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Ethical Issues from the St. Francis Dam Failure

Ethical Issues from the St. Francis Dam Failure
Course Highlights

In this online engineering PDH course you will learn about the political and economic forces behind the project, the people who controlled the project, the ethical issues that were raised by the tragedy, and lessons the engineering profession learned from the tragedy.


This course will examine the ethical issues that arose from the 1928 failure of the St. Francis Dam near Los Angeles, California.  Near midnight on March 12 of that year the 195-feet high concrete arch dam collapsed catastrophically, releasing 12 billion gallons of flood waters downstream in a flood wave that reached a depth of 140 feet with average velocities estimated at 26 feet per second.  By 5:30 AM on March 13 flood waters nearly two miles wide reached the Pacific Ocean near Ventura, California.  The flood killed more than 450 people and was the worst civil engineering failure in U.S. history.


This 2 PDH  online course is applicable to engineers, architects and other design and construction professionals interested in learning about the ethical issues that were raised by the failure of the St. Francis Dam, and lessons that have been learned from the incident. Although this was a civil engineering incident, the ethical issues and lessons apply to all engineering disciplines.

Learning Objectives

This PE continuing education course is intended to provide you with the following specific knowledge and skills:

  • Learning about the history of the project and the economic and political issues that shaped its development
  • Learning about the dam's relation to the controversial Los Angeles Aqueduct
  • Learning about the well known public agency manager who controlled the project
  • Learning about the indications of trouble that were inspected before the failure but ignored
  • Learning about the dam break flows and velocities that resulted from the collapse
  • Learning about soil conditions at the site that should have been investigated and accommodated in the design
  • Learning about the dam height increases during construction, which were not properly accommodated in the design
  • Learning about the ethical issues that were raised by the failure of the dam
  • Learning about the public agency manager's engineering qualifications that raised ethical questions
  • Learning about the importance of professional training in avoiding similar incidents in the future
Course Document

In this professional engineering CEU course, you need to review the course document titled, "Ethical Issues from the St. Francis Dam Failure".

To view, print and study the course document, please click on the following link(s):
Ethical Issues from the St. Francis Dam Failure (4.0 MB)
Course Quiz
Once you complete your course review, you need to take a multiple-choice quiz consisting of fifteen (15) questions to earn 2 PDH credits. The quiz will be based on the entire document.


The minimum passing score is 70%. There is no time limit on the quiz, and you can take it multiple times until you pass at no additional cost.
Certificate of Completion

Upon successful completion of the quiz, print your Certificate of Completion instantly. (Note: if you are paying by check or money order, you will be able to print it after we receive your payment.) For your convenience, we will also email it to you. Please note that you can log in to your account at any time to access and print your Certificate of Completion.

To buy the course and take the quiz, please click on: