NEWBERRY — Should there ever be a radiological release at the V.C. Summer Nuclear plant in Jenkinsville, Newberry County agencies and their staffs are prepared.
Recently, Newberry County agencies took part in their routine V.C. Summer Exercise, something that Emergency Services Coordinator Tommy Long said occurs every two years.
“This has been going on since the first nuclear reactor was up and running at the plant,” Long said. “The purpose of the exercise is to be able to react to protect the public if there was ever a radiological release at the plant.”
Long said the exercise is a combined event from the state’s Emergency Management Division, Lexington County, Richland County, Newberry County, Fairfield County and the V.C. Summer plant.
Earlier this year Long said the first exercise was held to demonstrate how they would handle decontamination of residents that live inside the Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ). EPZ areas, Long said, are mostly in the towns Pomaria and Little Mountain and a small portion of Prosperity.
“We have to plan to decon people and the emergency workers and emergency vehicles,” Long said. “We also demonstrate the set up of a shelter operation.”
Long said many of the functions they perform could be used in other real life events as well.
In the decontamination portion of the exercise, fire departments, hazardous materials teams, EMS, rescue squads, law enforcement and Red Cross participate along with the Department of Social Services, Newberry County and State Emergency Management, DHEC and the State Guard.
Long said they were evaluated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
On Sept. 22, the second exercise was held to evaluate how the Emergency Operation Center at 540 Wilson Road in Newberry runs during an emergency event. Long said about 30 people participated in the first exercise, while they had about 55 at the second.
During the second exercise, SCE&G, local schools, the Department of Mental Health, Newberry County Clemson Extension, Newberry County Council and County Administration, Newberry County Memorial Hospital and Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) also participated.
Others involved included the Department of Natural Resources, those in forestry, public works and animal control as well as the S.C. Highway Patrol, Department of Transportation, GIS, dispatch and the Public Information Officer.
Long said attendees learn the importance of proper planning and how to look for ways to improve their operations during events.
“Having these every two years helps us test our plans and helps keep a good pool of trained responders,” Long said.
Long said a large number of the participants were helping on a volunteer basis.
“Our exercise was very successful and we are proud of the great job everyone does for our county,” Long said. “We should be proud of what our county has to offer our citizens.”
Newberry City Fire Chief Keith Minick said the department worked closely with county fire, rescue and haz-mat teams as well as others during the V.C. Summer exercise.
“This is truly a multi-agency operation,” Minick said. “We are constantly training on this exercise yearly.”
Minick said it was always a challenge to staff these training exercises because most of their participants were volunteer.
“I commend all who took time off from their regular job to come out and make this a success,” Minick said.