State and Local Response Actions
Neither the nuclear power plant operator nor the NRC can order the public to take protective actions. The plant operator recommends to the appropriate State and local governments what protective actions (such as evacuation, sheltering, or taking potassium iodide pills) to take while the NRC provides advice, guidance, and support. The State and local government agencies are responsible for deciding which actions are necessary to protect the public (whether they receive recommendations or not), and for initiating the relay of these decisions to the public in a timely manner (normally within approximately 15 minutes) of official decisionmaking.
During the initial phases of a nuclear power plant emergency, the State and local government officials with the authority and responsibility to take action may be located at multiple facilities as determined in the emergency response plan. For example, there may be more than one State and several local governments within the plume exposure pathway emergency planning zone. Each State and local government has 24-hour emergency response communication capabilities through 911 call centers, law enforcement organizations, and/or emergency management agencies.
Per the emergency response plan, once the local emergency response organization has been activated, it will establish a local emergency operations center to coordinate decisions and implementation of protective actions with other government organizations. Organizational emergency response plans identify these facilities.
At the State level (and in some cases, local level), emergency response is coordinated at two levels as follows: (1) an emergency response organization that is responsible for conducting technical assessments of the accident (e.g., radiation dose assessment of the public, accident consequence assessment, environmental monitoring), and (2) decisionmakers (e.g., governor, State emergency management agency director, highest local elected officials, or a designated representative). For links to the State Emergency Management agencies, see FEMA's State Offices and Agencies of Emergency Management.