The safety of dams in our country is the principal concern of the State Agencies that are involved in the various aspects of their investigation, planning design, construcction, operation and maintenance. Hundreds of dam failures have occurred throughout U.S. history. These failures have caused immense property and environmental damages, have taken thousands of lives and these failures have cost billions of dollars to the nation. As the nation’s dams age and population increases, the potential for deadly dam failures grows. As a result of all these experiences the national program of dam safety was implemented. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) is responsible for providing assistance to programs of dam safety monitoring and coordination and implementation of federal dams safety guidelines known as FEMA 93, their supplements and updates such as the FEMA 64.

​The Instrumentations or the Structural Health Monitoring Systems are used to supplement visual inspections in evaluating the performance and safety of dams, becoming the essential part of the National Dam Safety Program and Safety Monitoring Program guidelines of the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) . The instrumentation help to the dams owners and emergency management authorities to identify the dam safety emergency level (High Flow, Non-Failure, Potential Failure and Imminent Failure), knowledge of the behavior of structures and their foundations, performance of embankments and internal and external stability during construction and operation. Also help to validate de design assumptions and improve their designs.

Below some of the sensors used to monitor the behavior and performance of dams and retaining structures:

List of sensors with their respective functions and applications in dams

More information and details about sensors see PRODUCTS section.

For more information related to dam failures, federal guidelines and safety programs, visit the following links:

Dams Failures & Incidents


Federal Guidelines for Dam Safety


National Dam Safety Program Information


Dam safety and Inspection




 Srain Gages Sensors

 Measurement of strains, deformations and stresses
 Walls, galleries, gates,primary  and secundary structural  elements

 Temperature Sensors

 Measurement of absolute  temperature on structure's surface  and relative temperature for  compensation of strain  measurementsStructural elements, engines, turbines, generators

 Displacement Sensors

 Measurement of displacement  between two gage points, 
 Construction joints, crack/fissure  growth and structural members


 Measurment of accelerations from  DC to low frequencies Large structures, engines, turbines, generators and control panels


 Measurement of angular variation  and slope displacements For structures and adjacent  structures during construction,  work excavations and after  completation of construction


 Measurement of drainage, leakage,  water level, water pressure and pore  pressure Reservoirs, wells, pipes,  excavations, embankments and  banks

 Pressure & Load Cells

 Measurement of loads and  pressures Foundation, embankment and  structural elements

Failure of the Teton Dam, Idaho - June 6, 1976.

St. Francis Dam Collapse - March 12, 1928.

New Orleans dam failure during Hurricane Katrina, the Ninth Ward was inundated - August 2005.


​Putting The Power Of Monitoring And Safety In Your Hands​

​Putting The Power Of Monitoring And Safety In Your Hands​

Courtesy of USACE Jacksonville District