Public Awareness

Living With Dams

What would you do if your property were flooded? Are you prepared? Could life and property be affected by a nearby dam?
Visit for information on living with dams.

Public Safety Around Dams

The issue of public safety around dams is of importance to anyone directly or indirectly involved in recreational activities in rivers or streams. 

Each year, dozens of lives are lost at dams on U.S. streams and rivers, many at low-head dams, also known as run-of-river dams or "drowning machines." These structures, generally less than 15 feet high, can create backflow currents and turbulence capable of producing disorientation, hypothermia, exhaustion, and brutal battering. The forces combine to create a practically inescapable circular trap for even the strongest, life jacket-clad swimmer.


Tips for Low-Head Dam Safety

1. Teach your friends and family about low head dams and other hazards in or near the water.

2. Wear your personal floatation device (PFD).

3. Know the waterway (river or lake).

4. Tell someone where you are going and when you will return.

5. Be aware of changes in water elevation and velocity due to weather events in the past 72+ hours.

6. Stay clear of dams both up and downstream.

7. If someone is in trouble, do NOT enter the water to assist them.  Use a throw bag or other remote assistive device.


Papers and Reports
Hidden Dangers and Public Safety at Low-Head Dams -  Bruce A. Tschantz and Kenneth R. Wright
What We Know (and don't know) About Low-Head Dams -  Bruce A. Tschantz
Public Safety Around Dams - Canadian Dam Association
Evaluation of Public Safety at Run-of-River Dams - Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Videos and Animations

Identifying Hazards and Improving Public Safety at Low Head Dams - ASDSO Webinar (Bruce A. Tschantz​​​​​​​ and Paul G. Schweiger)
Dangers of Low-Head Dams - "Boat Indiana" animation
Low Head Dam Signage and Outreach - Examples throughout the U.S. and Canada - Indiana Silver Jackets Low Head Dams Committee
Over, Under, Gone - The Killer in Our Rivers - Indiana Silver Jackets Low Head Dams Committee
Be a Dam Champion - Indiana Silver Jackets, video featuring American Drag Racer Leah Pritchett
Hydraulic Jump Over a Weir - Little River Research and Design

Staying Safe Around Dams
Stay Afloat" Flood Awareness Campaign Children's Activity Book - Indiana Department of Homeland Security (includes a page on safety at low-head dams)
Low Head Dams - Information for the Public - Iowa DNR
The Drowning Machine - Minnesota DNR
Dam Site Safety - Wisconsin Public Service

Guidelines for Public Safety Around Dams - Canadian Dam Association
Safety Signage at Hydropower Projects - Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
Evaluation of Public Safety at Run-of-River Dams - Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Low Head Dam Signage and Outreach - Indiana Silver Jackets Low Head Dams Committee
Nationwide Permit 53. Removal of Low-Head Dams - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Frequently Asked Questions on Removal of Obsolete Dams  - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

American Whitewater Accident Database (Scroll down the page for the search menu.)
Locations of Fatalities at Submerged Hydraulic Jumps- Brigham Young University
Low Head Dam Inventory and Fatality Data - Bruce Tschantz


Safety at Dams in the News

Reports of Incidents in 2018

Reports of incidents in 2017

Reports of incidents in 2016

Reports of incidents in 2015

Special thanks to our sustaining members