HASTINGS – Multiple agencies in the Hastings area came together on Wednesday to focus on keeping residents safe in the event of a breach or a lower level emergency at the Hastings Northwest Dam.
Agencies including the City of Hastings, Adams County Emergency Management, Hastings Police Department, Adams County Highway Department, Upper Big Blue Natural Resources District (UBBNRD), Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, and the National Weather Service met at the Hastings Auditorium to update and practice the Emergency Action Plan for the Hastings Northwest Dam.
The dam, located north of the Hastings Municipal Airport, is categorized as a high-hazard dam. This means that there is a probable loss of human life and property should the dam fail. There are approximately 110 homes downstream of the dam should a breach or failure occur. For this reason Emergency Action Plans are required and a tabletop review of the EAP is required every five years.
Participants reviewed the best practices for keeping the dam and spillway clear of shrubs, debris and other obstructions, and identified various emergency levels in Wednesday’s exercise. It was also noted that presently the dam is in good condition and inspected regularly.
Agencies ran through a mock scenario, describing significant rainfall and the progressing effects on the dam. The scenario began at a level 1, which indicates abnormal activity at the dam where extra observation is required. Level 2 becomes an emergency situation with increasing water flow from the dam, and agencies practiced providing the proper notifications to one another and the public, and identified plans to obtain sand bags and road barricades, prepare for possible evacuations, and plan to provide shelter to those who may become displaced. A level 3 emergency means the dam has failed and evacuations are needed immediately. Participants completed a mock scenario to notify the proper agencies and prepare for potential rescue operations.
The exercise allows the dam’s owner, UBBNRD, to make the necessary changes and updates to the EAP. The designated primary dam observer, alternate dam observer, and landowner of the auxiliary spillway also participated in the exercise.