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PG&E Holds Open House On Dam Failure Procedures

NORTH FORK – There is often a lot of focus on what residents should do in the event of a massive wildfire or destructive storm. But how often do people think about what to do if a dam in the area were to fail?

PG&E has scheduled an open house on Monday, Apr. 22, at the North Fork Town Hall, from 5 to 7 p.m., as part of its public outreach to residents and business owners immediately downstream of its dams.

The campaign is to alert people in dam inundation areas about the importance of having an evacuation plan and recognizing signs of a dam breach. The town of North Fork is situated directly below the Crane Valley Dam on Bass Lake.

The safety campaign is a nationwide initiative by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for hydroelectric dam owners to better inform people downstream of dams and is not a reflection of dam conditions. Dams in the United States are very safe and dam failures are very rare, notes PG&E, and each dam is regularly inspected and maintained according to strict safety guidelines to ensure structural integrity..

PG&E also is mailing brochures to residences and businesses within the potential flood inundation areas, mostly in sparsely populated areas. The brochures include information on how to recognize potential warning signs in the unlikely event of a dam failure, including rapidly changing river or stream conditions such as increased water speed or depth.

“We want people to be prepared,” said Meg Richardson, PG&E’s manager of public safety for power generation. “PG&E feels that rather than assuming that someone else — whether it’s a local fire department or their insurance company or real estate agent — we’re going to take the lead and say, ‘We want you to have a plan.'”

PG&E says they are mailing brochures that include a map of the potential local inundation area, evacuation routes, safety tips and local emergency contacts. Brochures include information on how to recognize potential warning signs of dam failure, which include rapidly changing river or stream conditions such as increased water speed or depth.

The brochures advise residents and businesses to:

  • Prepare and store an emergency kit with blankets, flashlights and enough food, water and supplies for three days
  • Think about any residents who are elderly or who need special assistance and how they would be evacuated
  • Contact local officials to find out if there is an evacuation center in their town
  • Create a family evacuation plan, including emergency contacts and a main and alternative route to a meeting place
  • Call 911 or their local emergency contact number in the event of an emergency

In the coming weeks the utility says they will also post signs in campgrounds and parks in inundation areas. Richardson said PG&E plans to eventually communicate with all residents and businesses near all of the utility’s dams and will even produce brochures in different languages depending on an area’s demographics.

The public outreach isn’t new for PG&E. Since 2006, PG&E says they have developed plans and regular drills with emergency agencies to warn the public in the event of a sudden dam failure.

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