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Safety Demonstration Shows Potential Dangers Of Dams

Katie Cook

In honor of National Dam Safety Awareness Day today, The City of Lansing’s Office of Emergency Management held a demonstration to emphasize the danger of dams. WKAR’s Katie Cook reports.


May 31st is National Dam Safety Awareness day, to commemorate the failure of the South Fork Dam in Johnstown Pennsylvania on May 31 1889, which claimed more than 2,200 lives.

Lansing’s office of Emergency Management and the Association of State Dam Safety Organizations held a safety demonstration today at the Brenke Fish Ladder next to the North Lansing Dam in Old Town. Emergency Manager Mike Tobin explains the importance of raising awareness about dam safety.

“Tragically the dams in the city have claimed many lives over the hundred plus years of the history of the dams, and we want to make sure people can understand the safe use of the rivers both recreationally, fishing, and also for any other purposes, and to see what the barriers are and what the safety parameters are of the dams.”

To demonstrate how quickly a recreational craft can be pulled underwater, they sent an unmanned canoe over the dam to show what happens when it is caught in the boils, which are the back side of the dam where the water continues to circulate. It’s underwater and invisible from the surface.

The canoe immediately capsized when it went over the dam, and continued to turn in the boils, even with several people trying to pull it out by the rope it was attached to.

Tobin says the boils on the dam can extend down as much as 90 feet south of the dam, so even if you think you’re a safe distance away, you could be pulled into the boils over and over again.

To stay as safe as possible when on the water, Tobin advises to always wear a life preserver, let someone know when you’re going to be on the water and when to expect you back, and don’t be on the water alone.


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