Journal of Earth Sciences and Geotechnical Engineering

Dam Safety: Hazards Created by Human Failings and Actions

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  • Abstract

     

    Dam Safety and dam incidents are treated here looked at from the “Human Factors” perspective. An attempt is made to explore these factors as an important drive in impairing dams’ safety and increases their risks. Distinction is drawn between the “Normal Human Caused Incidents” and the “Extraordinary Human Caused Incidents” together with the description of their root origins and subsequent consequences. The first type includes unintentional mistakes, errors and flaws committed by the operators of dams inadvertently, in addition to negligence, lack of experience or overconfidence. Such failings can happen in manual operation of dams, or through the use of their Supervision, Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems as in industrial control system (ICS). They can occur also due to flaws in software or even in the application of information and communication technology (ICT) in remote control operations. As for the second group; the extraordinary human factors, they are defined here as those committed by man with the full understanding of their possible damage. They are done purposely for destabilizing dams after thoughtful and carefully meditated decision making process and they are manifested in acts of war, sabotage and terrorists actions. In this modern age, these acts are characteristics of hackers’ attacks on dam(s) operating systems. This is done through the use of cyberspace by the widespread interconnected digital technology with the accompanying advances in the communication technologies. As such, these technologies have made remote control of such systems possible. Not limited to this, dams remain now, as they were always in the past, the obvious targets in wars and conflicts to inflict losses on the enemy and to use them as weapons, and for terrorism actions for challenging governments. Examples of the aforementioned threats are described with examples given from real cases to elucidate the dangers involved. Lessons to be learned from these incidents are derived and recommendations are presented to be followed to avoid risky situations.

    Keywords: Normal human caused incidents, extraordinary human caused incidents, SCADA Systems, ICS System, software, ICT Technology, cyberspace, digital technology, remote control, hackers, terrorism.