Newspaper: The Patriot
Date: April 3, 1979
Title: 40 Jumped the Gun on Evacuation
Author: Ron Jury, Staff Writer
An estimated 40 Dauphin County residents have implemented the county’s contingency evacuation plans and have shown up at special reception areas in Columbia and Juniata counties, according to Kevin J. Molloy, director of the Office of Emergency Preparedness.
Molloy explained that in two separate incidents, some 20 persons showed up at reception centers in the two counties.
Molloy said those centers are only to be used if an evacuation is called by the governor. The centers are just part of contingency plans in case of an evacuation, he said.
People who show up at the centers without an evacuation order put a strain on the host counties. Those centers are not prepared to handle evacuees at this time, Molloy said.
Unless residents have a relative or specific place to go, Molloy said they should not leave and go to one of the reception centers.
MOLLOY SAID 40 percent of the 200,000 Dauphin County residents within 20 miles of the crippled Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station have evacuated. Based on reports from local officials he said more than 50,000 persons have fled Dauphin County.
Commission Chairman John E. Minnich advised individual residents who decide to leave voluntarily to notify local police agencies.
Asked about the county’s plan, Minnich said it is “well in hand.” Minnich added that he is “very confident” about the plan should it have to be implemented.
Molloy said the county “plan is settled,” but that “we are constantly insuring that aspects (of the plan) are ready.”
Molloy said there is constant updating of information on the situation at hospitals and nursing homes as well as from the proposed host counties.
“WE are not by any means relaxing, but are at the stage where we can constantly refine what we’ve done,” Molloy said.
The county’s contingency plan is in three stages. It provides the procedure for an evacuation within a 5-mile, 10-mile and 20-mile radius of the nuclear plant.
The five-mile evacuation area includes Middletown, Royalton, Lower Swatara Twp., Londonberry Twp. and Highspire.
Molloy estimated that if the order is given to clear the five-mile area, it will take less than five hours now that residents of two nursing homes in that area have been moved.
IN AN EVACUATION, those residents would go to either Halifax for Middletown; Scranton for Royalton; Bedford for Lower Swatara Twp.; Jim Thorpe for Londonberry Twp.; and the City of Somerset for Highspire.
Initially, the county had a plan to move residents of that five-mile area to either Hersheypark Sports Arena or the Farm Show Arena.
That plan, though, has been scrapped and persons should follow the plan that was announced on Monday and go to reception centers outside Dauphin County, Malloy said.
Municipal civil defense officials have been given copies of the county plan to provide information to local residents, Molloy continued.
Asked about contingency plans for hospitals and nursing homes, Joel Grottenthaler, executive director of Pennsylvania Emergency Health Services Council, said “what we have done in the last 12 hours is really to tune up loose ends.”
Grottenthaler held a meeting on Sunday with about 50 persons from hospitals and other institutions who would be involved in such an evacuation.
He said that planners are “taking a closer look at the 10-mile evacuation plan,” because all four hospitals and several nursing homes would be evacuated as part of that plan.
SOME OF THE hospitals are “jumpy,” Grottenthaler said, but he added that there is always a sense of nervousness “when you realize the implications of moving” hospital patients.
Dr. Stanley Smith, county medical director, said the plans are going “very nicely,” but the planning is creating a certain “nervousness.” He added that people must understand that “the more organized we are, the better off it (possible evacuation) will come.”
The hospitals and nursing homes are still faced with a staffing problem, but some staff members have returned to the area and others persons have volunteered to help. Smith said staff members have to take up residence in the hospitals. The institutions are now able to carry on with what personnel they have, he added.
The county is being assisted in planning by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the federal Defense Civil Preparedness Agency. The county has a liaison officer with both agencies as well as a representative from the Pennsylvania National Guard.
Those officials are helping to line up equipment and personnel which would be needed in the event of an evacuation, Molly said.