The following news article originally appeared in NEI’s Nuclear Energy Overview.
A new study from the National Academy of Sciences says that nuclear emergency preparedness drills helped an Iowa city cope with record-setting floods. The emergency drills may have saved lives, the report said.
The city of Cedar Rapids in eastern Iowa is located nine miles downstream from the Duane Arnold Energy Center, a commercial nuclear energy facility, and is within the facility’s emergency planning zone. In 2008, the city faced a record-breaking flood with a crest of more than 31 feet, well above a 500-year flood level. Water inundated about 1,300 city blocks, including most of the downtown business district, and nearly 18,000 people were displaced.
“According to the health personnel and emergency responders with whom the committee spoke in their visit to Cedar Rapids, the preparation and planning involved in preparing for [a] human-induced hazard [a potential nuclear emergency] played a large role in the fact that no lives were lost to a different hazard that evolved into a disaster during the flooding in 2008,” the committee’s report, “Disaster Resilience: A National Imperative,” said.
The report said that nuclear emergency preparedness drills, which are conducted regularly, helped the community prepare for the worst.
“The city and county have a risk mitigation strategy in place for the nuclear power facility—the city’s emergency planners, hospital personnel, and citizens drill four times a year along established evacuation routes,” the report said. “These drills, including the relocation of essential medical facilities and personnel proved essential during the response to the flooding of the Cedar River into the city.”
This constant practice helped emergency responders learn their respective roles in an emergency, which they applied during the flood, according to a statement quoted in the report’s summary.
“Drills brought everyone together and helped people to learn their roles,” said Linn County Supervisor Linda Langston. “Relationships that had been formed during these drills assisted in getting the necessary work accomplished during the flood.”
The report was produced by the NAS’ committee on increasing national resilience to hazards and disasters.