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Nuclear plant hopes people will be prepared on Oct. 25

By Susan Morse
[email protected]

October 12, 2008 6:30 AM

If the Seabrook nuclear power plant sirens were to go off, would you know what to do?

Most people interviewed on Tuesday, Oct. 7, didn't. (See video, seacoastonline.com.)

FPL Energy Seabrook Station and state Division of Homeland Security officials want you to turn on your radio to the emergency alert system station, which locally is WOKQ-FM, 97.5. They will test this response in an audible demonstration of all 121 emergency sirens on Saturday, Oct. 25, at 12:30 p.m.

People within a 10-mile radius of the plant will hear a loud wail for three to five minutes.

That people interviewed didn't know where to get information "underscores the importance of the demonstration on Oct. 25," said plant spokesman Al Griffith.

The siren activation comes on the same day as the commissioning ceremony for the USS New Hampshire at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
Plant officials are aware of this event and others that day, such as the Fall Festival in Exeter. They have been holding numerous outreach activities with town officials, police departments, hospitals and schools to get the word out.

"We want to make sure people are aware of the demonstration and know what to do," Griffith said. "Through each town in the EPZ (emergency planning zone), we're identifying significant events."

At those events, a town official will "be making a series of announcements," he said.

The state Department of Transportation will have road signs posted on major highways.

Plant officials are also reaching out to anti-nuclear groups, Griffith said, and officials in the state of Maine.

"We're talking to towns not only in the EPZ, but towns adjacent to the EPZ," he said.

Depending on wind direction, the sirens will likely be heard beyond the 10-mile radius.

Fliers and fact sheets are going out to businesses, local chambers of commerce and schools. Informational postcards are being mailed to every household within the 10-mile EPZ.

There are 94 sirens in 17 towns in New Hampshire and 27 within six towns in Massachusetts.

Each of the 121 sirens will have a "siren monitor" at each site during the demonstration.

"We do expect that there may be some people who do not get word of the siren demonstration," Griffith said. "But at the end of the day, we believe that conducting such audible siren demonstrations now and in the future will increase public awareness of the sirens and what people should do in the unlikely event they are ever sounded due to a declared emergency."

For information, turn to WOKQ at 97.5 FM.

This is the first time all 121 sirens will be audibly sounded since the system was installed, according to Griffith and James Van Dongen of the state Division of Homeland Security.

The sirens are tested every two weeks using electronic equipment and may not always be audible, Griffith said.

The reason all 121 sirens are being sounded now is due to an incident in Amesbury, Mass., in the summer of 2007. At about midnight on a Friday, a siren inadvertently went off. Local police departments were flooded with calls. Due to the false, unplanned alarm, there was no message recorded on emergency alert radio stations.

"Last year's inadvertent sounding was the impetus to plan an audible demonstration," Griffith said.

Several improvements have been made to the emergency plan since the Amesbury incident. In the event of another inadvertent sounding, the state will be more proactive in notifying the media, he said.

The sirens are managed by both New Hampshire and Massachusetts in conjunction with Seabrook Station, Griffith said.

They are designed to alert the public in the event of an emergency at the nuclear power plant. This could include a natural event such as an approaching tornado, he said.

"Just because sirens go off does not mean public action is required," he said. "It doesn't mean evacuate."
 

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Sirens Sound Along Seacoast In Seabrook Nuclear Plant Test

Emergency Alarm System Tested For First Time

Video: Emergency Alarm System Tested For First Time

SEABROOK, N.H. -- An unfamiliar sound pierced the air on the Seacoast as the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant tested its emergency alarm system.

WMUR News 9's Adam Sexton reported that sirens blared over nearly two dozen towns in New Hampshire and Massachusetts at about 12:30 p.m. Saturday in the first-ever audible test of the alarm system.

The emergency warning system is routinely tested, but that testing is automated and not audible.
As the sirens sounded in downtown Portsmouth, few had any visible reaction other than some puzzled tourists and a couple of people covering their ears, Sexton said.

"I noticed everybody ignored it and went about their business. Nobody freaked out," said Lee McLellan, of Dover.

The 121 sirens cover 23 towns in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Saturday's test, which lasted just under five minutes, was deemed a success by the nuclear power plant.

"The most important thing to us was to alert as many people as possible about the demonstration so there was no panic," said Alan Griffith, from FPL Energy's Seabrook Station.

If the casual indifference in Portsmouth was any indicator, it seems that many knew what was coming. For some, the sirens inspired fear.

"It gave me a chill. I live in Durham, not far from here, and it's a scary thing to hear those sirens," said Paula Roy, of Durham.

Roy was a member of the Clamshell Alliance, which strongly opposed the construction of Seabrook. She knew about the test, but didn't expect to hear sirens in Portsmouth.

"It reminds me there's no place to go," she said.

Others said those fears are unfounded.

"No, it's not rational at all. I've been working in the nuclear industry and it's perfectly safe. In fact, the horn is an extreme case," said Ron Boyan, an engineer.

However unlikely a catastrophic situation is at Seabrook, the sirens have some thinking about the consequences if, one day, the alarm sounds and the emergency is real.

"It made me think of my mortality and it was a very interesting experience to be here for this test," said Beth Confrancisco, who was visiting from Massachusetts.

Saturday's test was prompted by a WMUR News 9 investigation that revealed many people don't know what the sirens mean.

Previous Stories:

http://www.wmur.com/news/17803124/detail.html
 

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one Amesbury man said. "If it was real emergency, I wouldn't know what to do."

1) Get your helmet.

2) Put your helmet on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Seabrook Station to test sirens

Regional demonstration to take place Nov. 18

SEABROOK - Seabrook Station nuclear power plant, in cooperation with N.H. Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, will conduct a demonstration of the plant's emergency siren system at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18.

The siren activation will consist of two different tones over a three- to five-minute period.

There are 121 sirens in the Seabrook emergency siren system, 94 of which are in New Hampshire, with 27 in Massachusetts.

Public Service Announcement
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Re: Seabrook Station to test sirens

I wouldn't want to be a dispatcher that day. :rolleyes:

The last one went off without a hitch, but there was a lot more publicity on it.
 
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