Sunday, April 14, 2024

What do you do? Plan Ahead in Case of Surry Power Station Emergency

The Surry nuclear power plant is across the James River from Jamestown Island. (WYDaily/Courtesy Dominion Energy)
The Surry nuclear power plant is across the James River from Jamestown Island. (WYDaily/Courtesy Dominion Energy)

REGIONAL — It happens on a quarterly basis. A cacophony of sirens and emergency broadcasts sound over televisions and radios throughout the area. 

This is how often the Surry Power Station, managed by Dominion Energy, tests its Emergency Alert System (EAS). 

So far, it’s only been for drills to test the EAS, but let’s say worst happens and the Surry Power Station has to sound the alarm in an emergency. What do residents who live within a 10 mile radius of the power station do? 

Usually when the power station runs an alarm test, a steady three-minute tone will sound from 71 sirens in Williamsburg, Newport News, and the counties of Surry, James City, York, and Isle of Wight.  The sirens are located within a 10-mile radius of the power station, and the tests usually last approximately one minute.

However, if there was an actual emergency at the power station, residents would hear four separate three-minute activations of the early warning siren system, each separated by a one-minute silent interval. The total elapsed time for actual emergency notification is 15 minutes, according to a June 2 news release from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM)

If residents hear a siren that is not part of the scheduled quarterly test, find a local radio or TV station that is broadcasting emergency information and listen for instructions or contact your local emergency management office. Do not call 911. 

Staying Put or Evacuating

The easiest way to figure out if you should leave or stay put is by finding a local radio or TV station that is broadcasting emergency information and listening for instructions. 

Emergency information is made available through participating radio and television broadcasters, cable systems, satellite radio and television providers, and wireline video providers. Cell phones and other mobile devices may receive a Wireless Emergency Alerts  message. 

Call your neighbors, especially the elderly or those who have difficulty hearing or seeing. Make sure that they have received the warning and know what to do.

If you are ordered to shelter in place, this means to go inside and stay there until emergency officials tell you it is safe for you to leave. By sheltering in place, you reduce the exposure you may receive from a potential radiological release, according to the Safety and Emergency Preparedness Guide provided by Dominion Energy.

If you are ordered to go inside and stay inside, go into the nearest building and lock all windows and doors. Remain inside until emergency officials tell you it is safe for you to leave.

When Evacuating

According to the Safety and Emergency Preparedness Guide, Protective Action Zones (PAZ) have been established within approximately 10 miles of the power station to help notify the public about what they need to do in an emergency. 

The green numbers on the map relate to the Protected Action Zone (PAZ) description and Evacuation Assembly Centers (EAC) listed on the map. (Courtesy of Dominion Energy/Surry Power Station)

Also established around the area are Evacuation Assembly Centers (EAC). These are public shelters that offer food, clothing and decontamination if necessary. 

The EACs for the Historic Triangle are listed below:

James City County: 

  • Warhill High School, 4615 Opportunity Way

City of Williamsburg:

  • New Kent County High School, 7365 Egypt Road

York County:

  • Grafton School Complex, 405 Grafton Drive 
  • Tabb High School, 4431 Big Bethel Road 
  • Poquoson High School, 51 Odd Road 
  • New Kent County High School, 7365 Egypt Road

In an actual emergency, it is possible that not all Protective Action Zones need to evacuate. Residents are advised to listen carefully to instructions specific to their area. If your PAZ  is ordered to evacuate, stay calm and leave immediately. 

…but what if an emergency happens when your children are at school?  

Officials will advise school administrators and those that have students living within approximately 10 miles of the station. Listen to local media for updates on school status and whether your children will take shelter at school or be transported to another location. 

Contact your child’s school before an emergency occurs to learn how school officials will notify you of your child’s status. Under no circumstances will students who live within the approximately 10-mile EPZ be sent home or released without a parent or guardian. 

And what should you do about your pets? Talk to your veterinarian or local humane society in advance about an emergency plan for your pets. Guide dogs and other service animals are the only pets allowed in EACs.  

Individuals who have access and functional needs should contact their local emergency management office now to learn what evacuation options are available. Additional information on disaster preparedness planning for people with access and functional needs is available at

For more information on how to come up with a family emergency plan and advice on what to do if an emergency occurs, consult Surry Power Station’s Safety and Emergency Preparedness Guide. Contact information for Emergency Management Coordinators and other emergency contacts can be found in the guide as well. 

When is the Next Emergency Alert System Test?

Tomorrow, state officials led by VDEM, in coordination with the local officials and Dominion Energy, will conduct a test of the EAS and the early warning siren system at 11:10 a.m. for the Surry Power Station, according to the news release.

The EAS test is scheduled to last approximately one minute.

Siren and EAS tests take place at the Surry Power Station on a quarterly basis. During an emergency when sirens sound, residents should listen to local and state officials and local media outlets that broadcast emergency information for updates and instructions. Emergency guides are mailed to surrounding households and additional information about the siren system, emergency notifications, and safety planning can be found on Dominion Energy’s website.

Siren and EAS tests take place near the Surry Power Station on a quarterly basis on the second Wednesday of March, June, September, and December of 2021. For more information on the Surry Power Station, visit the website by clicking here


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