PROMPTON, PA (MAY 27, 2015) – High school students learned firsthand the importance of dam safety and emergency response practices during a visit to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Prompton Dam in Northeastern Pennsylvania on May 27.
The students are members of the Wallenpaupack High School Emergency Responders Club. The group participated in a tour and mock tabletop exercise simulating a flood event at the dam.
“I think it’s commendable these students are actively taking steps to learn about emergency response in their own community,” said Bruce Rogers, Dam & Levee Safety Program Manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Philadelphia District. “We were excited to provide them with an opportunity to focus on dam safety.”
The event was particularly timely as it occurred just a few days before National Dam Safety Awareness Day, which commemorates the failure of the South Fork Dam in Johnstown, Pennsylvania on May 31, 1889.
Rogers hosted the tour and exercise with assistance from John Kerkowski, who retired as Chief of Engineering and Construction for the USACE North Atlantic Division and Danny Rodriguez, Dam Safety Program Manager for the USACE North Atlantic Division.
During the presentation, Rogers spoke with students about his own experiences responding to emergency situations. He then covered the benefits of dams, explained how they can fail, and highlighted the measures USACE can take to mitigate risk.
Students then toured Prompton Dam and learned about construction and recent improvements completed in 2012. During the tour, Rogers explained the project’s features as well as the instrumentation used to monitor the integrity of the dam.
To culminate the event, students learned about the roles and responsibilities of key personnel involved in dam safety activities during a flood event. Rogers then facilitated a mock tabletop exercise with students ‘acting’ as key personnel. With firsthand knowledge, they were able to decide on appropriate mitigation and evacuation strategies as the flooding scenario worsened.
Colleen Edwards, the club’s faculty advisor, said the event at Prompton Dam was beneficial in part because of the proximity to their community.
“We’ve visited a number of different organizations in recent years all under the umbrella of emergency response,” said Edwards. “We try to provide students with a glimpse into the variety of careers as part of the visits.”
About Prompton Dam
Prompton Dam has prevented more than $23 million in damages since its construction in 1960. It was built in response to severe floods on the Lackawaxen River in 1936, 1942 and 1955.
National Dam Safety Awareness Day
National Dam Safety Awareness Day occurs each year on May 31 to commemorate the failure of the South Fork Dam in Johnstown, Pennsylvania on May 31, 1889. The Johnstown disaster was the worst dam failure in the history of the United States, with over 2,200 lives lost. National Dam Safety Awareness Day was created to encourage and promote individual and community responsibility and best practices for dam safety, and what steps people can take to either prevent future catastrophic dam failures or lessen the impact if a failure was to occur. Another important goal of National Dam Safety Awareness Day is to promote the benefits that dams offer.