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Tolerable Risk Workshop

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U.S. Department of the Interior
Bureau of Reclamation
U.S. Department of Energy
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers

Risk assessment methodologies have been used in various industries around the world to provide decision makers information on the likelihood of an adverse outcome and the resulting consequences.  Of particular interest to the management of risks for dams and levees is risk assessment’s ability to assess potential failure modes that are not amenable to deterministic analytical solutions and to capture the affects of uncertainty in the analysis parameters on the results of the analysis.

Reclamation has utilized a risk informed decision process in its dam safety program for many years.  Reclamation intended to take advantage of advances in risk management strategies to more consistently implement tolerable risk concepts.  USACE and FERC in cooperation with Reclamation are working to develop guidance for incorporating risk informed decision making into their dam and levee safety programs.  USACE’s Actions for Change initiative is an over-arching program designed to manage the Corps' portfolio of dams and the nations portfolio of levees in a risk informed framework.  The FERC is looking to extend the benefits realized from their Potential Failure Modes Analysis program so that the probability of failure and the resulting consequence are captured in a more consistent and credible manner and so that decisions are made in a risk informed framework.

In order for the three agencies to move forward in a consistent manner, a common understanding of tolerable risk as it applies to dams and levees is necessary. 

As part of this effort the three agencies co-sponsored this workshop on tolerable risk. The agencies’ interest in tolerable risk was driven by a common desire to:

  • Make better decisions
  • Better determine, prioritize, and justify risk reduction actions
  • Better communicate risks to decision makers and the public
  • Better understand and evaluate public safety risks in an environment of shared flood risk management responsibilities

The workshop was developed in order for the agencies to learn:

  • How tolerable risk is defined by other federal agencies and selected international organizations (see attached list of presenting and participating agencies and organizations).
  • How tolerable risk is being used to evaluate risks and to justify risk reduction measures
  • What problems have been encountered in implementing a tolerable risk policy and how the problems have been addressed
  • How the invited agencies and organizations assess their success in achieving the intended purposes of using tolerable risk.

Purpose of the Workshop
Eric Halpin, Special Assistant for Dam and Levee Safety, Headquarters, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Government, Legal and Insurance Context

  • Kevin Geiss, Office of Science & Technology Policy, “OMB Updated Principles for Risk Analysis”
  • Edward A. Thomas, Michael Baker Corporation, Paying for Risky Behavior
  • Clive Goodwin, Assistant Vice President, Manager, Flood Underwriting / Engineering, FM Global Insurance Company,  “Insurance Company Prospective

Dams and Levees

Tolerability of Risk Principles

Environment and Agriculture

Other Infrastructure

Food, Drug, Consumer and Product Safety

Summary Presentation: Workshop on Tolerable Risk Evaluation

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Summary White Paper: Workshop on Tolerable Risk Evaluation

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Last Updated: 09/02/2011
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