Dams have several functions:
- Regulate the flow of rivers
- Protect shoreline residents from floods
- Ensure minimum flow during droughts
- Generate electricity
- Protect aquatic fauna and flora
Accidents or natural disasters (e.g., floods, earthquakes, landslides) can cause a dam failure, resulting in a sudden rise in the water level. In the event of a total failure, torrents of water and mud may form, carrying hazardous debris.
What to do before
If your home is located near a dam, ask your municipality about
- the flood-risk area, to know if your home is located in the area
- the procedures to be followed in the event of a dam failure
- the manner in which the residents concerned would be warned of such a failure
- assembly points and roads to be used in the event of an evacuation
Keep yourself informed of water levels and flow rates of the watercourses in your area in order to be prepared during periods of high flood hazard (e.g., thawing or heavy rain).
Learn about the precautions to take and the safety rules to follow in the event of a dam failure, as they are similar to those that apply to a flood hazard.
In an emergency or a disaster, you are the first person responsible for your safety (French only) and that of your family, as well as safeguarding your property. In the event of a disaster, however, municipalities are responsible for helping the people affected and for taking the necessary measures.
When a municipality's response capacity is insufficient, the Gouvernement du Québec provides assistance (French only) by deploying government resources to facilitate the return to normal, based on what is provided for in Québec’s national civil protection plan.
What to do during
Remain sheltered, monitor the evolution of the situation and obey instructions issued by official sources of information (e.g., your municipality, the Gouvernement du Québec).
Leave your home if you are in danger or at the request of the authorities. If you are unsure where to go, contact your municipality. For more details, consult the government’s Evacuate your home page.
Check whether the structure of your home is safe. Damage caused by water, mud, flood debris or the shock wave stemming from the dam failure can be significant.
Pay attention to your reactions and those of your loved ones after experiencing a disaster:
- Anxiety, distress or frequent crying
- Apathy or loss of energy
- Difficulty concentrating or confusion
- Increased alcohol or drug use
Psychosocial support is available to you. Psychosocial intervention professionals are available to support, advise and direct you to resources tailored to your needs or those of your loved ones. Call Info-Social, at 811, and select option 2 to speak with a professional. This service is free and confidential, and it is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
For more information on the possible reactions after a disaster and on ways to help you, see the Getting better following a disaster page.
Last update: May 17, 2022