Technological Hazards Branch bird's-eye view of a nuclear power plant in Arizona

Technological Hazards Branch

The Technological Hazards Branch coordinates the comprehensive preparedness and consequence management programs to address the complexities of technological hazards. These programs include Radiological Emergency Preparedness Program, Improvised Nuclear Device (IND) Planning Program, Preventative Radiological and Nuclear Detection (PRND) Program and the Energy Assurance Program.

The Palo Verde Generating Station (PVGS) is the primary focus for REPP within Arizona. Emergency planning for Palo Verde is a joint effort involving Pinnacle West Capital Corporation/Arizona Public Service Company (Operating Manager for Palo Verde), the State of Arizona, Maricopa County and the City of Buckeye. All planning activities represent a comprehensive response to federal regulations and guidelines. Training is offered to State, County, local, tribal and volunteer agencies to prepare them to respond to an unlikely accident at PVGS. Drills and exercises are conducted several times each year to evaluate plans, emergency response capabilities, and related protocol. As the lead agency with responsibility for offsite planning under REPP for Arizona, the Technological Hazards Branch within the Division maintains the “Offsite Emergency Response Plan for Palo Verde Generating Station'' (Offsite Plan), which provides Arizona officials with detailed information to help them make decisions, and to coordinate emergency response and recovery operations to protect the public from the effects of radiation exposure in the unlikely event of an accident.

The Offsite Plan outlines these protocols and designates two Emergency Planning Zones (EPZ) surrounding PVGS. These zones are defined as the Plume Exposure Pathway and the Ingestion Exposure Pathway. The Plume Exposure Pathway is defined as a radius of 10 miles surrounding PVGS where protective actions could be required to protect the public from the effects of exposure to radioactive materials. The Ingestion Exposure Pathway is defined as a radius of approximately 50 miles surrounding PVGS where food or drinking water could become contaminated because of a release of radioactive materials into the atmosphere. 

State, county and local governments are prepared to quickly notify and provide advice on what actions to take in the event of a radiological emergency. The primary means of communicating to offsite authorities from PVGS is by a dedicated telephone circuit, which links state, county and local government warning points with PVGS. The primary mechanism to notify the public is an Outdoor Warning Siren System placed at various locations in the 10-mile EPZ. Upon activation, the sirens will sound for approximately three minutes with a steady, high-pitched sound. Residents should turn on radios or televisions to receive Emergency Alert System (EAS) warning messages, emergency information and protective action instructions.


The Technological Hazards Branch leads the preparedness effort for Improvised Nuclear Device (IND) threats and maintains the IND Operations Plan (IND OPLAN).  An IND is an illicit nuclear weapon bought, stolen, or otherwise originating from a nuclear state or a weapon fabricated by a terrorist group from illegally obtained fissile nuclear weapons material that produces a nuclear ground blast explosion. This type of device is designed for large scale destruction with extensive physical damage and large casualty capabilities.

The IND OPLAN represents the state-level efforts to address the consequences of an IND incident, and outlines the protocol(s) the state will use to mobilize  resources in supporting response and recovery activities and the methodology to integrate and work with federal response assets. The IND OPLAN establishes interagency and multi-jurisdictional mechanisms for State and Federal Government involvement in, and coordination of, IND incident response and recovery operations. For planning purposes, the primary area of focus of this plan, and the most likely target area(s), would be the state’s larger metropolitan areas.

Included within this planning effort are consequence management efforts to address second-order effects that result from a nuclear detonation, such as an electromagnetic pulse (EMP). EMP is a burst of electromagnetic energy occurring in the form of a radiated electromagnetic field, or conducted electrical current, caused by a coronal mass ejection from the sun, detonation of a nuclear bomb high in earth's upper atmosphere or a man-made electromechanical device. 


The State of Arizona recognizes the existence of radiological and nuclear threats and aims to detect and report unauthorized attempts to import, possess, store, develop, or transport nuclear or radiological material. To counter this threat, key Arizona agencies have partnered with the Department of Homeland Security's Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) to develop a clear, consistent, and coherent response by creating a PRND program.

This program includes a multi-disciplinary working group focused on addressing radiological and nuclear detection issues in the State. Through this advisory body, equipment and training are delivered to response level law enforcement and fire personnel for daily deployment across the state. The Technological Hazards Branch works with partners in this multi-agency group to identify and outline concepts of coordination and operations and enhance preventive strategies to combat radiological and nuclear terrorism.  


The Technological Hazards Branch supports the Energy Assurance Program, observed by the Emergency Management Division to relay information and offer support to energy infrastructure owners.  An "energy emergency" is an actual or impending shortage or curtailment of usable, necessary energy resources, such that the maintenance of necessary services; the protection of public health, safety, and welfare; or the maintenance of a sound economy is imperiled in any geographical section of the state or throughout the entire state. The Energy Assurance Program provides contacts and resource information to support coordination efforts.  

The Energy Assurance Program is implemented under Emergency Support Function 12 – Energy, one of 15 different organizational structures that may be activated to support emergency response operations as outlined under the State Emergency Response and Recovery Plan (SERRP). The Technological Hazards Branch acts as a point of contact for the Division’s lead role as the primary coordinating agency for ESF-12, which is activated to support and coordinate consequence management activities requested by energy infrastructure owners and operators in their efforts toward restoration and re-establishment of damaged energy systems and components for incidents affecting Arizona at the state or regional level.