Towns within a ten mile radius of the Oyster Creek Power Plant will be participating in a drill mandated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in order to test their communication and response systems in case of a nuclear disaster.

Seventeen municipalities within the ten mile Emergency Planning Zone as well as the state OEM will all be on alert Tuesday evening, simulating a nuclear emergency situation and making sure all of their communication and response systems are working efficiently.

While this is undoubtedly a pivotal test , Ocean County Office of Emergency Management Deputy Coordinator Lt. Keith Klements says residents shouldn’t expect to see any evidence of the drill.

“We are testing our communications within our offices and the ability for us to communicate with our local municipalities and with the state at the same time.” Noting the only thing residents might notice is more cars in local OEM parking lots.

The tests will entail putting all the current communication systems between towns and the state through their paces, similar to what they might experience in event of a real nuclear emergency. That means not only putting traditional communication methods like telephone, fax machine, and e-mail to the test, but also double checking two way radio systems (which have several additional frequencies for emergencies) and RACES bands that are used by the OEM.

“If there was an event we have redundancies that if one system goes down there’s three to four other systems in place that we can seamlessly go to.” Explains Klements.

Starting at 4pm and running until 11 pm, Emergency Operations Centers will be opened and operators and call takers will be joined by experts in various fields to run through a simulated scenario.

“ There are municipal and county road department there, engineering, transportation people, public information people will come in. Human relations, the health department, Red Cross, Salvation Army, animal response folks, as well law enforcement from police and sheriff’s office come in and they man their stations.”

Tuesday’s drill will not have any interaction with the public, however FEMA sets numerous requirements for state, county, and municipal OEM offices to fulfill and Klements notes there will be future drills.

“There are evacuations of the public, there’s notice to evacuation of the public, there’s school evacuations. And within each of those there are steps that have to be taken to make sure we have completed it successfully.” Adding, FEMA makes sure every step is able to be carried out. “There are so many parts that we test different ones at different times.”

The results from the drill will be discussed with the public on June 15th at a public meeting at the Ocean County Office of Emergency Management at the Robert J Miller Airpark in Berkley Township.

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