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Bureau of Reclamation Critical Infrastructure Exercise Program

ORAU helps Department of Interior conduct full-scale emergency exercises at major U.S. dams

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam

ORAU has served as lead exercise planner for the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation’s Critical Infrastructure Exercise Program since its inception in 2003. Six of the dams operated by BOR are designated as National Critical Infrastructure facilities: Flaming Gorge, Folsom, Glen Canyon, Grand Coulee, Hoover and Shasta. The program helps BOR answer an important question—are these massive dams secure in the event of a terrorist attack?

Exercise programs for each of these critical facilities typically extend over a 12-month period during which ORAU facilitates a series of exercise events that test emergency response plans. ORAU guides the dam’s staff, often alongside federal, state and local responder agencies, through planning conferences, tabletop exercises and workshops to prepare and discuss potential challenges.

In some cases, such as at Hoover and Shasta dams, ORAU conducts full-scale exercises to provide a safe learning environment to test, as realistically as possible, key issues such as agency response capability, intelligence collection and dissemination, radio communication, and Incident Command/Unified Command establishment and operations. Typically involving more than 200 participants representing the BOR and other local, state and federal agencies, these exercises offer valuable opportunities to build interagency relationships and practice coordinated response. Feedback sessions immediately following exercise-play capture participant observations, and ORAU typically facilitates a formal debriefing to capture initial findings and recommendations from the exercise.