Press Release

BALTIMORE (July 13, 1999) - In keeping with Governor Parris Glendening's effort to ensure Maryland's preparedness for the year 2000, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) will conduct four tests on July 20 and 22, to determine whether specialized equipment can meet the challenge posed by the rollover from December 31, 1999 to January 1, 2000.

These computer-chip based systems are critical tools for gathering crucial decision-making information in the event of a nuclear power plant accident or other environmental accident, which involves the identification and cleanup of hazardous materials. MDE’s Radiological Health and Emergency Response units use this equipment, which directly impacts public health and safety decision-making during emergencies.

The first test involves a computer program that is used to determine radiation plumes and projected exposure of the public to radioactivity. The program is used extensively for nuclear power plant accident contingency exercises and provides guidance on protective actions for the public.

The second test involves a hand-held digital Global Positioning System unit that is used to identify the precise locations of chemical or oil spills or the locations of radiation field monitoring teams. The exact locations of these incidents are critical to MDE's emergency response to hazardous chemical and oil spills and obtaining radiation data to help determine radiation plumes and projected exposure of the public to radioactivity.

The third involves a digital photo-ionization detector, which is used by MDE's emergency response personnel to detect explosive vapors when responding to hazardous chemical accidents.

The fourth involves a satellite radio system that is being deployed to provide an alternative means of communications for the radiation field monitoring teams during nuclear power plant accident contingency exercises.