Newspaper: The Evening Sentinel

Date: April 3, 1979

Title: County Planners Confident

Author: Deb Cline, Associate Editor


Cumberland County officials are gaining confidence in an emergency plan they hope doesn't have to be implemented.

Day by day, officials are fine tuning a plan for possible evacuation of the eastern part of Cumberland County because of the Three Mile Island accident-even though each day, it looks less likely the plan will be used.

But authorities are learning much from the planning process believing they can depend on local officials to implement a plan.

County Commissioner Jacob Myers said Monday the cooperation between evacuation areas and host municipalities has been "terrific."

John Broujos, county solicitor involved in the planning, echoes the praise.

"WE HAD 35 PP&L personnel to be housed. Within 15 minutes of the request, Rick Hoerner, of Carlisle Civil Defense, had them placed."

Although county authorities are directing formulation of a contingency plan, they are depending on local officials to implement it.

"Great reliance has been placed on local authorities to carry out the plan," Broujos said. "It gives confidence to officials to use their imaginations and proceed to aggressively attack the problem on the local level."

In case of a precautionary evacuation of a 20-mile radius around the plant, residents from eastern Cumberland County would be moved to the western part of the county.

Some municipalities, such as Carlisle Borough, have already met with officials from the communities they would host to make more detailed arrangements.

Representatives from both host and evacuation areas met again Monday night with county officials to iron out details on supplies, equipment and personnel needed during any evacuation.

Col. James Dunkelberger, commander of the 1st Battalion, 108th Field Artillery of the Pennsylvania National Guard, briefed officials on the services he could provide and the kinds of things they ought to be preparing for.

Dunkelberger said he could supply about 600 men to provide support to the county and local evacuation efforts.

"WE ARE NOT coming with weapons…," Dunkelberger said. "We're not coming to harass citizens or people on the street. We're coming to support your people.

"The number one mission we have is to evacuate in a safe, smooth, orderly, deliberate way."

But Joe Dougherty, a liaison from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, stressed the county plan may never have to be used.

"This plan is not to infer in any way that something is going to happen at this facility," he said. "Even after the cold shutdown, we hope every community in Pennsylvania begins this kind of contingency plan."

One sign that the Three Mile Island status may be improving is that many schools within a 20-mile radius that closed Monday are scheduled to reopen tomorrow. Some opened today.

However, schools within a five-mile radius of the plant are still urged to remain closed.

The decision to open is based at least partially on a request from the governor and the state secretary of education, who has asked that if an evacuation were called that it be done outside school hours.

MANY SCHOOLS on the East Shore and most on the West Shore announced reopening. Among the West Shore schools to reopen will be Mechanicsburg, Cumberland Valley, Camp Hill, East Pennsboro, Northern York County, Cumberland-Perry Vocational Technical School, and the Capital Area Intermediate Unit.

Mechanicsburg and Cumberland Valley schools had closed largely because of staff having left the area and parents concerned about their children being in school if an evacuation were called.

Charles Shields, Mechanicsburg superintendent, said today he was not certain how many staff had returned, adding "We're going to do the very best we can."

Various county and local officials are continuing to meet today for technical discussions on the plan, for training on how to use various pieces of equipment and other aspects of the plan.

Officials of area utilities and sewage treatment plants have met and will continue to meet to work out details of their operation if evacuation were necessary.

About 30 persons met Monday "to discuss the manner in which they can support the contingency plans in the event of an evacuation," according to Broujos.

"They discussed how they would maintain the utilities, housing for service personnel, instructions to persons for preparing homes for vacancy and how to avoid crank calls to utilities," he said.

Robert Matalonis, PP&L official, said no utility plans a cut-off of service to an evacuated area.

"WE DON'T want to damage any equipment," he said. "If we were to cut off energy, for instance, a lot of food in the people's freezer would spoil. Motors could burn up."

United Telephone officials said they expect a lot of long distance calls in case of an evacuation but plan to put extra operators on its PBX system.

West Shore municipal water and sewer officials indicated they would curtail operations somewhat during an evacuation but nothing would be completely cut off.

All utility officials indicated they could supply adequate services to a crowded host area.

"All the utilities seem optimistic," Matalonis said. "They don't anticipate any problems."