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Emergency action plans

In line with a recommendation of the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry, there is a legislative requirement under the Water Supply (Safety and Reliability) Act 2008 for dam owners to have an approved emergency action plan (EAP) for each referable dam.

Please note the following:

  1. A referable dam is a dam that would put lives at risk if it were to fail.
  2. The Department of Energy and Water Supply does not guarantee the accuracy of the mapping presented.
  3. EAPs are not the complete emergency response package. They are intended to complement the plans of local disaster management groups who have primary response roles in most disaster situations. Ask your council for the local group's contact details.
  4. EAPs can be very large documents that could take some time to download.

For people downstream of a referable dam, EAPs ensure that there are protocols and procedures in place for the dam owner and disaster management groups to coordinate emergency responses and downstream warnings.

EAPs have long been a requirement for referable dams and were captured within the Queensland Dam Safety Management Guidelines and in Conditions attached to the dam. The Act now requires that new EAPs will have provisions about emergency action planning and reporting and that pre-existing EAPS will prevail until such time as the new EAP is approved under the revised legislative arrangements.

A provisional guideline (PDF, 1.3MB) is available to help dam owners prepare their EAPs. This guideline is to also assist local and district disaster management groups (LDMGs) to understand their role in the preparation of the EAPs.

Feedback on the provisional guideline is encouraged and can be provided to the department, via the email address below. The department plans to publish an updated version of this guideline to incorporate relevant feedback in mid-2015.

These plans are published online to allow access to the publicly available parts of relevant EAPs. 

Limitations of emergency action plans 

EAPs may not cater for all emergency event scenarios and their effectiveness will often depend on other systems which may be impacted by the same conditions. In such cases those initiating warning notifications etc. may need to seek alternative arrangements. Users should treat them with appropriate caution.

All EAPs should incorporate detailed disaster risk management principles and align with local disaster management plans and be the subject of continuous improvement. The effectiveness of EAP provisions is dependent on a range of factors including the accuracy of the available flood modelling and the adequacy of available communications during emergency events.

The inundation maps contained in these EAPs should only be considered as indicative of what might occur during an emergency event and readers should be aware of potential limitations in relying on this information.

The modelling on which these EAPs are based was typically arranged by the dam owner and. may have limited accuracy. It is important to note the following issues:

  1. The accuracy of the flood mapping depends on the accuracy of the modelling used to determine the depths of inundation for the particular hazards and the assumptions as to the particular dam failure scenarios. If a failure does eventuate, the actual scenario may prove different to that assumed for the mapped event.
  2. Even though the modelling on which inundation maps are based may have been calibrated for historical events, such events are typically much smaller than the extreme events that threaten dam integrity. As such, the accuracy can diminish when extrapolated to larger events and substantial number of additional dwellings can be inundated in urban areas.
  3. Inundation mapping is typically based on extreme theoretical design storm events centred over the dam rather than actual storm events over the entire catchment. Inundations at particular locations downstream during actual events may be very different because of the magnitude of other concurrent flooding which may differ to that assumed in the original modelling.

In summary, the maps published in EAPs should be viewed as indicating the potential zones likely to be affected for the particular low probability extreme events modelled. It does not guarantee that they will be affected nor that other nearby areas will not be affected.

Risk planning

Dam owners cannot force an evacuation, they can warn people who are at risk from emergency events at their dam. As such, referable dam EAPs should complement local disaster management plans and be primarily targeted at providing warnings to people who can be reasonably expected to be living or working in premises downstream of the dam.

They are not required to explicitly cover itinerant persons who happen to be downstream of a dam although such warnings are highly desirable, time permitting. Similar limitations might also apply to people using downstream roads.

Removal of privacy information 

The dam safety regulator is required to keep a register of approved EAPs and make a copy available on this site. During the consultation period for the amendments to the Act, some owners were concerned that the publication of the EAPs would compromise the security of their dam. The Act was amended so that the publicly available EAPs on this website do not include the name, address and contact details of an individual.

If you are a dam owner and have functions under the plan or are named and required to be personally notified of an emergency condition, you are required by the Act to make copies of the approved plan available. 

Find out more

For further information or to provide feedback about the EAPs, please email damsafety@dews.qld.gov.au.
Last updated
26 February 2015