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William Scranton on: Evacuation Plans
William Scranton 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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