Course 1

Dam Failure Modelling and Emergency Planning

(LNEC Library)

About the Course

Effective Emergency Action Plans (EAP) at high hazard potential dams is a key issue to reduce loss of life and property damage due to dam failure. Dam risk mitigation is achieved by increasing dam safety and improving the preparedness of dam owners and operators, dam safety managers, emergency officials and the people at risk in the downstream valley.

This one-day course is designed to provide a comprehensive understanding of the most important aspects of dam safety evaluation and failure, dam-break flood risk assessment and emergency planning. It is developed by geotechnical, structural, hydraulic and emergency experts and comprises three modules: i) risk assessment and causes of dam failure ii) dam-break flood modelling and iii) risk mitigation and emergency preparedness planning.

The purpose of the first module concerns the presentation of the main anomalies on dams as well as the failure causes. It begins with the lessons learned with historical failures and continues by presenting procedures for reliable and timely anomalies identification based in safety dam inspections, behaviour analysis and remedial actions for dam safety for both, embankments and concrete dams.

The second module is dedicated to dam-break modelling using two different available numerical models: i) the unsteady state flow HEC-RAS model and GEO-RAS interface and ii) the MIKE family modelling systems. Both, HEC-RAS and MIKE, include the features to compute the outflow hydrograph induced by the dam break as well as (1-D) and (2-D) flood routing in the downstream valley. Within MIKE tools, special emphasis will be given to tailing dam’s failure modelling.

The third module is dedicated to the importance of an Emergency Action Plan, providing, in a first step, guidance on developing and implementing EAP and, in a second step, presenting challenges, emergency solutions implemented, and lessons learned in real case studies, like the recent failure of Brumadinho dam, in Brazil.


Teresa Viseu is a Research Officer at LNEC and the Head of Water Resources and Hydraulic Structures Division of the Water and Environmental Department. She has a PhD on Civil Engineering and works in the expertise areas of hydraulic structures, fluvial hydraulics, hydrology and water resources. She coordinates studies and research projects on hydraulic structures behaviour, floods & dam risk management, dam-break flood assessment as well as emergency planning. She has been involved in dam safety evaluation and risk analysis of most Large Portuguese dams and in several hydraulic model studies of dams in Portugal and Spain.

Laura Caldeira is the Head of the Geotechnical Department of the National Laboratory for Civil Engineering and Principal Research Officer at LNEC. She has an extensive experience with consultation for design, construction and safety evaluation of embankment dams and development and practical application of risk-informed approaches to dam safety management. She was President of Geotechnical Portuguese Society, a member of ICOLD Dam Safety Committee, the Portuguese Dam Safety Commission and the Portuguese Commission for the Revision of the Dam Safety Code and Norms.

António Tavares de Castro is a Senior Researcher at LNEC and the Head of the Monitoring Unit of the Concrete Dams Department; he has a PhD in Civil Engineering and works in monitoring, interpretation of the behaviour and safety assessment of concrete and masonry dams during all their lives, including the construction, the first filling of the reservoir and the operation periods; he has been involved in safety studies in several larges dams in Portugal, Brazil and Cape Verde; he is a member of the organising committee and one of the speakers of an annual course in Portugal on operation and safety of dams.

João Fernandes completed his studies in Civil Engineering at Lisbon University in 2003 and he obtained his PhD at the same university in 2013. He worked in a consultancy firm and as a Research Fellow in the Hydraulics and Environmental Department of the National Laboratory for Civil Engineering in Lisbon from 2003 to 2014. He conducted consultancy and research projects dealing with dam break flood assessment, flood management, hydraulic structures and sediment transport. He was a postdoctoral researcher at ETH Zurich in 2015 and 2016. He works at the National Laboratory for Civil Engineering since 2017.

Alejandro Lasarte is a Senior Hydraulic Modeller Engineer and Project Manager in DHI. Mr Lasarte holds more than 35 years of experience within the fields of river hydraulics and storm water urban drainage modelling, flood management including real-time telemetry, dam break simulations including tailing dams, flood forecasting, hydrological modelling, water resources modelling, balancing water demands, reservoir optimization, information systems, project management. Training client project staff. Mr. Lasarte’ s experience originates from projects carried out in a many Latin American (Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia), Asian (Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia), African (Mozambique, Angola, Swaziland, South Africa) and European countries where, over the years, he has been collaborating with numerous institutions, and private contractors acting both as project manager and team member.

Rafael Pereira Machado is a Civil Engineer at the Brazilian Federal Civil Protection Department where he Coordinates of the Integrated Studies Sector. He is post-graduated in Geoprocessing and Building Information Modelling (BIM), and currently is coordinating the federal Civil Protection training program focused on promoting the integration of dams Emergency Action Plans (EAP) and Brazilian Municipalities’ Contingency Plans, in partnership with Brazilian Dams Committee. He has worked as general coordinator and deputy director at the Brazilian National Risk and Disasters Management Centre (CENAD) and acted in the main incidents and accidents in dams that occurred in Brazil in the last years, including Fundão (Mariana/2015) and B1 (Brumadinho/2019) tailing dams Collapses. He is author of the “Guidance Book to Support the Elaboration of Municipal Contingency Plans for Dams”, established by Brazilian federal government on 2016.

Final Programme

8:45 - Welcome remarks (Teresa Viseu)

9:00 - Risk assessment and causes of dam failure

    • Historical dam failures and lessons learned (Teresa Viseu)
    • Anomalies and cause of failure in embankments dams (Laura Caldeira)
    • Anomalies and cause of failure in concrete dams (António Tavares de Castro)

11:00 - Coffee Break

11:30 - Dam-break flood risk modelling (Part 1) (João Fernandes)

    • Dam-break flood modelling using Hec-Ras (1-D)
    • Dam-break flood modelling using Hec-Ras (2-D)
    • Case study

13:00 - Lunch

14:00 - Dam-break flood risk modelling (Part 2) (Alejandro Lasarte)

    • Dam-break flood modelling using MIKE FLOOD (1-D and 2-D approach)
    • MIKE approach to simulating Tailing dam break for non-newtonian fluid
    • Case studies

16:00 - Coffee Break

16:30 - Risk mitigation and emergency preparedness planning

    • Emergency Action Plans for dams (Teresa Viseu)
    • EAP - the Brazilian experience (Rafael Pereira Machado)
    • Brumadinho and other dam failures in Brazil case studies: challenges, emergency solutions implemented and lessons learned (Rafael Pereira Machado)