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Special report: Wisconsin's nuclear plan

Hawaii's false missile alert is drawing attention to how states and the federal government warn the public about emergencies. Officials blame the alarm on an employee at the state's emergency management agency who pressed the wrong button. 

There is no "button" in Wisconsin. The state uses software called "AlertSense," which pushes messages to the public through IPAWS, or Integrated Public Alert Warning System. In an emergency, a state duty officer has to type out an alert message, which then has to be approved by a senior officer. There's also a final approval before the message is sent to broadcasters, weather radios, cell phones, and social media.

Wisconsin follows an "all hazards approach," with weather being the top priority. The all-encompassing emergency plan includes nuclear events. Christine Westrich, the Director of the Office of Emergency Management in Milwaukee County, says the public should treat any potential nuclear warning like they would a tornado. 

“Seek shelter. If you’re already in shelter, you want to be in the most hardened area of that building. If it’s a basement or center of the building, that’s going to forge you the most protection."  

Westrich says families should have a plan in place for any emergency.

"Have a go kit. When you hear the tornado sirens, actually practice and go to your shelter area, and if you do those basics, you’ll be well protected on a large scale event, should that occur.”

While the likelihood of a nuclear event is very low, there are some people in Wisconsin who aren't taking any chances. Curt La Haise is one of them. 

 “I started prepping probably in the 80’s before it was even called prepping." 

La Haise stores months’ worth of food, water and supplies in his basement. He co-founded the Madison Preppers in 2012. In the wake of heated dialogue between the US and North Korea, he says interest in the group is growing.

"Anytime something happens, people apparently search us out and find us. We have people join on a regular basis.”


Richard Gilbreath is also prepared. He's the co-owner of SHTFandGo, a survival store in Burlington. They stock products like a personal water straw that remove bacteria, viruses and radioactive particles from water, and also ThyroSafe. 

"We actually just got our ThyroSafe back in, which is our potassium tablet. We were sold out for almost a month and a half. After they fired a whole bunch of missiles, we sold out." 

Both La Haise and Gilbreath prepare for emergencies, mostly natural disasters, and encourage others to have a plan. 

"All the people who haven’t set aside some kind of emergency prepared kit or emergency plan, those are the people that are going to suffer.”

For more information about nuclear preparedness, the Department of Homeland Security has set up Ready.gov, a website full of information to plan ahead for disasters. 

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