When a tornado warning was issued for Savannah River Site during severe weather on Nov. 16, the operations center ordered workers to shelter-in-place until an all-clear was sounded.
Most employees complied, but those in the remote F Area separations facility never got the message, according to a report released this week by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.
As the line of thunderstorms approached, SRS emergency operators were distracted by “numerous other issues” including fire alarms, power outages and downed trees, the report said.
Standard procedure involves notifying workers by radio and fax, followed by telephone. Operators sent a fax, but did not follow up with a phone call. At the time, there was no radio in F Area.
Consequently, workers – including those in mobile home-type buildings – did not receive the warning, the report said.
A follow-up inquiry resulted in several changes intended to prevent future confusion.
In addition to installing radio equipment in F Area, emergency duty officers are being retrained on proper protocol and follow-up procedures to be used during severe weather.
Although there were no injuries during theincident, the National Weather Service later concluded a relatively small EF0-rated tornado did touch down at the site, causing minor damage to a roof of a building in N Area and overturning some portable buildings.