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DHS Updates Dam Breach Simulation Software with New Contract

As thousands of dams across the country have been classified as deficient, the Department of Homeland Security is adding new features to its dam breach simulation software. A new contract signed in September and sponsored by the DHS Science and Technology Directorate and the Federal Emergency Management Agency is providing the development team of DSS-WISE Lite with improvements to its analytic capabilities.

The program creates maps and simulations of scenarios that would undermine the stability of a dam or levee and projects the damage there would be to the surrounding area. The new features are a flood hazard map and a human consequence module, which will tabulate U.S. Census Bureau block population data and gridded nighttime and daytime population data from LandScan USA.

“This global population distribution data enables decision makers to prepare more precise emergency plans based on how many people will be impacted and how many will need to be evacuated,” S&T Senior Program Manager Mike Matthews told Snapshot. “Knowing the impacted population allows better allocation of resources, especially during larger events.

There are more than 2,000 high-hazard-potential dams across the country, according to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials.

The program, which launched 10 years ago, is continually updated and is used by the 34 state dam safety offices. In 2017, it predicted 110 simulations on dams in powerless and hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico, and during Hurricane Florence in September “North and South Carolina users were hurrying to run dam breach simulations and plan for evacuations if necessary,” according to DHS.

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James Cullum
Multimedia journalist James Cullum has reported for over a decade to newspapers, magazines and websites in the D.C. metro area. He excels at finding order in chaotic environments, from slave liberations in South Sudan to the halls of the power in Washington, D.C.

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