Emergency Action Level Classification System

The initial notification and follow-up messages of any one of the four classes of an emergency action level are transmitted from either the McGuire or Catawba Nuclear Power Station Control Room to Warning Points in the following locations:

  • McGuire Nuclear Power Station
    • State Warning Point
    • Catawba County
    • Cabarrus County
    • Lincoln County
    • Gaston County
    • Iredell County
    • Mecklenburg County
  • Catawba Nuclear Power Station
    • State Warning Points in North and South Carolina
    • Gaston County, NC
    • Mecklenburg County, NC
    • York County, SC

Local governments will rely heavily on information and recommendations provided by the plant for determination of minimum off-site response measures. (See Figure 4) The four classes of emergencies are:

  • Unusual Event The least serious of the four classifications. It means that a minor event - either operational or security - has occurred at the station. Unusual events pose no threat to the public safety, but due to strict federal regulations warrant an increase awareness by the plant operator and off-site emergency response agencies. No release of radioactive material is expected.
  • Alert In this classification, an event - either operational or security based - has occurred that would reduce the plant's level of safety. Although there would be no threat to the public safety, county and state officials and the plant operator would prepare emergency operation centers in case the situation worsens. Any radioactive release associated with the event would be minimal.
  • Site Area Emergency This classification means an event has occurred in which major safety equipment has failed or is likely to fail, or a security event has occurred in an area where the reactor and /or equipment used to safety shut down the reactors are located. The sirens could be sounded. The public should listen to the Emergency Alert System (EAS) for information and instructions. Any release of radioactive materials would be expected to stay within strict federal guidelines.
  • General Emergency The most serious of the four classifications. It means that an event has occurred in which actual or imminent fuel damage is likely, or a security event has resulted in a loss of physical station control. State and local authorities would take action to protect the public. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) would give information and instructions for people in the affected areas. Any release of radioactive materials associated with the event could exceed strict federal guidelines.

Warning and Notification Methods and Procedures

  • A Dedicated system is the primary means of transmitting the initial notification of any one of the four classes of an emergency from either the McGuire or Catawba Station control room to the County Warning Point. Commercial telephone is the secondary means.
  • Messages received other than by the "dedicated system" must be authenticated. The two methods by which a message reporting an emergency action level can be authenticated are:
  • The State 24 hour center or the telecommunicator at the County Warning Point verifies that the code word transmitted is on the list of authenticator code words.
  • Upon completion of the call, the telecommunicator calls back to either the McGuire or Catawba Station control room to verify that the report is authentic. The confirmation number is located at the top of the Emergency Notification Form (ENF)
  • The telecommunicator determines the method of authentication. If transmitted by means other than the dedicated system, the message must be authenticated by code word.
  • The message format for reporting an emergency situation to the County Warning Point is shown in Annex F (State Plan). The same format will be used for initial and follow-up messages.
  • The telecommunicator on duty at the County Warning Point is to obtain the ENF at the time the report is being transmitted. If the ENF was not received electronically, the Telecommunicator will transcribe the message on a blank ENF. Particular attention will be given to the action level classification, time, date, and the name of the individual making the report.
  • The individual in charge of the operation of the County Warning Point is responsible for assuring the availability of the current edition of the authenticator code words to all telecommunicators / dispatchers. (Note: The authenticator code words are furnished by the NC. Division of Emergency Management.)

Coordinating Instructions

Due to the sensitive nature of the information included in the notification of an emergency, and the requirement for speed, the telephone is to be used by all participants whenever possible.

Gaston County's key personnel are alerted by the Communications Center, followed by telephone contact.

If necessary, the County Sheriff's Deputies will hand deliver written copies of the ENF, to the designated agencies. (See Figure 9, Key Alert Notification Chart.)

Generally, follow-up information and subsequent reports are transmitted immediately by the fastest means possible to the individuals shown on the Gaston County Alert List.

Gaston County has the responsibility for initiating warnings within the county. When Protective Action Recommendations (PARs) have been recommended by Duke Energy officials or ordered by SERT (after the State has assumed command and control), County emergency personnel will immediately implement all means at their disposal to alert and instruct residents.

Primary Notification

The Duke Energy Company fixed siren system, with activation controls located in the Gaston County Warning Point, will serve as the primary public alerting system. When activated, this siren system is designed to warn immediately all areas of Gaston County within the 10-mile EPZ. For the initial notification, the fixed sirens will be sounded for two three-minute periods. These three-minute periods will be interrupted only by intervals to reactivate the siren encode system. Thereafter, the number of soundings will be at the judgment and discretion of the official responsible for activating the system.

