The exercise is held every two years and involves a multi-incident scenario with the main focus being on incidents which could occur at Sequoyah Nuclear Facility in Harrison.
Portions of Bradley County are within the 10-mile Emergency Protection Zone.
Robert Spence, a FEMA site specialist, said the exercise went smoothly.
“Bradley County met the requirements. They were prepared and it was surprising the elected leadership was well attended. We commend them for that and their concern for public safety,” said Spence.
Spence also noted the volunteer efforts by Ham radio operators and the Hiwassee Chapter of the American Red Cross, who play a crucial part of any emergency situation which could affect masses of residents within the EPZ.
The scenario began simply with a notification from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, which had been notified of a “non-significant event” at the site of the nuclear facility.
An acetylene leak caused the plant to go on alert and word was spread to surrounding counties in the exercise.
The mock operation would soon be upgraded as conditions worsened.
During the exercise, TEMA advised authorities to move children from schools in the affected zones. In Bradley County, that meant transporting and sheltering 450 students and administrators from Prospect Elementary to Ocoee Middle School, where parents would be allowed to pick them up or shelter along with their children.
The Bradley County Emergency Operations Center was fully staffed and operational shortly after 9 a.m.
Members of city and county government, schools and transportation, Bradley County Road Department, Red Cross, Amateur Communications (Ham), law enforcement, respective fire departments, medical and others were in the “War Room” collecting information and assigning tasks to the emergency responders in the field of operation.
During the scenario, a fuel tanker truck developed a leak as students were being transported to OMS. The tanker truck was on Ocoee Street, near the school. Operations managers dispatched Public Works and Cleveland Fire Department to handle the situation.
Although the main focus was around Sequoyah, emergency managers are taxed with decisions regarding incidents which can occur at random and include smaller emergency response, which is sometimes just as important to those involved.
After the exercise began to develop and the scenarios unfolded, emergency mangers were presented a crash scenario on Interstate 75 at Exit 20. Several people suffered injury and a tanker truck which collided with passenger cars had developed a leak, causing its toxic payload to spill. The interstate system was totally shut down as mock crews raced to the scene to treat the injured and get traffic moving again.
The governor had already declared a State of Emergency and city and county mayors followed suit.
As the scenario ran on, TVA escalated the Sequoyah incident and now higher levels of radiation began to seep from the site.
A warning siren failed in a section of Bradley County.
Deputies went through the area to warn residents and encourage evacuation to OMS.
They also patrolled along the interstate to make sure that after one lane of the roadway was reopened no motorists were stranded. Others had been re-routed to Highway 11, outside the 10-mile EPZ.
With each transmission, amateur radio operators along with TEMA managers repeated, “This is a drill.”
Hospitals and nursing facilities were checked for bed availability as special needs residents in the affected area would be moved.
Roadblocks were set up in key locations to inform the public. Frequent and very important media updates were given which squelched rumors, but kept residents informed but not panicked.
In all, more than 7,000 residents would have been affected if this were a true incident.
“From a state standpoint, we couldn’t do this without good local planning and cooperation,” said Andrew Rose of TEMA.
Cleveland-Bradley County EMA Director Troy Spence was appreciative of all agencies were involved.
“Everyone performed at the level expected of the federal evaluators. Cooperation continues between state and local agencies to help first responders and cross information, all in the name of better public safety,” said Spence.
“I would like to thank all of the departments who trained and those who participated in the exercise,” Spence added.