Technological Hazards Branch

Technological Hazards Branch


The State of Arizona is vulnerable to a host of technological hazards, including hazardous material releases and acts of terrorism. The Technological Hazards Branch coordinates the Division’s state-level effort to provide comprehensive preparedness and consequence management programs to address these uniquely complex hazards. These include preparedness and response to fixed commercial nuclear facility incidents and Improvised Nuclear Device (IND) threats, as well as the Division’s role under the Preventative Radiological and Nuclear Detection program in supporting prevention and detection of unauthorized transit of licensable radiological and nuclear material within the borders of the state. Additionally, the Division maintains the Energy Assurance Program within the State Emergency Response and Recovery Plan (SERRP) to address state-level consequence management support efforts for electrical grid emergencies, fuel shortages, and any catastrophic disruption to energy delivery systems or infrastructure within the state.


Radiological Emergency Preparedness Program (REPP)

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.


Improvised Nuclear Device (IND) Planning Program

The Branch leads the preparedness effort for 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 electric magnetic 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. Per Arizona Revised Statute 26-305.03 regarding Electromagnetic pulse preparedness recommendations, the Division “shall develop preparedness recommendations for the public… for an electromagnetic pulse that might occur over the United States.”. The Branch supports the Division in this responsibility and provides subject matter expertise to support the Division’s recommendations.


Preventative Radiological and Nuclear Detection (PRND) Program

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 Branch represents the Division as a key support agency within this group, and works with partners to identify and outline concepts of coordination and operations for partner agencies and enhance preventive strategies to combat radiological and nuclear terrorism. This is accomplished by synchronizing existing radiological detection capabilities when agencies identify and interdict radiological and nuclear materials before they can be employed as a weapon.

Additional goals include:

  1. the rapid detection and identification of a radiological or nuclear release;
  2. the life safety of first responders and citizens from radiation threats; and
  3. the detection of faulty use of legitimate hazardous sources to bring them into safe regulatory compliance.



Energy Assurance Program

As is the case with every other state, Arizona has unique energy-related vulnerabilities. The energy industry is well equipped to recover from incidents and goes through great lengths to protect and add resiliency and redundancy to their delivery systems. Major disruptions have a low probability of occurring, however, due to many critical system interdependencies, minimization of the high impacts to safety and well-being require careful planning and preparation.

In the event of an energy disruption, Arizona officials must work quickly to communicate with the energy industry to ascertain the extent of the problem and determine if an energy emergency exists. If it is determined that an energy emergency exists or appears imminent, state officials are charged with ensuring the safety and well-being of its citizens.  Arizona maintains its Energy Assurance Program, led by the Division, to support energy infrastructure owners in their capability to conduct an effective and rapid response to energy emergencies.  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 program provides assistance as requested to support coordination efforts aimed at enhancing the resilience of the response, reducing risk and vulnerability in critical energy infrastructure, and recommending the appropriate actions to ensure adequate energy in the State of Arizona.

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 Branch acts as the 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.