Note: The emergency alert system (eas) must be activated three to five minutes after the activation of the siren system. This time will allow the general public to gain access to radio and television stations within the emergency broadcast area. Siren system is used to gain the attention of the public.

Secondary Notification

Tone alert weather radios, operated by the National Weather Service, will provide an automatic alarm concurrently with siren activation. The weather radios will also broadcast emergency instructions to the public.

As an additional alerting resource, Gaston County may utilize a reverse call back system if available to place phone calls with a pre-scripted message to phone lines within the affected area.

Should the siren system fail to properly operate, designated vehicles with sirens and/or public address (PA) systems will be activated to serve as a back-up method.

Emergency vehicles with effective sound devices will be instructed to routes or area to cover, stop each quarter (1/4) mile in populated areas or at each house or group of houses that are more than 1/4 mile apart. The following announcement will be made:


See Back-up Alert and Notification Listing, (Figure 6 for McGuire and Figure 8 for Catawba) in this Plan. If the entire area within the 10-mile EPZ does not need to be warned by the primary fixed siren system, this warning time estimate might be reduced by concentrating warning vehicles in smaller operational areas.

To better ensure receipt of the initial warning by members of the community, each route may be run twice. The second run or backrun will be to confirm alert and notification. Backruns need only to stop at houses that are dark at night or it is apparent that people are not complying with Emergency Broadcast instructions. If necessary, door-to-door alerting occurs during the second run.

Zone Warning Responsibility

Police units and fire departments are stationed throughout the 10-mile EPZ to provide zone warnings.

These units may be augmented by a predetermined number of vehicles from outside the 10-mile EPZ from other emergency response agencies.

Local law enforcement personnel will immediately establish traffic control points at predetermined locations upon evacuation orders.

To avoid extreme apprehension and possible panic on the part of the public, it is imperative that the television and radio stations receive and transmit the EAS or public information message prepared by the County or State PIOs. (See Annex D - State Plan - for EAS message format.).

Organizations tasked with zone warning responsibilities will seek to identify, within their zone, households where hearing impaired persons reside and, where appropriate, provide personal notification to these persons. Identification of these households may be secured through the functional needs response card received from the annual mailing of the McGuire and Catawba Nuclear Station Information Brochure to all 10-mile EPZ residents. Responses to this response card are maintained in hard copy and electronic file by Gaston County Emergency Management.


Gaston County has limited capabilities and resources for assessing and monitoring actual or potential consequences of a radiological emergency within the plume exposure pathway EPZ.

Gaston County has a Radiological Safety Officer Team (ROT) trained in radiological monitoring. Lead Fire/Haz-Mat and EMS/STAR personnel within the County have been trained using monitoring equipment and equipment is pre-staged on trailers for deployment.

The lead or primary responsibility for incident assessment during the initial stages of the emergency will be borne by Duke Energy supported by state and county resources, in that order, as they become available.

N.C. Radiation Protection will maintain continuous communications with field monitoring teams, the State/Gaston EOC and Duke Energy to assess the actual situation, ensure coordination of the monitoring and sampling effort, and provide timely consultation to county and state officials on any recommendations for protective response and/or distribution of potassium iodide (KI).

If an evacuation is ordered, the Gaston County Police with assistance as needed will, on order, establish traffic control points.

When requested, the State Highway Patrol will establish necessary traffic control points.

Local response operations and monitoring operations will be activated through the Gaston County Emergency Management Department.

Primary means of notification is the commercial telephone.

Radio will be the secondary means of notification and will be used for reporting back to the EOC.


