Emergency responders conducting ‘Shielded Eagle,’ maritime nuclear threat exercise on Wednesday

A radioactive disaster may not be something we actively worry about, but it can happen, and emergency services in Juneau are preparing for it.

That is why the Coast Guard Sector Juneau is sponsoring “Shielded Eagle 2018” starting at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday at Auke Bay.

The program, U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Britany McKibben said, is a training session for the Coast Guard, Juneau Police Department and several other security agencies to work through what to do if a nuclear threat strikes a ferry boat. Thirty volunteer passengers will board a boat out at Auke Bay and then be made aware that a dangerous situation has occurred. When that happens, the authorities in the training drill will take action.

“The teams will do a sweep of the ferry and hopefully get a radiation hit,” McKibben said.

The exercise will focus on decision-making, coordination and multi-agency integration during a maritime security emergency. Exercise participants will have an opportunity to assess capabilities, security plans, policies and procedures.

This particular event is just part of a series of disaster-type training scenarios, according to City and Borough Emergency Programs Manager Tom Mattice. The idea of the exercise is for the emergency responders to act as if the 30-passenger boat is a 300-passenger one, Mattice said.

“It is about operational safety,” Mattice said. “It will be played like it is the ‘real world.’”

Wednesday’s training session is the first of the two-day procedure. After a simulated radioactive bag is found, the first day’s series of events will conclude, McKibben said.

On Thursday, an operational planning process to mitigate the radiation threat will be held at the JPD station. From there, the emergency responders will work with one another to resolve the issue.

While this type of disaster has not occurred, Mattice said, the exercise should act as “a small piece in a bigger” plan if something like this does happen.

“We have never had to deal with something like this,” Mattice said. “But, what if we have to. That is what we want the conversation to be based around.”

• Contact reporter Gregory Philson at gphilson@juneauempire.com or call at 523-2265. Follow him on Twitter at @GTPhilson.

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