County completes safety exercise at Limerick

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The Chester County Department of Emergency Services (DES) has successfully completed its bi-annual federally evaluated, full-scale exercise at the Limerick Generating Station. The nuclear power plant in Montgomery County has been producing zero-emissions electricity since 1986 without incident, but these exercises are necessary to ensure full preparedness in the event of a radiation emergency.

Chester County joined with Berks and Montgomery Counties, in coordination with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), engaging in simulated emergency response operations. The exercise demonstrated the ability to mobilize appropriate staff and activate each county’s Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs), including sheltering and/or evacuation.

Fifteen Chester County municipalities that could be affected by an emergency at Limerick also participated in the drill and their performance was also evaluated by federal regulators. Chester County’s EOC provided direction and coordination to the townships, which included: Charlestown, East Coventry, East Nantmeal, East Pikeland, West Pikeland, East Vincent, West Vincent, North Coventry, Schuylkill, South Coventry, Upper Uwchlan, Uwchlan, and Warwick, as well as Phoenixville and Spring City Boroughs.

“The municipal emergency management coordinators and their staffs did an excellent job preparing for and participating in this exercise,” said Bill Turner, Chester County DES’s Deputy Director for Emergency Management. “They demonstrated a high level of preparedness to respond to a potential radiological emergency. That’s something none of us wants to ever see, but this exercise should reassure the public that we are prepared.”

Four school districts in the Emergency Planning Zone were also evaluated for their readiness: Owen J. Roberts Area, Phoenixville Area, Downingtown Area, and Great Valley.

DES’s Radiological Coordinator, Tony Przychodzien, explained that during the full-scale exercise, a simulated ‘route alerting’ was conducted by Liberty Fire Company of Spring City.

“Route alerting is performed if one of the sirens in place to alert the public to an incident at Limerick fails to sound. The Fire Company goes through the neighborhoods affected and does the alert using a loudspeaker,” Przychodzien said.

Although not in the emergency zone, personnel from Bucks and Lehigh Counties participated in a support role for the exercise, just as they would in an actual emergency. Also supporting the Emergency Operations Centers coordination for this exercise: Chester County FIRST organization, which represents private industry; ARES/RACES-amateur radio operators; American Red Cross; Chester County Sheriff’s Office; and a liaison from PEMA.

Chester County’s DES Director Mike Murphy liked what he saw and believes the evaluators did as well. “Preliminary reports from the federal evaluators are all positive and encouraging,” Murphy said.

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