2019 – Lessons Learnt From Evacuation Modelling for Dam Failure Consequence Assessments

Hench Wang

The use of simulation models to assess dam failure consequences has progressively advanced in Australia over the past few years. For example, it is now common for HEC-LifeSim to be used to estimate potential loss of life from the failure of large dams with large populations at risk downstream. Since its introduction to Australia, numerous presentations and papers have been provided by USACE and industry professionals that highlight the benefits of using HEC-LifeSim for a range of different case studies.

Whilst the majority of the literature published to date have focused on the benefits of simulation modelling, this paper identifies some of the technical challenges that can arise, particularly in the evacuation modelling component of HEC-LifeSim. The techniques that have been used to overcome these challenges are also discussed using three case studies.

The first case study demonstrates the sensitivity of the life loss to changes in cell size and the output interval of the gridded hydraulic data. This is done by comparing the differences in life loss between high-resolution and low-resolution models for three dambreak models. The second case study illustrates the importance of the road network representation in HEC-LifeSim because the resolution of the road network is important to achieve plausible estimates of the fatalities along roads, and logical animations of the mobilisation. The final case study demonstrates the implications of coincident flow modelling on the life loss, and therefore the importance of understanding the hydrology of the target and neighbouring catchments.

This paper provides a checklist that prompts practitioners to consider some of the lessons learnt over the last few years and is envisaged to be a working document that improves the defensibility and robustness of HEC-LifeSim estimates throughout the industry.

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