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Mike Gray on: The Sounding of the Alarms
Mike Gray MG: The people inside the power plant on the morning of the accident were suddenly confronted with this array of alarms. Ninety alarms went off in the first few seconds. And the alarms were not intelligently grouped. In other words, the alarm that said you had low pressure in the system was right next to an alarm that said the elevator wasn't working, you know? So they had not thought any of this stuff out in terms of its lay-out.

When these alarms go off like this, it's got to be fairly exciting, but there is one alarm that really gets everybody's attention in the control room. And that is the radiation alarm. And the first alarms begin coming in, "We have radiation in the reactor building." Well, that was alarming because it means something's happened. There's a leak down there somewhere and radiation is getting out of the system. Next thing, they get an alarm "Radiation in the auxiliary building," which is the pump house between the reactor and the control room. And then they get the alarm "Radiation in the control room." Well, that's got to be a heart stopper. At that point, you have to realize this accident had attracted a certain amount of attention and everybody who knew anything about that plant was in the control room. They had all been called and had started arriving at six o'clock in the morning. By 6:15, the control room must have had 50 or 60 people in it and more arriving every moment. The minute that alarm went off, "Radiation in the control room," poof, everybody's gone. The only people who stayed were the people who had to be there, Gary Miller, Craig Faust, Ed Fredrick, the plant operators, and the top engineering people, George Kunder, that crowd, the people who actually had direct responsibility. The innocent bystanders took off for the high unknown and who can blame them. But, from that point on, for the next several hours everybody was talking through air hoses because they all had air breathing masks on. When they would go to the telephones they were talking and trying to tell 'em what's going on and that was another contributing factor. On the other hand, you should not get the impression that there was panic. There was never, among the operators, any panic in that control room. These guys were Navy trained. They had experience with battle damage and they were not going to leave the bridge of a sinking ship. If necessary, it was quite clear, they were going down with the ship. And they stood their ground and they managed to bring the plant under control, with a certain amount of heroism, I might say.

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