Emergency groups ready for disaster

Area emergency officials were busy in the county’s Emergency Operations Center on Tuesday, but it was only a drill.

Catawba County Emergency Services along with Public Health, Social Services, Catawba County Schools and the American Red Cross joined in a day-long drill to test local response capability to a radiation release at McGuire Nuclear Station.

This is the final stage of about two weeks of federally evaluated radiation emergency drills involving Catawba County agencies, said Karyn Yaussy, Catawba County Emergency Management coordinator. Other agencies involved have included: Bandys Fire and Rescue, Sherrills Ford-Terrell Fire and Rescue and the Catawba County Hazardous Materials Response Team.

“This year’s McGuire EOC exercise included a test message to residents and businesses within the Catawba County portion of the McGuire evacuation planning zone, utilizing the county’s Community Alert System,” Yaussy said.

The county’s alert system allows the public to be contacted by phone, text, and e-mail in case of a large-scale emergency. The service is free, and citizens can register at catawbacountync.gov/alert/#2.

“Catawba County Emergency Management serves on a task force with other state and local officials to coordinate emergency response plans and procedures in the event of a radiation release at the McGuire Nuclear Plant,” Yaussy said, adding that federal mandated nuclear plans include the evacuation of residents within a 10-mile emergency zone of the incident. “Those plans and procedures are tested regularly and are evaluated every two years by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”

The county’s current EOC is located in the Justice Center in Newton, but plans are in the works to build a new emergency center for personnel.

The new building will be part of a larger expansion project to the Justice Center that will bring more courtrooms, a clerk of courts area and a 9-1-1 communications center, among other things.

The emergency tests took place from about 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. throughout the day Tuesday.

N.C. Emergency Management Divisions in Cabarrus, Catawba, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln and Mecklenburg counties participated in the drill because the 10-mile emergency planning zone for the McGuire Nuclear Station impacts each of those areas.

The exercise is conducted every two years as mandated by the federal government to test emergency procedures at the plant and in county and state government agencies.
The public isn’t asked to participate in any of the drills, but there will be a public critique of the exercise on Thursday, Aug. 11 at 11 a.m. at the Charles Mack Citizen Center in Mooresville.