On Thursday, March 16th, emergency responders from state, local and volunteer agencies participated in a Reception and Care Center exercise at Desert Edge High School in Goodyear, Arizona. Among those in attendance were just over 200 participants and support staff from 25 county departments, and 18 state and local government, private sector and volunteer agencies. This 6-hour exercise tested our response community’s ability to conduct evacuee operations in preparation for potential emergencies at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station. It provided all responding agencies an opportunity to refine procedures, define necessary resources and train new employees and volunteers in emergency evacuation operations. Some of the areas that were identified for improvement included more detailed instructions to evacuees (which actually improved itself as the exercise progressed); better placement and accessibility of our sign language and Spanish interpreters; and an overall better understanding of the requirements of our Access and Functional Needs community. Some of our strengths during the exercise included swift set-up of the entire reception and care center, radiological monitoring equipment, computers and check-in tables; a smooth flow of evacuees through the various stations; tremendous cooperation among all participating agencies; integration of sign language and Spanish interpreters; and overwhelming support and patience from our volunteer community members who served as our evacuees, including several with access and functional needs. We will be compiling a formal after action report to share with all of our response partners, with a goal of leveraging our strengths, and addressing all areas for improvement in time for our FEMA evaluated exercise on June 1st.
Thanks again to all of our partners and community members that took part in this event, and we look forward to working with all of you again this summer!