Author: Deb Cline, Associate Editor
Disaster-worn Cumberland county officials are beginning to take a breather from the intense emergency preparations of recent days.
Now that the threat of precautionary evacuation around the plant appears remote, workers in the county Office of Emergency Preparedness are beginning to catch up on news in other parts of the world.
"Things are really kind of slow here, thank goodness," Tom Blosser, county emergency preparedness director, said today.
EVERYBODY'S sitting around drinking coffee, talking about different things, reading the paper to find out what's going on in the rest of the world, getting their heads straight after a good night's sleep," Blosser said.
But Blosser says Cumberland is still on alert to possible evacuation and fine tuning of a county evacuation plan continues.
"We have three quarters of everything done that has to be addressed. The other quarter would be new thinking, new ideas, modification of things to knock time off," Blosser said. "That's the objective, to knock time off."
Although the county is much better prepared now to handle a Three Mile Island-type crisis, "we're not going to let this drop," Blosser said.
"There will be a separate plan for Three Mile Island. We are going to come up with a total plan for Three Mile Island, then we'll have it."
A MEETING scheduled with agricultural people to discuss the status of livestock during an evacuation is still on for tonight at 7:30.
People responsible for bus transportation during an evacuation met last night to work out details.
Blosser said the attitude of emergency personnel at the county is "absolute confidence. Everybody is in a good frame of mind that everything will work out real well. The cooperation has been fantastic," Blosser said. "Everybody's pulled together as a team."
Alma Hand, executive director of the county Red Cross chapter, agrees.
Hand, who with other Red Cross people has worked to set up 32 shelters in the western end of the county, said, "the cooperation we received from schools districts and Shippensburg State College and the emergency preparedness people was unbelievable."
Hand has been spending the past few days traveling to county school districts making sure the facilities are ready and teams are set up to handle first aid, supplies, food and other aspects of the shelters.
"IF WE DON'T use the plan this time, it was certainly a good learning experience," Hand said. "The next time if there's not as much time to prepare, if we had to do it in half an hour, we'd be much better prepared."
She added, "Right now we're in excellent shape. We could just handle this beautifully."
While the emergency situation and the nuclear plant reactor are cooling down, official reactions to the situation are heating up.
County Commissioner Jacob Myers Tuesday sent a strong letter to Met-Ed President Walter Creitz criticizing the company's behavior and statements during the recent crisis.
The only two Cumberland County commissioners have declined comment on the letter, saying they will react to the situation at a later date.
The letter, prompted by a strong editorial in the Harrisburg Patriot News Tuesday, also said the company's presence in the area is no longer welcome.
"As the commissioner who has had the awesome and painful responsibility of trying to insure the health and welfare of the citizens of Cumberland County, the most agonizing aspect of this entire affair has been dealing with the distraught emotions of citizens," Myers said in the letter.
"Consistently throughout the entire affair, Metropolitan Edison's position has been nothing more than to try and preserve their own position, insuring, wrongly and inaccurately, that there was indeed nothing to be fearful of' and in a general a very blatant posture putting your corporate benefits and concern for your company far above your concern for the public welfare.
"Simply said, your company's actions make me feel, as a public official, that your presence in this area is no longer desired and you should think about evacuating."
Life in the county is beginning to return to normal, with most of the schools closed Monday and Tuesday reopening today.
However, pregnant women and small children are still requested to stay out of the five-mile radius around the nuclear plant.
Hotline Set Up for Questions
Pennsylvania residents can now call a toll-free hotline if they have questions relating to the accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant.
Gov. Dick Thornburgh, who ordered the hot line installed, said persons can telephone 1-800-932-0784 at anytime and speak to one of 25 staff members who will provide the latest information on the plant's condition as issued by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
He said the line was established "so that the people of Pennsylvania can get the facts they need when they need them, and so frankly we in government can be better informed about the questions that are of the greatest concern to the people we serve."