Preparing & Responding to Events at Your Dam

The first call when a dam failure is imminent or in progress is 911.

From 2015 to 2018, South Carolina experienced tropical weather systems that significantly impacted dams across the state. In these weather systems, dams are susceptible to stress both from heavy rains and strong winds. Significant rainfall can overwhelm a dam's spillway and lead to overtopping of a dam, while winds can topple trees which may cause a loss of embankment material.

Dam owners are responsible for operating and maintaining their dams in a safe condition. Whenever severe weather approaches, the Department encourages dam owners and operators to prepare and respond.


When a significant rainfall event or a storm carrying high winds are forecast, dam owners should:

  • Evaluate the water level in the pond/lake. Determine if water levels can be safely lowered to make room for incoming flows.
  • Coordinate releases of water with dam owners and/or property owners downstream.
  • While it is safe to do so, routinely clear debris from spillways.
  • Review your Emergency Action Plan
  • Keep alert! As the storm passes, watch for rising waters.


Once the storm event has passed and it is safe to assess your dam:

Please note that a permit is required to repair a dam regulated under the South Carolina Dams and Reservoir Safety Act and Regulations. If owners have questions on what activities may be considered repair, please contact Dam Safety Program staff at 803-898-1939.

Carefully Assess Your Dam

Check for evidence of debris-clogged spillways. Remove accumulated debris.

If dam failure appears imminent, implement an Emergency Action Plan immediately and alert/call local emergency officials. You may find the officials for your county by visiting

Report any concerns or damage to DHEC Dam Safety Program staff 24-7 at 803-898-1939, or you may email


CodeRED Dams & Reservoirs