Q: Tell me about evacuation plans.|
WS: Well, we learned what they were pretty quickly, I must say. We got to take
a primer very rapidly and part of that morning, Wednesday morning, was to
discover exactly what were the evacuation plans. There were evacuation plans
for floods and there were evacuation plans for tornadoes, and there were
evacuation plans for earthquakes, and there were evacuation plans for
hurricanes, but there was no worked out evacuation plan specifically for a
nuclear power disaster. There were lots of things you could fall back on.
There were escape routes if you had to evacuate a whole center of population.
There were schools and hospitals who were ready to take people with undescribed
injuries, but not necessarily ready to take people with severe radiation
poisoning. There were centers where evacuated families could go in high
schools in the Harrisburg area and even further north. There had never been
anything like this. It's not like you saw a hurricane coming, you know, two
days ahead of time. This was something right there and, furthermore, it wasn't
something you could see or feel or taste or touch. We were talking about
radiation, which generates an enormous amount of fear. This was unknown and so
there were no plans for that.
Q: Were the existing plans coherent?
WS: Oh, yeah. They were coherent plans and the Emergency Management Agency
was an agency of professionals. During the Nixon Administration, the country
had begun to work hard at professionalizing -- the old civil defense had become
emergency management and people were taking this quite seriously. And we had a
good team of professionals. There's no question about it. But, having plans
in a drawer and actually going through it, for real, are two entirely different
things. Harrisburg had never had to be evacuated before, with the exception,
I think, of the Agnes Flood in 1972, but then you saw the river rising and you
knew what it was. Nobody could tell us or really had a very good idea, if
there were a massive release of radiation, what kind of medical treatment
people were going to need and this or that, or, indeed, whether there would be
medical personnel around. If there's a flood, the hospitals may be out of the
flood zones and the doctors will work, but if there's radiation poisoning
everywhere, who's gonna work? I mean all those things become an issue.
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