National, State Leaders Discuss Emergency Management and Response Strategies

National, State Leaders Discuss Emergency Management and Response Strategies

Wendy Smith-Reeve, Director of the Arizona Division of Emergency Management listens to Aubrey Godwin, Director of the Arizona Radiation Regulatory Agency during the Radiological Emergency Preparedness Seminar at the Palo Verde Energy Education Center.

PHOENIX - Technology makes collaboration easier, but in this day and age of tweets, pings, texts and #hashtags, it’s easy to overlook the value of a face-to-face conversation to building Whole Community relationships.


Approximately 60 national subject matter experts and senior-level state and local officials recently participated in a Radiological Emergency Preparedness Executive Education Seminar at the Palo Verde Energy Education Center in Buckeye.


The seminar was facilitated by the Mobile Education Team of the Naval Postgraduate School, Center for Homeland Defense and Security.  The heart of the discussion centered on statutory and regulatory authorities, executive actions, emergency response capabilities, recovery demands and crisis communication strategies.


“While we have robust plans in place, talking through issues and hearing other perspectives brings those plans to life,” said Wendy Smith-Reeve, Director of the Arizona Division of Emergency Management.


The Arizona/Maricopa Offsite Emergency Response Plan for Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station (PVNGS) is the primary response plan used during an incident at Palo Verde. The plan outlines roles for alert and warning, public health and agriculture advisories, radiological monitoring, evacuation and public messaging.


Exercises simulating an incident at PVNGS have been conducted annual since 1982.  Most agency leaders “play” in these full-scale exercises from their perspective operations centers. This seminar brought agency leaders together to engage in a face-to-face discussion.


“By bringing together local, tribal and state leaders and staff, this type of seminar will strengthen capabilities, build relationships and foster cooperation that would be needed to respond to any type of crisis or event effecting our nation or state,” said Maria Lacal, Vice President of Operations Support at PVNGS.


Public information was among the issues that resonated with seminar participants.


“Recovering from a nuclear incident will impact the entire nuclear industry for years to come,” said Director Smith-Reeve.   “Educating the public on actual radiation risk versus what they perceive is the risk will be another challenge.”


On March 11, 2011, the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake, a magnitude 9.0, and subsequent tsunami physically damaged the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant and triggered a loss of power to the reactor cooling systems. Ultimately, the lack of cooling resulted in melted nuclear fuel in 3 of the plant's 6 units and a release of large amounts of radioactive material into the environment.


During this time the Arizona Division of Emergency Management worked closely with the Arizona Radiation Regulatory Agency (ARRA) and the Arizona Department of Health Services to respond to public concern about the radiation risk in Arizona from the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in Japan.  Although there was no health risk to the Arizona residents, milk sampling increased and results were posted on to help alleviate concerns.


The Mobile Education Team facilitating the seminar consisted of national leaders in the field of emergency management and readiness, strategic communication, public health, nuclear safety and government relations.


The participants for the seminar included representatives from PVNGS, Buckeye Fire Department; the Maricopa County departments of emergency management, environmental services and public health; the Arizona departments of health services, transportation, agriculture, emergency and military affairs, and public safety; ARRA; the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community; American Red Cross; the Federal Emergency Management Agency; and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.