Callaway awaits results in nuclear drill

Callaway County will know by the end of the year how it fared in a biennial exercise to test response to emergency situations dealing with the Callaway Energy Center’s nuclear power plant southeast of Fulton.

In a preliminary assessment, some local officials said the Sept. 24 drill went well.

“It was a good drill. We have some things we need to work on and it was a good exercise for us,” Callaway County Presiding Commissioner Gary Jungermann said.

The drill simulated various emergencies at the Callaway Energy Center. At the same time, a mock earthquake in Callaway County downed some bridges, damaged roads and caused some buildings to collapse.

More than 40 state, county and non-governmental agencies — including those in Callaway, Gasconade, Montogmery and Osage counties — participated in the exercise, according to a fact sheet provided by FEMA.

“There’s a lot of participation in one of the exercises like this,” said Norman Valentine, a supervisor senior specialist for FEMA’s district 7.

He noted agencies like the Missouri Highway Patrol and American Red Cross participated, as well as local fire departments.

Chris Pfau, assistant fire chief for South Callaway Fire Protection District, was the fire coordinator for county firefighter operations — that included communicating to use county resources like moving firefighting apparatus and personnel to the proper locations in response to an emergency.

“I think it went fairly well,” Pfau said.

He said the simulated emergency was not unlike typical disaster scenarios for which his department and others train.

The exercise is graded by the FEMA, which has 30 days after the drill to submit a preliminary report to agencies that participated, which in turn have 30 days to file comments to that report. FEMA then has 30 days to issue the final report, which will be public record.

“The idea is that everybody can communicate, make decisions, do everything they would have to do during a real drill,” said Mike O’Connell, a spokesman for Missouri’s State Emergency Management Agency.

Valentine said there would be several categories agencies will be graded on from the exercise, each category will be classified as “adequately demonstrated” or “not adequately demonstrated.” If an agency falls short of adequate, there are different levels and notes on what can be done to specifically improve. Valentine and others from FEMA said they weren’t prepared to address anything specific until the final report was ready.

Callaway County Commissioners said they already have a good idea how the county fared.

The FEMA evaluators, Jungermann said, thought Callaway County needed more people designated for tasks.

“They thought some individuals were trying to take on too many responsibilities. But the number of people we can make available for a drill can become an issue,” Jungermann said.

Jungermann said the State Emergency Management Agency had more problems cited by FEMA than the county.

“With the state, it was taking too long to react. For example, it may have taken them 30 minutes to react to a situation when the federal evaluators thought 15 minutes might be more appropriate. But it wasn’t like it was hours or days,” Jungermann said.

Western District Commissioner Doc Kritzer also was pleased with the results of the preliminary evaluation.

Kritzer said emergency drills involving the Callaway Energy Center are held every other year.

When Callaway County simulated activation of warning sirens in three other counties because of simulated events at the nuclear plant, Kritzer said the federal critique mentioned Callaway County officials should have asked for confirmation from the other three counties that their messages had been received.

John Bassford, Ameren Missouri’s emergency response coordinator at the plant, said this year’s FEMA exercise tested responses to a simulated earthquake.

Bassford said three main responses occurred; one response was at the nuclear plant to manage damage at the plant. Another response was the reaction of emergency crews to protect the public around the plant. A third response was an evaluation of how well the public was informed of various events.

Bassford said NRC sent about 25 evaluators and participants to the exercise, and FEMA had about 20 evaluators participating.

The criteria judged, according to the fact sheet, included emergency operations management, protective action decision making, protective action implementation, technical evaluation of protective action recommendations, emergency notifications and public information, and support operations/facilities. A team of 24 evaluators will fire reports covering 106 criteria from within those aforementioned broad criteria, the fact sheet stated.

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