Quakes, Nukes and Twisters

State Emergency Management Conference - Day 1

Today was the first day of the state EM conference.  There are about 400 emergency managers, fire/EMS professionals, and private industry emergency planners in attendance.  We were welcomed by the state Secretary of Public Safety, Marla Decker.  On an interesting side note, Secretary Decker was my CPR instructor when I first got involved in public safety.  I later worked with her on some anti-gang activities when I was a cop and she was in a very long tenure in the state Attorney General's office.  After Secretary Decker spoke, next up was the state Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security, Terrie Suit.  She is a former state legislator and the wife of a retired Navy SEAL.  I've had the pleasure of meeting her last year when she spoke to my ASIS chapter meeting,

The keynote speaker was the San Francisco emergency manager, speaking on earthquake preparedness.  That is a hot topic here since we had a good sized quake last summer.  After him came the state geologist who spoke about the physics of the August quake, and the county manager of Louisa County, which was the epicenter of the quake.  They lost 2 schools, and several hundred homes were condemned.

During lunch I visited with a number of vendors.  I met a couple that I'm going to try and get some test samples of their products to review for you.

After lunch, I went to a breakout session on the April tornado swarms that hit all parts of Virginia in 2011.  First up, we heard from two National Weather Service meteorologists.  Even if you walked in late, you would have known thier occupation because while showing radar pictures of tornado activity, they used words like beautiful, perfect, and amazing.  For the tornados last year, the NOAA weather alert warnings gave between 12 and 30 minutes or advance notice.  I asked how that compared to the national average, and how that compared to 15 or 20 years ago.  Before Doppler Radar came about, the average advanced notice for a tornado warning was 3 to 5 minutes.  What a huge difference!  After the meteorologists, we heard from emergency managers for two rural counties (one in the western part of the state and one in Tidewater area) that got hit by the tornadoes.  Both had fatalities and lost homes and businesses.  One lost a middle school.  They shared suggestions and lessons learned for dealing with spontaneous volunteers and donations, and the media.  One stressed and urged everyone to have a weather alert radio and suggested grants, donations and any other way to get them into people's hands.  I have to agree wholeheartedly.

The last session of the day was the two emergency planners for the two nuclear power plants in Virginia.  I've known both for several years from working with them on the biennial VOPEX radiological exercises.  Both power plants were hit with near disasters last year, and both proved that their safety equipment worked as designed.  North Anna was near the epicenter of the August quake.  The reactors automatically shut down as they should.  The 116 ton (!!!) spent fuel rod storage casks moved several inches, but they were not breached.  They inspected it from top to bottom, inside and out and were finally cleared by the feds to start up the reactors again.  Surry had one of the April tornadoes hit their incoming power facility at F3 force.  It was later figured to be 165 mph.  Among the damage was a loss of power causing a reactor shut down, a 30 cubic yard dumpster being tossed several hundred yards, and a number out buildings and vehicles getting destroyed.  It really says a lot for our nation's nuclear power facilities that they can get through potential disasters safely.

That's it for today, more great information tomorrow.

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