah River Basin. The Clemson Diversion Dams are Corps high-hazard dams located on Hartwell Lake at Clemson University. The dams, which were constructed as part of the Hartwell Dam and Lake Project, prevent Hartwell Lake from spilling into the low-lying areas of Clemson University.