The who’s who of nuclear emergency planning

With nearly a half century of experience operating nuclear power plants, Duke Energy knows about being prepared. But in an emergency, Duke Energy is not the only player. We routinely work with a network of local, state and federal agencies to ensure workers and the public remain safe in the unlikely event of an emergency at one of our nuclear plants. This includes maintaining emergency plans, participating in drills to practice working together and coordinating information – such as emergency planning calendars – that’s shared with plant neighbors.

With so many organizations involved in emergency planning though, it can be unclear who exactly is in charge of what. We’re breaking it down for you.

Duke Energy’s role

Duke Energy is responsible for the safe operation of our nuclear plants – a commitment we take seriously. Our first priority every day is ensuring the health and well-being of the public and our employees. Although nuclear plants are among the safest and most regulated facilities in the world, if an emergency were to occur, our focus would be on plant operations and emergency response.

Part of our response includes notifying federal, state and local authorities of the emergency and providing ongoing updates to these agencies and the public about the status of the plant. Using the information we provide on plant conditions, state and local agencies determine and direct public protective actions, such as sheltering and evacuations. 

Local and state Emergency Management

Local and state emergency management officials are responsible for providing information on what public actions to take if there were an emergency. This includes:

  • Sounding pole-mounted sirens within 10 miles of the nuclear plant to alert people to tune into local television or radio

    Nuclear emergency siren


  • Telling plant neighbors to stay inside, shelter-in-place, take potassium iodide or evacuate

  • Planning evacuation routes and coordinating evacuations with assistance from local law enforcement

  • Assisting people who need transportation or have other special needs during an emergency

  • Providing information about resources available during an emergency, such as accommodations

When decisions about public action,  local and state emergency managers consider factors like road conditions, weather and special events that may be happening in the affected areas.

Other government agencies

In addition to emergency management, other state agencies may provide recommendations to the public. In particular, Cooperative Extension offices will guide protections for livestock and crops, while public health officials provide guidance for distributing and directing the use of potassium iodide (KI), if necessary.

The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also play a role in emergency planning both in setting guidelines for nuclear plant preparedness and in providing assistance to state and local agencies during an event. 

Your role

As someone living near a nuclear power plant, it’s important that you’re aware of emergency planning procedures, even though it’s highly unlikely you’ll need to use them. Before an emergency, be sure you have the following:

  • Your emergency planning calendar or brochure from Duke Energy in an easy-to-find place. It contains all the

    Emergency planning kit

    information you would need in the event of an emergency, including local contact information for the organizations discussed above. This information is also available at

  • An emergency kit ready in case of any type of emergency. Your kit should include a working emergency radio to hear instructions provided by local emergency management officials.

  • A completed and mailed Request for Special Assistance (located in your emergency planning calendar), if necessary.

  • An emergency plan, including a plan for your children and pet(s) that you’ve discussed with your family. Visit for resources to help you create a family emergency plan.

If there were an emergency at the nuclear plant near you, make sure you know:

  • The guidelines for evacuation found in your emergency planning calendar

  • Which emergency planning zone you live and/or work in and possible exit routes

  • The reception/evacuation shelter for your zone(s), including the facility where your child/children would be evacuated during school hours

Successful emergency planning is a shared responsibility that takes careful preparation by a dedicated team. We appreciate the agencies that partner with us to ensure we have solid, well-practiced plans in place, plans which allow us to continue providing a beneficial resource for communities in the Carolinas – clean, reliable nuclear energy.

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