Los Alamos Reporter Visits LANL Emergency Management Division

EOC 1.pngInside the Los Alamos National Laboratory Emergency Operations Center during a recent drill. Photo Courtesy LANL

EOC 2.pngInside the Los Alamos National Laboratory Emergency Operations Center during a recent drill. Photo Courtesy LANL

IMG_3867 (1)The Emergency Response Training Center has props for training exercises such as this store where training for hazardous materials handling takes place. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com


For more than 12,500 employees at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), the phone number to remember is 7-2400. This is the phone number for the 24-hour Emergency Operations Support Center (EOSC) at Technical Area 69 which operates seven days a week.

The EOSC monitors the LANL fire alarm system, receives notification of incidents and emergencies, and dispatches LANL emergency responders. It also activates other response elements throughout the 43-square mile site, issues protective actions to workers and makes any required notifications. The slogan on bright yellow posters says, “When in doubt, call the EOSC 24/7”. And yes, there’s an app for that!

Marla Brooks is the group leader responsible for all-hazards emergency response at LANL, including having incident response commanders available 24/7, and operation of the EOSC, and the Emergency Operations Center and the Emergency Technical Support Center.

One notable responsibility of the EOSC is to monitor and track LANL international travelers to ensure safety during international incidents. Another is the Counter-Unmanned Aircraft System (CUAS) Program for incident notification and reporting in support of the laboratory’s Defense Security Programs. 

The Los Alamos Reporter recently had the chance to visit with Emergency Management Division leader David Stuhan and his staff and tour the EOSC and EOC where she was given an overview of the center’s responsibilities and capabilities in a variety of emergency response areas. 

“Our goal is to establish and sustain world-class emergency management. Our primary mission is to protect our workforce, the public, property, critical infrastructure and the environment by integrating preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation,” Stuhan said. 

The division has been working on its strategic plan for FY20-FY24 and hopes to have it approved soon. Not only does the plan take into consideration Department of Energy/ National Nuclear Security Administration property but also addresses strengthening partnerships with the surrounding area which includes Los Alamos County, the U.S. Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and Pueblos. The division is also responsible for LANL’s Emergency Management Program, includes ensuring there are emergency planning hazards assessments for some 22 LANL facilities that exceed pre-determined DOE thresholds and require a quantitative analysis for developing specific actions in case of emergency to ensure protection of workers and the public. 

The Los Alamos Reporter was surprised to hear the extent of the hazards and/or threats the EMD prepares for which include; nuclear/radiological/tritium, chemical and biological as well as wildland fires which are considered high probability and high consequence, active threat/active shooter situations, natural phenomenon such as earthquakes, flooding or severe weather, and the ever-increasing threat from cyber security incidents. With a list this long, an entire Emergency Preparedness Group led by Jesse Sievers has been established with a responsibility for updating LANL’s emergency plans, training responders and the workforce, conducting site-wide drills and exercises, performing programmatic self-assessments, and housing the LANL Wildland Fire Management Program, which has to fit in with being ready at any given moment to respond to any kind of emergency or hazard impact. 

To keep all the wheels turning, Stuhan has on hand Jeff Dare, group leader for Emergency Response, Marla Brooks, group leader for Emergency Operations and Jesse Sievers, group leader for Emergency Preparedness. To the public, Dare’s group is most noted for handling hazardous materials and explosive ordnance response, and of course the robots which are so fascinating to young and old at STEM events in the community. 

The Emergency Response Training Center at TA-49 is also under Dare’s purview. The center now includes several new props including a hotel, grocery store, gas station, truck stop, confined space and a rail line. All of these props are used during the annual HAZMAT challenge held at TA-49 which draws participants from across the nation, and most importantly, this training center and props supports training for first-responders at the local, state, and federal levels. 

With two fires under its belt, the LANL Wildland Fire Management Program has also significantly enhanced wildland fire mitigation, preparedness and response through fuels mitigation, collaborative planning, new response checklists, interagency training, integration of wildland fire technology, increased staffing and stakeholder networking. EMD staff are also integrated into the TA-49 Interagency Fire Center working hand in hand with the U.S. Park Service and U.S. Forest Service on mitigation, preparedness and response. Multiple significant wildland fire mitigation projects were executed in FY2018 and FY2019 including the re-establishment of fire breaks, fire roads and escape routes, as well as disaster recovery work such as the removal of numerous trees that were blown down after a significant wind event that occured  last March. 

In terms of wildland fire preparedness, EMD has integrated the LANL Wildland Fire Management Program into key program plans to ensure the hazard is assessed by drills, exercises, and program assessments on a regular basis. All LANL wildland fire responders have been trained to National Wildland Fire Coordination Group standards for their respective positions within the Incident Command System and have Red Card qualifications within the Incident Qualification Certification System for respective positions.

Emergency Preparedness Group staff told the Los Alamos Reporter they have conducted tabletop drills on wildland fire response in coordination with Los Alamos Fire Department which is responsible for the initial attack for wildland fires on LANL property. Fascinating to the Reporter was watching two new fire modeling applications, Fire Tech and Quick Fire, which were developed by LANL wildland fire scientists. 

As shown in the slide below, there are actually three layers in the LANL Emergency Response organization, the highest level being the Emergency Operations Center itself which can operate off the grid for 14 days if needed. 

Stuhan says the EMD has had a significant amount of success particularly over the last two years as it works towards turning liabilities or program weaknesses into strengths. 

“Our efforts continue toward a robust and comprehensive all-hazards emergency management program that we test and validate through drills and exercises focusing on continuous improvements and long-term program sustainability,” he said. The EMD is a learning organization and we will continue to implement improvements within our program as a result of both internal and external performance-based and programmatic-based assessments.”

He noted the continued collaboration across the DOE complex and with other agencies as well as local, state and federal agencies to ensure the EMD is prepared for and capable of responding to all hazards at LANL.

LA-UR-19-28225 Emergency Management Program Overview-17.jpg

The three tiers of response. Image Courtesy LANL


Inside the Los Alamos National Laboratory Emergency Operations Center during a recent drill. Photo Courtesy LANL