“This is a Drill” —- Red Cross Participates in Kewaunee Co. Emergency Exercises

By Mauree Childress, Director of Development, Green Bay Office

“This is a drill.”  Last Tuesday (10/4), I was able to observe the Kewaunee County EOC as it was operational doing a full scale exercise for the Kewaunee Nuclear Power Plant. This Emergency Management exercise is a full practice run for all of the participating government agencies, the Red Cross, the ham radio operators and the Dominion Kewaunee Power Station showing what they would do in the case of a nuclear incident   There were many people there in the EOC (Emergency Operations Center) and many more people assisting offsite throughout the state. 

The EOC is a special secure place with back-up power, pre-planned for emergencies. Manitowoc County was also working on their role in an incident like this. We could see their EOC from a feed into a monitor in our room.  There were people from Dominion, emergency management, law enforcement, highway, fire, dispatch (911), public health, human services, public information office, UW Extension (agriculture), the National Guard, the State radiologist, ham radio operators, and the Red Cross.  There were observers from Virginia, the Canadian military, and State and Federal evaluators.   The evaluators assess how well the county did in the exercise of handling a nuclear emergency and what can be improved.

The day started with a report of an incident at the Dominion Kewaunee Nuclear Power Station.  All of the government and non-government agencies sprang into action, preparing for “the worst. “  They were on their phones and computers lining up the potential evacuations, preparing the routes, and information plan. Every conversation contained the words, “This is a drill.”  Maps lined the walls so everyone could easily see the 1 to 10 mile radius from the nuclear plant.  There were weather reports highlighting the wind directions.  When the winds shifted direction, the plans changed.   

(l-r) Bonnie Franz and Judy Gregory from the American Red Cross

Every half hour there was a general briefing.  The Power Plant reported on the situation and each agency gave their update.  The nuclear “incident” got worse and became a “General Emergency.” We were now evacuating from a 5-mile radius dependent on wind direction.   The sirens went off (drill) and a Code Red was issued.  Health workers took KI (Potassium Iodine) for radiation exposure.  Judy Gregory, Red Cross Emergency Services Director and Disaster Volunteer Bonnie Franz lined up the shelters in the Luxemburg Casco School System.  Judy worked with the human services and the Kewaunee highway department to arrange transportation for the at-risk population and school children.  Nancy Mirhashemi was back in Green Bay coordinating staffing needs and the shelter supplies like cots, bedding, food and water.  Contact was made with Regional and State Red Cross leadership to put them on alert in case additional assistance was needed. The public was informed through radio broadcasts.  Law enforcement and the highways department set evacuation routes, and roadblocks, while also attending to their usual job.  (There was an “Amber Alert” and domestic incident that required a SWAT team thrown into to the drill.) 

I could feel the tension in the rooms, and my own adrenaline increased as the situation escalated.  I was impressed at all the coordination the community exhibited.  The people from Virginia, and a Canadian military representative, had come because this is a well-executed exercise using up-to-date best practices. 

I was impressed by the preparation and coordination, by the collaboration and the expertise.  As a community member, I am comforted by the high level of plans and competence, of all the agencies.  I am proud to work for the Red Cross and the integral role that we play. 

I hope that we never hear, “This is not a drill.” 

The American Red Cross is a humanitarian organization, led by volunteers, that provides relief to victims of disaster and helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.

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