Don’t Panic: Emergency Notification Testing Near Palo Verde Generating Station

Containment buildings on the three generators at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Tonopah. The plant, commissioned in 1985, generates more electricity than any nuclear power plant in the U.S., according to plant operator Arizona Public Service. (Photo by Michael S. Sexton/Courtesy Arizona Public Service)

On Wednesday, Dec. 1, Palo Verde Generating Station (PVGS), in cooperation with local and State agencies, will test the outdoor warning sirens located within a 10-mile radius of the power plant. In conjunction with the siren test and in the same 10-mile radius, Maricopa County will also test Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA).

Testing will involve activating the sirens twice and WEA once. Sirens will be activated at 12:00 p.m. and again at 12:30 p.m. for approximately three minutes each time. WEA will be tested at 12:15 p.m. Individuals will be stationed at each of the 70 sirens and they will report siren activations and wireless alert notifications to emergency managers following the test.

The siren system is part of the “Alert and Notification System” required by federal regulations. Testing of the siren system is required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The versatility of the WEA system allows notification to the entire county or specific areas within the county. On Dec. 1 the test area will be limited to the siren test area and only to those phones that have been enabled to receive test alerts.

The message to accompany the WEA will state, “THIS IS A TEST OF MARICOPA COUNTY WIRELESS EMERGENCY ALERT SYSTEM. NO ACTION IS REQUIRED”.

In the unlikely event of an emergency at Palo Verde requiring public actions, one of three response agencies (Maricopa County Department of Emergency Management, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office or the Arizona Department of Public Safety) will activate the alerting sirens to direct residents to turn on their radios and televisions. Likewise, wireless alerts (activated by Maricopa County Department of Emergency Management) will direct residents to do the same. An Emergency Alert System (EAS) message will then broadcast over radio & television and provide emergency instructions and information.