Dozens of first responders will converge upon MU’s Hearnes Center on Tuesday and Thursday for emergency preparedness drills in which they will practice responding to an evacuation if a nuclear incident occurred at the Callaway Energy Center.

The MU Police Department said in a news release that the drills are a way for emergency services to make sure plans are in place in case there is an incident at the nuclear plant that requires evacuation of the area.

Elizabeth Thompson, training and exercise specialist for the Boone County Office of Emergency Management, said there will be around 70 participants this week. Tuesday will be a dress rehearsal from 4 to 8 p.m. for the exercise on Thursday, which is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is evaluated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

There will be more emergency vehicles traveling around the Hearnes Center. “This activity is part of the drill and is no cause for concern,” the release said.

FEMA requires the drill to be performed every eight years by the State Emergency Management Agency and associated response personnel. If there were a serious accident at the nuclear plant that released radiation, Boone County would receive about 3,000 of neighboring Callaway County residents, the release said.

The Callaway plant is a little less than 40 miles southeast of Columbia near the village of Reform.

Thursday, emergency services will demonstrate to FEMA how they will “decon,” or decontaminate six to 12 volunteers. Thompson said they can demonstrate their preparedness with just a few volunteers by measuring the amount of time it takes responders to decon the group.

“The decon process is dependent on the level of contamination,” Thompson said.

She said that some decon processes only require throwing away the evacuees’ contaminated clothes. More severe cases of contamination require showers.

Fifteen agencies will participate in the event, including the MU Police Department, the Boone County Local Emergency Planning Committee, the Columbia Fire Department, the Columbia/Boone County Department of Health and Human Services, ambulance services and the American Red Cross.

Other reception centers are located in Cole, Gasconade and Montgomery counties.

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