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MU Research Reactor Center holds emergency simulation

Monday, July 18, 2011 | 2:23 p.m. CDT; updated 8:19 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 21, 2011
Emergency workers transport a man playing the role of a burn victim during a safety simulation at the MU Research Reactor on Monday.

COLUMBIA — As the alarm sounded, MU Research Reactor Center staff lined up and exited the premises, filing to a nearby tree for shade. Police cars and fire trucks blockaded the road leading to the center while paramedics and firefighters entered the building.

This was the beginning of the center's emergency simulation Monday morning, which began about 10:45 a.m. and lasted less than an hour.

The simulation was a fire inside a lab near the reactor but not directly connected to it.

One man played the role of a person who was burned on his arms, with a small amount of radioactive material contaminating the burned area. Within 20 minutes, paramedics were able to "stabilize" the man before bringing him to an ambulance on a stretcher to be transported to University Hospital.

While the center holds smaller scale emergency drills more frequently, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires an extensive drill such as this one every two years. The drill involves many outside support organizations, MU spokesman Christian Basi said.

Representatives from the Columbia Fire Department, Public Safety Joint Communications, MU Police Department, University Hospital and Clinics, MU Environmental Health and Safety, MU News Bureau and reactor staff were all present at the drill, according to a news release from the MU News Bureau.

Basi said the most important thing is the coordination among these entities in emergency situations.

“What we’re doing at these drills is not just testing the procedures. We are testing how we are communicating, who we are communicating with and that we know where to go,” Basi said. “During an emergency, people need to know who to talk to and where to get information.”

Drill monitors in neon green vests took notes on the success of the drill. Involved parties will meet within the next couple of weeks to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the run-through and do a full evaluation of the procedure.

Basi noted the effectiveness of these regular drills.

“I’ve already noticed improvements from our drill two years ago," Basi said.


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