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Peach Bottom plant emergency prep drills scheduled for Tuesday

Local GovernmentFEMA

Harford County emergency management officials, as well as their counterparts at the state and county level in Maryland and Pennsylvania, will hold an emergency preparedness drill Tuesday afternoon involving the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station and the communities within 10 miles of the plant.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration will oversee the drill.

"We began preparing for this late last fall," Robert Thomas, spokesman for the Harford County Department of Emergency Services, said Thursday.

"Our emergency operations center will be fully activated to level one in the late afternoon [Tuesday] and will remain so during and throughout the exercise," Thomas said.

The nuclear generating plant is in Delta, Pa., just north of the Mason-Dixon Line along the Susquehanna River, about 20 miles north of Bel Air. Communities in northern Harford County, such as Whiteford and Darlington, fall within the 10-mile radius of the plant.

There are 97 emergency sirens in the 10-mile radius surrounding the power plant, but Lacey Dean, a spokesperson for Peach Bottom, said they will not be activated Tuesday.

"Residents near Peach Bottom might see emergency vehicles or hear our plant public address system, but we won't but using our off-site sirens," Dean explained.

Regarding Harford County residents, Thomas said "there may be a heightened level of activity in the Hickory area," where the Department of Emergency Services is headquartered, "and certainly near the Pennsylvania state line."

He said county officials will issue a news release following the exercise, and residents can visit the HarfordCoEM feed on Twitter or the Harford County Emergency Management page on Facebook for more information.

He said the county's emergency operations plans will be reviewed and officials will work with "each department of county government to ensure that they are clear on their roles and responsibilities."

Officials will also work with the Harford County schools within the 10-mile zone to review their emergency preparedness plans and their evacuation procedures, Thomas said.

The schools that will be reviewed include Darlington Elementary, Dublin Elementary, North Harford Elementary, Middle and High schools and Harford Christian School in Darlington, Thomas said.

Peach Bottom is owned by Exelon Generation and Public Service and Gas of New Jersey and serves at least 2 million customers, according to a fact sheet posted on Exelon's website. The plant's two units began operating in 1974.

Federal emergency officials require the plant operators, the communities within the plant's 10-mile emergency preparedness zone, plus the affected states, to go through the emergency exercises every two years.

Dean said Harford and Cecil counties will participate on the Maryland side of the border, along with the State Police, the Maryland Emergency Management Agency and Maryland Department of the Environment.

Officials in Chester, Lancaster and York counties, along with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Environmental Protection and the State Police will be participating on the Keystone State side of the Mason-Dixon Line, Dean said.

"These drills are held every other year to evaluate government's ability to protect public health and safety," MaryAnn Tierney, regional administrator for FEMA's Region III, said in a statement last week. "We will assess state and local emergency response capabilities within the 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone as well as the adjacent support jurisdictions."

The agency's Region III serves Maryland, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia, according to FEMA's website.

A public meeting will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the Homewood Suites in Lancaster, Pa., during which FEMA officials will present their "preliminary findings" from the drill. The Homewood Suites are at 200 Granite Run Drive in Lancaster.

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