Surry Power Station to test sirens March 9

Published 4:24 pm Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Transition to wireless alerts delayed


Residents of Isle of Wight and Surry counties needn’t worry when they hear the warning sirens at Dominion Energy’s Surry Nuclear Power Station sound at 11:10 a.m. on March 9.

According to a press release the Virginia Department of Emergency Management issued on March 2, it’s only a test.

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Dominion had planned to retire the 71 sirens located in Isle of Wight and Surry counties, and on the Peninsula, by March 1 in favor of wireless alerts that would come to every cellphone within a 10-mile radius during an actual emergency. According to Ken Holt, manager of Dominion’s nuclear fleet communications, those plans are now on hold pending approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“The public will be notified when the change will take place,” Holt said. “Until then, the existing siren system will continue to be tested.”

At the scheduled time on March 9, the sirens will produce a steady three-minute tone. In an actual emergency, nearby residents would hear four separate three-minute tones separated by a one-minute silent interval.

The cellphone alert technology, developed by FEMA, is the same as what’s currently used to send Amber Alerts and severe weather warnings. The new system, once it’s online, will use GPS targeting to reach residents and visitors alike – provided their phone is on, capable of receiving messages and near one of the designated cell towers. The alerts will also deliver real-time information on the nature of the emergency and whether evacuation is warranted.

The alerts won’t be sent out to people’s cellphones as part of the March 9 test. According to Holt, in the future when the system goes online, people will only receive an alert if there’s an actual emergency.

The Surry nuclear plant has been operating since the early 1970s. Last year, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved Dominion’s request to continue operating the plant into the 2050s.