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Dam failure due to earthquake; Short-term solutions

Dams are critical infrastructures that provide many benefits such as water supply, flood control, irrigation, hydropower, recreation, and navigation. However, dams also pose significant risks to public safety and the environment in case of failure or damage due to natural hazards such as earthquakes.

According to the International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD), there are more than 58,000 large dams worldwide, with an average age of 50 years. Many of these dams are located in seismically active regions and may not have been designed or retrofitted to withstand strong ground motions. Moreover, some dams may have deteriorated over time due to aging, erosion, corrosion, sedimentation, or vandalism.

The consequences of dam failure or damage due to earthquakes can be catastrophic. For example, in 1976, the Tangshan earthquake in China caused the collapse of 62 dams and the death of more than 240,000 people. In 2008, the Wenchuan earthquake in China damaged more than 2,300 dams and reservoirs and triggered massive landslides that buried villages and blocked rivers. In 2011, the Tohoku earthquake in Japan damaged several dams and nuclear power plants and caused a devastating tsunami that killed more than 18,000 people.

Therefore, it is essential for dam owners and operators to monitor earthquake risks and take preventive measures to reduce potential losses. However, traditional methods of earthquake risk assessment and management are often costly, time-consuming, complex, uncertain, or outdated. Moreover, most existing earthquake early warning systems can only provide seconds or minutes of warning time before an earthquake strikes.

This is where Earling comes in with an exclusive and innovative platform that provides short-term earthquake forecasting and risk transfer solutions that drastically increase time for decision makers. Earling uses artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze billions of data records every day from various sources such as seismometers, smartphones with Earling app installed, satellites, etc., to compare historical earthquake patterns with current real events that may indicate an unusual seismic activity in more than 270 regions around the world.

Earling issues Earthquake Preparedness Alerts up to days in advance when it detects a high-risk activity pattern that previously followed by major earthquakes. These alerts can help dam owners
and operators prepare for potential earthquakes by taking actions such as:

  • Inspecting dam structures and equipment for any signs of damage or malfunction
  • Reviewing emergency plans and procedures with staff and stakeholders
  • Updating contact information and communication channels with authorities
  • Securing loose materials and objects around dam sites
  • Lowering reservoir levels if possible
  • Evacuating downstream populations if necessary

Earling also offers Earthquake Risk Transfer solutions for dam owners and operators who want to mitigate their financial exposure to earthquake losses. Earling partners with insurance companies, reinsurance companies, and capital markets to create  customized products such as parametric insurance policies, catastrophe bonds, or contingent loans that can provide fast payouts based on predefined triggers such as magnitude, location, or intensity of an earthquake.

By using Earling services, dam owners and operators can benefit from:

  • Increased awareness and preparedness for potential earthquakes
  • Reduced physical and economic losses due to earthquakes
  • Enhanced reputation and social responsibility among customers, communities, and regulators.

Earling is a pioneer in short-term earthquake forecasting and risk transfer platform that aims to create new opportunities for its partners in encountering earthquake uncertainty and consequences.

To learn more about Earling's services for dam safety, please visit Earling risk mitigation for dams or contact us.