Preparedness Empowers You

It saves lives, property, and time.

Emergencies happen, often with little or no notice. By taking action beforehand you can be prepared for any emergency.

Be Ready Navy!
I am. Are you?

Dam Failure

MILLINGTON, Tenn. (May 1, 2010) Streets in the family housing section of Naval Support Activity Mid-South were under water Saturday, May 1, 2010 during major flooding after heavy rains breeched nearby protective levees. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Hospital Corpsman Vincent M. Soto/Released) 100501-N-0000X-003

Dam failures or levee breaches can occur quickly and without much warning, causing severe flash flooding in the surrounding area and resulting in property damage and loss of life.


  • Severe storms, including thunderstorms and hurricanes
  • Accumulation of melted snow
  • Jams caused by debris
  • Landslides
  • Volcanic eruptions
  • Fire
  • Civil disturbance

Areas at Risk

  • Determine whether your home or work place is downstream from a dam and whether you are within a predetermined evacuation zone.
  • The potential hazard risk of a dam is designated by the following criteria:
    • High Hazard—Dam failure would probably result in loss of life and major damage to property.
    • Significant Hazard—Dam failure could possibly cause some loss of life and property damage.
    • Low Hazard—Dam failure is unlikely to cause loss of life or property damage.

How to Prepare

  • Be and stay informed by monitoring radio and TV alerts and messaging.
  • Make a written family evacuation plan.
  • Make a written emergency communication plan, in case family members are separated. 
  • Build an emergency kit that includes essential items for the entire family.

What to Do If a Dam Fails

  • Keep informed about the situation by monitoring radio or TV.
  • If you are ordered to evacuate:
    • Take only essential items, including your family emergency kit.
    • Turn off gas, electricity, and water.
    • Disconnect appliances.
    • Make sure your car’s gas tank is full.
    • Do not walk in moving water.
    • Do not drive in flood water. As little as six inches of water can cause loss of control and stalling of a vehicle.
    • Follow the designated evacuation plan, and expect a high volume of traffic.
  • If you are NOT ordered to evacuate:
    • Stay tuned to an emergency station on radio or TV.
    • Listen for further instructions.
    • Prepare to evacuate to a shelter or neighbor’s home if your home is damaged.
  • Once you are in a safe place, muster with your command if you are military or civilian personnel or a member of the selective reserves.

What to Do After a Dam Failure

  • Listen to news reports to make sure water supplies are not contaminated.
  • Stay clear of flood waters (standing and moving) as they may be contaminated or deeper than expected.
  • Beware of downed power lines.
  • Avoid any roads where flood waters have receded as they may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
  • Be extremely cautious when entering buildings and homes as there may be unseen damage.
  • Clean and disinfect everything that was touched by water as it can contain sewage and other contaminants.
  • After a declared emergency, register your needs with the Navy through the Navy Family Accountability and Assessment System (NFAAS) at or call 1-877-414-5358 or 1-866-297-1971 (TDD).


"Flooding is the leading cause of severe weather-related deaths in the U.S., and this is especially tragic since many are preventable. Of the nearly 100 flood-related fatalities each year, most occur as people attempt to drive on flooded roads. In many cases, the water is either too deep or moving too fast for drivers to maintain control of their vehicle, and in extreme cases the roadway may be washed away entirely," said Jack Hayes, director, NOAA's National Weather Service, which produces an array of flood outlooks and forecasts, including watches and life-saving warnings. "Remember, if confronted with a water-covered road follow National Weather Service advice: Turn Around, Don't Drown."

Where to Find Additional Information


Be Ready Navy—Be informed before, during, and after an incident; make a written family emergency plan; and build an emergency supply kit good for at least three days.

This is an Official US Navy Website
Switch to Full Site
Switch to Mobile Site