3/14/16 KEPR-TV: Local emergency management teams say they’re equipped amid challenging reports


Local emergency management teams say they’re equipped amid challenging reports

By Hannah Vogel Monday, March 14th 2016

Authorities say they are well-equipped to handle a nuclear incident at The Columbia Generating Station in Richland.

RICHLAND, Wash. — “Dangerously inadequate” – that’s how one organization who looks into emergency preparedness, describes our counties emergency and evacuation plans.

The Disaster Accountability Project specifically looked at how our counties would respond to a radio logical incident at the Richland nuclear plant.

And while they had issues with it, our local emergency management team says it’s safe and sound.

KEPR asked Jason Buck what he’d do if he found out there was a nuclear incident at the plant in Richland.

“Yeah, I’d absolutely leave the area- just for safety precautions though,” said Tri-Cities resident Jason Buck.

Local governments are required have an emergency evacuation plan for residents within a ten mile radius of a US Nuclear power plant – like the Columbia Generating Station in Richland.

The thing is, Jason lives outside of the 10-mile radius – and so the counties aren’t required to take him into account while evacuation planning.

But the Disaster Accountability Project is urging our counties to pay more attention to his response for the safety of those in the 10-mile radius.

It’s something called the shadow effect, when people who aren’t immediately in that 10-mile radius start evacuating, thus causing more congestion on the roads and making it more harder for those who need to evacuate to leave.

The Disaster Accountability Project contacted nine counties to get information related to preparedness to a nuclear incident.

All counties had emergency plans for those within 10-miles.

But the report says only Franklin County accounted for those outside the radius who might self-evacuate.

“Our requirements stipulate we have to plan for 10-mile area. We always have contingencies just in case it goes beyond that or we need to change that up. That was part of the rational for us to implement the code red system that we have put into the county, so we can go beyond that set 10 mile zone and notify the residents,” said Sean Davis of Franklin County Emergency Management.

Benton County says they have the same response as Franklin County.

And the power plant as well says they have looked into this shadow effect in depth.

“We did a sensitivity study looking at what if nearly 30-percent of people choose to evacuate who are asked to shelter in place,” said Michael Paoli of Energy Northwest.

They found there is no significant impact of the ability to exit the area for their health and safety.

Benton County says they have a shadow effect plan in place, but did not directly submit it to the Disaster Accountability Project.

The Columbia Generating Station says they won’t change their plans due to this report, although they appreciate the organization checking their plan.

People who live outside of the 10-mile radius will be contacted should there be an issue.