All equipment needs to be maintained to continue to work properly – and outdoor warning sirens around our nuclear plants are no exception.
As part of maintenance, sirens are regularly tested. And, because tests are sometimes audible, they are a source of questions from neighbors, especially as people move into the communities around our plants.
It can be unsettling to hear one of these sirens if you’re not familiar with their purpose or how they work. So, if you hear a siren, how can you determine if it’s a test or an emergency? Follow these three steps.
1. First, check to see if it’s a scheduled siren test date. Sirens are tested weekly using a “silent test” that cannot be heard by the public. Once a quarter, however, we conduct a full volume test of the system, usually on the second Wednesday of the month. Sirens are also tested again in November around Brunswick, Harris and Robinson nuclear plants.
You can find the exact dates on our nuclear emergency preparedness website and in your 2019 emergency planning booklet, which was mailed to all plant neighbors last year in August.
2. Sometimes sirens around a plant require maintenance and are tested afterward to ensure they are working properly. If you hear a siren and it’s not a scheduled test day, check social media for updates. We will share updates through our nuclear Twitter and Facebook accounts. We will also share this information with local media and our emergency management partners, so you may see updates on their websites and social media accounts, too.
3. In the event of an actual emergency, we will provide regular updates through local and social media before sirens are activated. However, if you hear sirens repeatedly sounding and it does not appear to be a test, tune into a local radio or TV station. Stations will also carry emergency alert information messages from local officials to instruct you on what to do. You can find a list of primary emergency alert stations online and in your emergency planning booklet.
Still have a question? Ask us. Our nuclear and corporate social media accounts are great sources of information if you ever have a question about outdoor warning sirens or other emergency planning information.
You can also call your county or state emergency management office as we closely coordinate emergency planning activities with them. Many of our county and state partners also have mobile-friendly tools to keep neighbors informed. For example, South Carolina Emergency Management reaches out via Twitter alerts and emergency alerts, and North Carolina Emergency Management has an emergency planning app.
The bottom line? Our nuclear plants have a long history of safe operations, and outdoor warning sirens are one of many ways we are prepared to alert plant neighbors of an emergency, however unlikely.