In the geotechnical field, the risk related to slope instabilities or collapse of geotechnical structures are increasingly being faced by early warning systems, capable of (i) predicting the incipient collapse basing on the interpretation of a continuous monitoring of the structure and (ii) spreading alarm promptly to reduce people exposure. Compared to structural approaches, early warning systems have two important advantages: a faster, simpler and less expensive implementation and environmental compatibility. Past experience indicates that vulnerability of earth dams is generally low under both static and seismic loading conditions. In spite of this, earth dams are characterized by a high risk level, due to the high exposure factor. Nowadays the application of early warning systems to dams is fully supported by the technological progress achieved in the telecommunication field, since it is possible to install and automate recordings and transmission of all physical variables significant to check dam safety: accelerations, displacements, pore water pressures, total stresses, seepage flows. A considerable lack still arises in the predictive models for interpreting monitoring data and providing indicators on dam safety soon after a strong earthquake. The present work illustrates the basic concepts of an Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) system for earth dams and the main features that should characterize a predictive model to such a scope. An application to a real case is finally provided, enhancing the role played by each monitored physical variable for the aims of EEW.
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