DSS-WISE™ Lite FEMA
Developing a Standalone DSS-WISE™ Lite with Graphical User Interface and Additional Developments for the Needs of FEMA and NDSP
The federal government has been using the “National Dam Safety Program (NDSP)” to protect Americans from potential dam failures for the last 30 years. The objectives of NDSP are to: (1) ensure that new and existing dams are safe through the development of technologically and economically feasible programs and procedures for national dam safety hazard reduction; (2) encourage acceptable engineering policies and procedures to be used for dam site investigation, design, construction, operation and maintenance, and emergency preparedness; (3) encourage the establishment and implementation of effective dam safety programs in each state based on state standards; (4) develop and encourage public education and awareness projects to increase public acceptance and support of state dam safety programs; (5) develop technical materials for federal and state dam safety programs; (6) develop mechanisms with which to provide Federal technical assistance for dam safety to the non-federal sector; and (7) develop technical assistance materials, seminars, and guidelines to improve security for dams in the United States.
Three of the five 2014-2018 FEMA Strategic Plan priorities established by the FEMA Leadership are supported by the NDSP: 1) Be Survivor-Centric in Mission and Program Delivery, 2) Posture and Build Capability for Catastrophic Disasters, and 3) Enable Disaster Risk Reduction Nationally.
The National Dam Safety Review Board (Review Board) monitors the safety of dams in the United States, the States’ implementation of NDSP requirements and advises the FEMA Administrator on national dam safety policy, and the Interagency Committee on Dam Safety (ICODS), which coordinates among federal agencies on dam safety issues and collaborates with the Review Board to ensure consistency and support between the Federal and non-Federal elements within the dam community. Both are chaired by FEMA.
Moreover, under the National Dam Safety Program Act, FEMA has a statutory requirement at 33 U.S.C. § 467 : US Code – Section 467G-1 (Training) to, at the request of any State that has or intends to develop a State dam safety program, provide training for State staff dam safety and inspectors. FEMA also has a statutory requirement at 33 U.S.C. 467G (Research) to carry out a program of technical and archival research to develop and support:
1. Improved techniques, historical experience, and equipment for rapid and effective dam construction, rehabilitation, and inspection;
2. Devices for the continued monitoring of the safety of dams;
3. Development and maintenance of information resource systems needed to support managing the safety of dams; and
4. Initiatives to guide the formulation of effective public policy and advance improvements in dam safety engineering, security, and management.
The DSS-WISE™ Lite system was developed by the National Center for Computational Hydroscience and Engineering (UM-NCCHE), which was established in 1982 as a research unit within the School of Engineering at The University of Mississippi by the State of Mississippi’s Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees. It is a special version of the software DSS-WISE™ (Decision Support System for Water Infrastructural Security), which had been developed under the South East Region Research Initiative (SERRI), funded by the Department of Homeland Security and monitored by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. DSS-WISE™ Lite is a unique system not only in the USA, but also in the world. There is no other example of a geospatial, web-based, automated dam-break flood simulation and mapping system that operates without human intervention. The University of Mississippi holds the copyrights and the development team at UM-NCCHE holds the intellectual property rights.
During 2012-2014, the DSS-WISE™ Lite system was accessible through the DSAT platform. In September 2015, a 5-year sole-source contract was signed between FEMA and NCCHE to develop a standalone version of the DSS-WISE™ Lite capability in order to provide web-based automated dam-break flood modeling and mapping services using DSS-WISE™ Lite to FEMA, other dam-safety stakeholder agencies, and state dam-safety offices. This agreement is aligned with FEMA Strategic Priority 4, Enable Disaster Risk Reduction Nationally, and Objective 4.1: Provide credible and actionable data and tools to support risk-informed decision making. Providing this capability enables FEMA to meet NDSP objective (5) for developing technical materials for Federal and state dam safety programs.
The new DSS-WISE™ Lite system was successfully beta-tested during August-October, 2016. The live system has been operational since November 8, 2016. As of August 8, 2017, the system has handled 1510 simulations launched by 183 active users from different states. There are also 41 pending new user requests that are awaiting the approval of group managers in order to become active users that can launch simulations. The system is being used intensively by state dam safety offices. The total number of simulations run during the last 30 days is 245 and 70% of the results are being returned within half an hour. Due to its exceptional computational speed, the DSS-WISE™ Lite system is also being used as an operational simulation tool during dam safety emergencies in order to support emergency response planning. It was used extensively during the Oroville Dam incident in California during February 2017.