  • The Gaston County Public Information Officer (PIO), or authorized representative, will represent Gaston County in the preparation and release of emergency public information and instructions concerning a nuclear radiation incident at either the McGuire or Catawba Nuclear Stations.
  • Coordinating Instructions
  • Since knowledge of the potential duration of release and the time available before expected off-site exposures is important in determining specific public instructions, the radiation protection component of the Gaston County EOC must make available to the public information staff all data necessary to prepare statements for public release.
  • The PIO staff will coordinate all public information activities between Gaston County, the State and Duke Energy Company.
  • Facilities for county public information personnel will be provided at the County EOC and the Joint Information Center.
  • The PIO will be responsible for collecting and releasing all information to the news media, verifying, resolving and reporting all rumors and other conflicting information to SERT, scheduling news briefings, and preparing releases for distribution in Gaston County.
  • Gaston County government will inform the news media on the status of plans to cope with emergencies resulting from incidents at either the McGuire or Catawba Nuclear Stations. The public information staffs of Gaston County, Duke Energy Company, and SERT will jointly prepare the programs and present them to the media. The presentations will include:
  • A briefing on the status of the State, Gaston County, and the effected Station emergency response plans.
  • An orientation on radiation and its effects on people and the environment.
  • Procedures and points-of-contact to be used by the media in obtaining pertinent information.
  • The three points-of-contact for media personnel to obtain current information during an emergency are:
  • The Duke Energy Company Joint Information Center, located in the Duke Energy Electric Center in Charlotte.
  • The State EOC (SERT Headquarters) in Raleigh.
  • The Gaston County EOC media room located in the Gaston County Emergency Services Building in Gastonia.
  • Communications to the Public
  • The primary means of communications to the public are broadcast radio, television, and cable vision. Twenty-five radio stations, five television stations and three cablevision companies serve the area of Gaston County within the 10-mile EPZ.
  • Gaston County EAS stations are in the Charlotte Operational Area. (See Annex E - State Plan - Section IV.) The Local Primary Station (LP-1) for the Charlotte area is radio station WLKN-FM.
  • The secondary means of communications to the public is the National Weather Service radio station at Greer SC.
  • Information and instructions transmitted to the public during periods of an emergency may refer to information published and distributed during non-emergency periods, such as:
  • Geographical areas or political subdivisions of Gaston County within the 10-mile radius of either the McGuire or Catawba Nuclear Stations.
  • Travel routes and shelter facilities should an evacuation be required.
  • Educational information on radiation.
  • Instructions concerning the use of drugs or medicines to off-set the effects of radiation.
  • Instructions on how the public will be alerted and informed of an emergency condition, or a potential threat, particularly between the hours of midnight and 6 am
  • Concept of Operations.
  • During normal, non-emergency periods, the PIO will participate in all annual exercises conducted by Gaston County and NCEM Prior to an exercise, the public information staff should inform the media as to the scope of the exercise. The PIO should also prepare news releases encouraging the public as to how they may participate.
  • The PIO will prepare and maintain on file in Gaston County the following:
  • Draft news releases concerning incidents at either the McGuire or Catawba Nuclear Stations that would require Gaston County authorities to alert and warn the public.
  • Educational materials explaining radiation, nuclear power site operations, possible effects from radioactive releases, and self-help methods of protection.

NOTE: Camera-ready newspaper copy, slides for television and simple verbal directions for radio of the routes and shelter locations are maintained by the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety PIO.

Upon notification of an incident at either the McGuire or Catawba Nuclear Stations, the Gaston County PIO will:

  • Be prepared to have representatives report to the Gaston County EOC and to the Joint Information Center (JIC).
  • Immediately review and update all prepared warning and evacuation information.
  • Review and update, if necessary, all educational materials for release to the news media during the emergency.
  • Brief local news media representatives on the local situation.
  • Establish contact with NCEM Public Information section and provide a Gaston County briefing(s), if requested.
  • Make recommendations to the County Manager concerning release of information to the public.
  • Take other actions as directed by the County Manager or designee.
  • Following an emergency, the PIO will maintain liaison with SERT PIO where deemed appropriate and lend assistance towards a successful conclusion of the combined operation.

