Disaster drill in Reno takes on radioactive contamination

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - When it comes to emergency response, the motto is: “hope for the best, expect the worst.” That’s why training is so important. June 21 in downtown Reno, regional response teams trained for a first-of-its-kind emergency, one that involves radiation contamination that originates in Sacramento.

More than 100 people from health, emergency response, fire, police protection, the Reno Sparks Indian Colony, Orvis School of Nursing, and local government agencies worked together to see how they would respond to a mass of people exposed to radiation in Sacramento headed toward Reno.

Bailee Harrison, her friend Mila Sanchez-Servine, and Mila's mom Melanie say they were in downtown Reno, and decided to be a part of the exercise. Each of them was screened to determine if they had been exposed to radiation. They were then sent through the paces of assessment, contamination, and immediate medical needs.

While exercises like this are not uncommon, this is the first time crews dealt with possible radiation contamination.

”One of the things that would happen, that you would see, is a lot of the individuals, the people in the surrounding areas, would want to escape that area,” says Stephen Shipman, Incident Commander of the exercise called “Black Rain.”

Shipman says he knows there will be mistakes made during this exercise. But that is the point. There will be extensive analysis and overview of how teams reacted, and what challenges they faced during the four-hour-plus exercise.

“And so if we can identify them and address them in an exercise, they are less likely to be a problem during an actual event,” says Dr. Randall Todd, Incident Commander of the Operations Center.

In the blue medical tent, Mila and Bailee tell me they weren't scared and thought everything that happened to them was explained thoroughly.
They said they were happy to help crews prepare for the worst case scenario.

Public information officers, too, had to work on their skills dealing with the media and hoping to quash any rumors and allay any fears the public would most likely experience e in a grave situation like the exercise lays out. That included answering questions about the risks posed to our community from travelers out of state.

"If someone shows up at your doorstep and they need help, the first thing you do is get them to one of our CRC,” says Reno Police Department’s James Pitsogle, who took questions at the press conference.

The CRC is Community Reception Center, which is what Reno would be in this scenario. That’s because it is located 100 to 300 miles upwind from Sacramento, and is not at risk from radioactive fallout.