At about 7:30 a.m., this morning cell phones across the province rang with the sound of an emergency alert. It is the same sound that has been heard many times when someone’s child had been abducted. But, this time it was something that more directly affected everyone within a 30 kilometer radius of the Pickering Power Plant.
It was an emergency ‘incident’ alert that supposedly happened at the Pickering Nuclear Power Plant. Over 90 minutes later, a new alert went out indicating that “Ther is NO active nuclear situation taking place at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. The previous alert was issued in error. There is no danger to the public or environment. No further action is required.”
According to officials, the warning was wrongly circulated by the Ontario government’s Provincial Emergency Operations Centre.
The reputable Globe and Mail reported this morning:
- Ontario Power Generation, which runs the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station, has not yet responded to questions about the incident.
- The original alert said an incident had been reported but there was no abnormal release of radioactivity from the station. It also said that people living near the plant did not need to take protective actions.
- “I’ve been in contact with the Provincial Emergency Operations centre. The alert was sent in error,” said John Hagg, the fire chief for Pickering.
- The premier’s office also confirmed the mistake. “There is no safety incident and there is no danger to the public. The emergency alert was triggered in error,” said Ivana Yelich, a spokeswoman for Premier Doug Ford.
The potentially life-threatening situation of a ‘nuclear incident’ has been a wake-up call not felt in decades by Canadians. Many new Canadians are not even aware of the dangers of a nuclear melt-down or radioactive leak from just outside Toronto. Among concerns that have come to light are:
- Government Preparedness: Does anyone have a plan in the event of a nuclear incident? Is there an evacuation plan, are there first-responders trained and instructed to act? Is there a supply of medication and treatment supplies in the event of contamination or radiation poisoning and are they strategically located to be accessed by those in need?
- Individual Awareness and Preparedness: Are the residents within the potentially affected area aware of the dangers, the consequences, symptoms, treatment measures and do they have personal survival kits in order to manage their situation?
- Effectiveness of Government Alert system: Many people this morning were still in bed and simply assumed that their cell phones were broadcasting another child-abduction. Not planning to leave their home, they would have no opportunity to spot an abductor and therefore ignored it. But, this time the alert was for the direct and potentially immediate danger to each individual. Is this a flaw in our emergency broadcast system? Does the system have a different sound for the incidents (or could it) and do people know the difference?
- Property Damage: Are people living in the surrounding area of the Pickering Power Plant aware that they would potentially have to evacuate their homes forever in the event of a melt-down? Do they realize that if that happens, the most significant financial investment in their life would basically be worthless? Most home-owners aren’t even aware that their home is not covered for damage from nuclear radiation.
- Reliability of Warning Protocol: How is it that a false alert was issued? Was it false, or was a real potential threat that was dealt with? Was this human error, someone smoking pot on the job or sleep-deprived that led to a slip of the finger, a hacker that accessed the system or a prank?
- Stress: What is the plan to help residents of the GTA deal with the stress, some of which will linger for months in dealing with the thought of a nuclear incident that could kill them either immediately or over the longer-term?
What To Do If There Is A Nuclear Incident
- Review the intensity of the source of the radiation
- Take Shelter that can block as much of the radiation as possible (Lead, Thick concrete walls, caves, etc.)
- Take iodine tablets if prescribed. Make sure you have your own supply for yourself and your family. Don’t rely on the government to supply them, especially in the event of a massive incident in areas like Toronto which has a massively expanding population.
- Follow direction from the authorities.
How to Prepare for A Nuclear Accident or Incident
- Know what buildings or facilities in your area are at risk
- Be familiar with the above “What To Do If There Is A Nuclear Incident” list
- Have a well-stocked survival kit on hand at home, with a secondary kit in your car and office.
- Stockpile water, medicine, canned and dried food and keep them in area most protected from radiation.
- Be prepared to evacuate your home and take your emergency supplies with you.
This is not meant to terrify you, but rather to empower you to make the best decision for yourself and your family. Some people are okay with living with the small and rare chance of a catastrophic incident as happened in Chernobyl (Russia, 1986), Fukushima (Japan, 2011) or Three Mile Island (U.S., 1979). Others, want to be prepared and do everything they can to survive such an incident.
According to a report by Ian Fairlie, radiation biologist from the U.K. and released by the Ontario Clean Air Alliance in 2018, A Fukushima-type disaster at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station could lead to 26,000 cancers and $125 billion in lost home values. Jack Gibbons, chair of OCAA, said at the presentation in 2018, that 2.2 million people live within 30 kilometres of the Pickering Power Plant.
To evacuate 2.2 million (the unofficial number is higher when accounting for foreign students, tourists, and unregistered residents) would be an impossible task without a well-thought out plan. How would you even get 2.2 million people quickly out of their homes and neighbourhoods. How can they survive the logistics (especially the elderly, ill and very young) in terms of eating (will they have food with them), waste, etc. Comparing it to long-weekend Friday traffic heading out of the city, our highways would be dead-stopped for days. Where would they go? There aren’t enough places for them to stay. If such a plan exists, the public doesn’t seem to be aware of it.
Also, don’t forget if the power plant gets hit, then you’re probably not going to have access to electricity. It may even take out a big part of the Canada-U.S. power-grid. Those electric vehicles won’t do you much good if they don’t have access to re-chargers. You might want to stock up on gasoline (have a few extra containers just in case) and some sort of alternative power generator, such as solar chargers. Batteries will be in big demand and very useful. As well, hand-generated lights and radios will be helpful. It is in times such as these that those outdoor survival skills start to come in handy.
Faced with this, some may decide to stay in their homes. Some may not have a choice. It is for this reason that we think about these scenarios and come up with plans and arrangements. It is also why every single individual should have a properly stocked survival kit which you can buy online. You may also want to have a radiation detector on hand which you can purchase online.