Protective Response

  • During the initial period of an emergency, prior to State assumption of command and control, Duke Energy personnel will recommend protective actions for Gaston County. Once command and control are assumed by SERT, the State is responsible for recommending protective response actions.
  • Until SERT assumes control, the Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners will take the final responsibility for ordering the evacuation.
  • Initially the Telecommunications Supervisor will make every effort to contact the Emergency Management Administrator, the County Police Chief and the County Commissioners. If after five minutes, the telecommunicator is unable to contact the required persons, recommendations from Duke Energy personnel will be followed. If conditions warrant immediate action of alerting procedures, the dispatcher will follow the recommendations of the representative from either the McGuire or Catawba Station.
  • Protective actions for the public and emergency workers will be based on recommendations of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in EPA 400-R-92-001, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding human food and animal feed as published in the Federal Register of October 22, 1982, (Vol.47, Number 205) [Docket Number 76N-0050]. These actions may include:
  • Area evacuation of all or segments of the population. Evacuation routes, shelters, monitoring points, hospitals, and the population density are detailed on the operations map that is available on request.
  • Advising the public to stay indoors by public address systems, radio and television, and door to door alerting, where necessary. See Paragraph IV.B. of this Plan, Warning and Notification Methods and Procedures.
  • Administering potassium iodide (KI) tablets as a thyroid blocking agent to emergency workers.
  • Control of water supply intake.
  • Diversion, embargo, or destruction of agricultural products.
  • Respiratory protection
  • Other appropriate actions (e.g. advising the public to wash home grown products prior to consumption).
  • The immobility of hospital and nursing home patients may preclude evacuation of these facilities. If so, the following protective actions may be advised:
  • Close windows and doors.
  • Discontinue use of air conditioners.
  • Stay indoors and relocate to the interior or basement area of the building, if necessary.
  • After consultation with public health, administer KI as a blocking agent. (See State Plan - Part 1, Annex K.) The Gaston County Health Department will be responsible for delivering KI to hospitals and nursing homes.
  • Distribution and Administration of Radiological Protective Drugs
  • The Gaston County Health Department Director is responsible for the storage and distribution of KI to the general public and institutionalized individuals.
  • The Health Department Director, after consultation, or reasonable efforts to consult with the State Health Administrator or the senior NC RAD Protection representative, is empowered to authorize the distribution of KI to emergency workers as they receive their emergency monitoring equipment issued at staging areas.
  • The State Health Director will recommend the administration of KI to emergency workers, institutionalized persons and general public in affected areas.
  • KI tablets are stored at the Gaston County Health Department.
  • Transportation for Evacuation.
  • General
  • Primary means of transportation will be private vehicles.
  • News releases will urge the sharing of rides with persons without transportation.
  • For those without transportation, pickup points/routes will be established and publicized in appropriate EAS messages.
  • Non-ambulatory patients without necessary transportation means will be transported by pre-designated emergency medical vehicles.
  • Special Facility Population
  • Schools - County operated schools: Students may be evacuated to pre-designated shelters outside the 10-mile EPZ by County school buses. Each County's school in the 10-mile zone is paired with a school outside the 10-mile EPZ to facilitate planning and familiarization. These pairings are publicized in the McGuire and Catawba Station Safety Information Brochures and will be repeated during an appropriate public information messages. See Figure 10 for list of schools.Private and or Charter Schools: Each of these are primary responsible for establishing their evacuation and relocation site plan as well as providing needed transportation for students and staff.

Hospital, Nursing and Domiciliary Care Facilities -Institutionalized persons within the 10-mile EPZ may be evacuated utilizing emergency medical vehicles for non-ambulatory patients and available buses and vans for ambulatory patients' mobility, Impaired persons within the 10-mile EPZ will be pre-identified as reasonably possible and provided specialized transportation if required. A telephone listing by name and address will be maintained by the Emergency Management Administrator on those persons within the 10-mile EPZ requiring transportation assistance. A listing may include a consolidation of the special needs response cards received from the annual mailing of the McGuire and Catawba Station Safety Information Brochure and the current Duke Energy listing of system customers on life support equipment. This listing will be augmented with the information provided by rescue squads, fire departments, social service agencies, and health care providers.

Daycares: Each of these are primary responsible for establishing their evacuation and relocation site plan as well as providing needed transportation for children and staff.

  • Evacuation Routes.
  • The Gaston County Police, assisted by the State Highway Patrol and local police departments will control access to evacuated areas.
  • The NC. Department of Transportation and local public works departments will clear evacuation routes of any impediments such as snow, ice or equipment.
  • The NC. Department of Transportation will be responsible for posting evacuation route signs.
  • The following major highways and secondary roads within the Gaston County portion of the 10-mile EPZ are designated as primary evacuation routes. Major highways have a projected traffic capacity under emergency conditions as shown.

Gaston County is capable of continuous (24-hour) operations for a protracted period of 36 hours from the on-set of the incident.

Within their respective jurisdiction, the head or supervisor of each county government department will be responsible for assuring continuity of operations and resources.

Emergency communications links among state, local, and federal agencies, and between Duke Energy Company and state and county governments are staffed 24 hours a day. (See Emergency Communications, Section VI.)

In summary, this Plan contains emergency procedures to be implemented throughout the Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ). In developing the emergency response concept of operations, two time frames were considered.

  • When an emergency condition exists at the facility but is not serious enough to warrant a declaration of a State of Disaster by the Governor of North Carolina, the County directs the actions of County emergency response resources.
  • When the emergency condition has escalated to such a level that the Governor declares a State of Disaster, the State assumes responsibility for direction and control of all off-site emergency operations. Where available and operationally effective, such direction and control will be exercised through the Gaston County Chain of Command.