Adults walking the track and student athletes playing in the nearby field might have wondered last Thursday what all the fuss was about outside of Brewster High School.
What was actually taking place was a live, mock demonstration of the Putnam County Radiological Emergency Response Plan in which Brewster High School would be one of three sites in eastern Putnam County to take in evacuees from the west side of the county if there was emergency at the Indian Point nuclear power plant that leaked radiation into the atmosphere.
As explained by Putnam County Deputy Commissioner for Emergency Services Adam Stiebeling, there are parts of three of the six towns in Putnam County that are within a 10 miles radius of Indian Point that would be evacuated in the event of a leak: the Town of Philipstown south of the Villlage of Cold Spring, the southern portion of Putnam Valley; and a very small portion of Mahopac that is inside of the semi-circle delineated by Route 6N.
“That doesn’t mean that radiation magically stops at a 10-mile radius,” Stiebeling said, adding that the 10-mile radius for evacuation still was a cautious one that was based on U.S. Environmental Protection standards. “Just like a smoke stack, a [radiological] plume will travel in the direction of the prevailing wind.”
Those Putnam County residents inside of the evacuation zone would be notified when to leave the area with a reverse 9-1-1 call. In addition, there are 16 sirens in the zone that would sound and local radio stations would also make emergency broadcasts.
Mahopac residents would be directed to the Brewster decontamination center and residents of the other towns would be directed to similar facilities set up at Carmel High School and George Fischer Middle School.
At the drill on Thursday, similar to ones that are required to take place at all three sites every three years, representatives of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] interviewed many of those involved in the emergency response plan and inspected equipment that would be on hand to deal with the possible radiological contamination of people and their cars coming from evacuation zones.
Monitors to detect radioactivity were set up in the gym, looking very similar to metal detectors seen at airports. If residents were found to be contaminated they would head to decontamination showers set up in the boys’ and girls’ locker rooms.
“We appreciate the use of the schools,” Stiebeling said. “They provide excellent centers – the parking lots, the way they are laid out is very accessible.”
While there were many county government employees at the demonstration, who would also be on hand during an emergency evacuation, many community volunteers were involved, too, including members of the Putnam County Medical Reserve Corps, the Civil Air Patrol and P.E.A.R.L., or the Putnam Emergency Amateur Repeater League.
“The entire emergency response plan is supported by volunteers,” Stiebeling said.
Town ofSoutheastresident John Arcuri said he got involved with P.E.A.R.L. two years ago and that his group would assist the county in broadcasting emergency updates to residents.
A member of the local Civil Air Patrol, George Fischer Middle School seventh-grader Austin Giacomelli, who joined the local Civil Air Patrol three months ago, was there to help direct incoming traffic.
Members of the Putnam County Medical Reserve Corps [MRC] also were at the demonstration.
One MRC volunteer was Barbara Hunt who joined this past year.
With grown children and being a registered nurse, Hunt said she thought this was a way she could help and give back to her community.
The MRC contingency also included Mahopac residents Janet Eisig, Sue Moore, Roman Kopinets, and Alfred Dubongo, Brewster residents Joaquin and Vicki Maxino and Patterson resident Andrew Falk.
In addition to county officials and community volunteers contributing, the owner of Indian Point, Entergy, would be involved in emergency management if there was a leak of radiological material from its power plant.
Entergy Senior Emergency Planner and liaison to Putnam County Tony Iraola, himself a Mahopac resident, said staff at the plant worked with the county to develop the emergency response plan and would do the same in the event it ever had to be implemented.
“We would work together through our emergency operations center and be in constant contact,” Iraola said in the event of an emergency at the plant.
The entire Putnam County Indian Point Emergency Guide, including where PutnamCountyresidents can obtain a supply of Potassium Iodide that helps prevent the absorption of radiation, can be viewed online at www.pcbes.org. Scroll down the page and under “Latest News,” click on “IPEG 2011-2012 Booklet.”