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Emergency communications: Practice makes perfect

July 27, 2017

Photo of the State Emergency Operations Center.
​Photo: Representatives from county, state and federal agencies join together in the State Emergency Operations Center to practice getting accurate information to the public in case of a radiological emergency at one of the state’s two nuclear generating plants.

Do you sometimes feel fatigue from the communications constantly coming at you? Even if you turn off the TV, radio, computer and cell phone, there are always newspapers and other modes of messaging. And although this can make life a bit hectic, it’s a pretty great problem to have in an emergency.

Take, for example, a radiological emergency. If something dangerous were to happen at one of Minnesota’s two nuclear generating plants, the good news is that we’ll use all of those modes of communication and more to get essential information to you.

And although we practice those emergency communications twice a year, the fact is that we’re always working on them. For example, if you live in the vicinity of either the Monticello or Prairie Island nuclear generating plants, you receive an Emergency Planning Guide in the mail that details important information you’d need to know in the unlikely event of a radiological emergency (we do this in partnership with Xcel Energy, who owns both plants). It explains the guidelines for sheltering in place and evacuation, how to prepare your family for this or any other emergency, and how you would be notified.

So how would we communicate with you in the unlikely event of an incident at a nuclear generating plant? In the minutes after an incident occurs, we’ll open the Joint Information Center (JIC) at the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC). The JIC is where we’ll be hard at work with other agencies across county, state and federal lines to communicate timely, accurate, clear, concise information to you. In short, if it comes from the JIC, you can trust it. Here are the various ways we’ll get messages to you:

  • Social media: We’ll update the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Facebook and Twitter and Homeland Security and Emergency Management’s Facebook and Twitter in real time (be sure to follow us).
  • Web: We’ll post news releases with the most up-to-date information on the Department of Public Safety news release website.
  • TV, radio and newspaper: Members of the media will be in our media room in St. Paul, where officials will be giving briefings to supply you with the latest information.
  • Outdoor warning sirens: They’re not just for tornadoes! If you need to shelter in place or evacuate, the sirens in your neighborhood will sound for three minutes. They also trigger the alarms in NOAA Weather Radios.
  • The Emergency Alert System will be utilized in the event you need to shelter in place or evacuate. These EAS messages will be broadcast over TV and radio stations.

So while we’re practicing all the ways we’ll get information to you in case of this type of emergency, you can learn and prepare. Would you be ready to evacuate with everything you need at a moment’s notice? Do you know where your neighborhood reception center is in case of evacuation? If we all practice, we all have a better chance of getting through a radiological emergency as safely as possible.