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IAEA Holds Exercise to Test Inter-Agency Communication During a Nuclear or Radiological Emergency

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IAEA staff members participating in the IACRNE public communication exercise on 21 November 2018. (Photo: S. Harvey/IAEA)

In a nuclear or radiological emergency, the IAEA will work with other international organizations to coordinate emergency response efforts and seek coherence in communication with the public.

Such coordination can be a challenge, not least because the organizations are located within time zones throughout the world. Last week, the IAEA and participants from five international organizations practiced coordination of public communication during an exercise.

All organizations that took part in the exercise are members of the 18-member Inter-Agency Committee on Radiological and Nuclear Emergencies (IACRNE). This Committee develops, maintains, and co-sponsors a plan that outlines the roles of each organization in relation to preparing for, and responding to, nuclear and radiological emergencies. This Joint Radiation Emergency Management Plan of the International Organizations (Joint Plan) also covers public communication in an emergency.

Effective communication is an important part of emergency response and can be key to maintaining the safety of the public. By releasing joint public statements, the organizations highlight that their emergency response actions are coordinated and aligned.

During the recent exercise, IACRNE member organization public information officers discussed how they would draft a joint public statement after a mock nuclear power plant operator had declared a general emergency and alerted that a large release of radioactive material into the environment could take place within hours.

The participants, located in Brussels, London, Montreal, Paris and Vienna, used web conferencing for their discussions.  

“It is vital to test the procedures in order to improve coordinated actions during an actual emergency”, said Peter Kaiser, IAEA Crisis Communication Advisor. “We will evaluate the exercise and its results to assess the procedures, communication channels and the projected time for drafting and releasing statements. A swift response capacity is essential in crisis communication and exercises such as this one help to coordinate and expedite the information distribution to ultimately strengthen public safety.” 

In addition to the IAEA, the participating IACRNE members included the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Maritime Organization, the Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.

The exercise is part of a series that test operational arrangements under the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident and the Convention on Assistance in the case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency.  Exercises testing IACRNE procedures for inter-agency communication during a radiological or nuclear emergency are held every year.

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