06May2013: Nuclear incident drills to start Monday across Montana


(GreatFallsTribune) – If a nuclear incident happened in Montana, key officials don’t want to be meeting each other for the first time.

Military personnel at Malmstrom Air Force Base have regular exercises to test their response procedures and make sure everyone knows what to do and when.

But starting Monday, their training will go to a higher level.

A national exercise, known as NUWAIX 2013, which is executed by U.S. Northern Command and sponsored by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, will bring about 1,000 people to Montana throughout the exercise. The exercise isn’t expected to disrupt the community, but locals may notice additional vehicle traffic in and out of the base, increased helicopter activity and some personnel in hazmat suits or “tent cities” at some of the exercise sites. The majority of the exercise will be contained at Malmstrom and Fort Harrison in Helena.

Personnel from a variety of local and federal agencies, primarily the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Energy, Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency Region VIII, will augment Malmstrom and other Air Force participants.

The exercise will be scenario based, and participants will respond to a nuclear incident, which could be a DOE shipment in the state, an attack on a nuclear missile site, hostile action on base or the missile field or a range of scenarios.

“If that day were to happen, we want to kind of go on autopilot,” Col. Rob Stanley, 341st missile wing commander at Malmstrom, said.

The idea is to exercise procedures but also to build relationships among the key players so they aren’t meeting for the first time during an actual emergency, especially one involving nuclear weapons.

Federal, state and local agencies have emergency response plans, but anything involving a nuclear weapon initiates a higher response and having both military, government and civilian agencies understand the plan, lingo and how the others operate is critical.

“If it were to involve a nuke, we don’t have a lot of time,” Stanley said. “It helps prevent any delay in response actions.”

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