Lancaster County training exercise on disaster scenario at Three Mile Island

MANHEIM, Pa. – Emergency management officials took part in a training exercise Tuesday to simulate their response to a disaster scenario at Three Mile Island.

The Lancaster County Emergency Management Agency worked in conjunction with FEMA, PEMA, and local entities to coordinate a response to a simulated chemical release at the nuclear power plant.

The Three Mile Island drill is conducted every two years and is evaluated by federal officials.

“This time of year, you don’t think about it, but in the last two years, you’ve had new residents move in to say Elizabethtown borough, so tonight, they will be learning what to do, because two years ago, they never were here,” William Harvey, chief of the Ephrata Police Department and one of the coordinators for the drill, said.

Lancaster County officials get more practice at this than most, because on the years that there is not a drill at Three Mile Island, they take part in a drill at Peach Bottom. It’s one of only five counties in the U.S. with two nuclear facilities.

Local communities within a ten-mile radius of the facility took part, including Mount Joy, Elizabethtown, West Donegal Township and East Donegal Township.

“You…plot the wind drift, the wind miles per hour, following the plume, which way is it going, so it makes it kind of the big ultimate chess match, but it’s not a game,” Harvey said. “These people’s lives are at stake in something like this.”

Observers often call the scene in the emergency operations center during these drills chaotic, but the key is to ensure that it is under control.

“When you look at all of these things put together, you’ve got hundreds of people preparing for the day we never want to talk about,” Harvey said.