Moral: In a Crisis You Need Resilience and the Ability to Improvise More than You Need Detailed Advance Plans

(p. D1) When the Three Mile Island nuclear generating station along the Susquehanna River seemed on the verge of a full meltdown in March 1979, Gov. Richard L. Thornburgh of Pennsylvania asked a trusted aide to make sure that the evacuation plans for the surrounding counties would work.

The aide came back ashen faced. Dauphin County, on the eastern shore of the river, planned to send its populace west to safety over the Harvey Taylor Bridge.

“All well and good,” Mr. Thornburgh said in a recent speech, “except for the fact that Cumberland County on the west shore of the river had adopted an evacuation plan that would funnel all exiting traffic eastbound over — you guessed it — the same Harvey Taylor Bridge.”

. . .
(p. D4) Brian Wolshon, the director of the Gulf Coast Center for Evacuation and Transportation Resiliency, said that he was analyzing one county’s emergency plans that seemed to have every detail covered.

“It was a wonderful report, with plans to move senior citizens out of care facilities and even out of hospitals, and they had signed contracts with bus and ambulance providers,” said Dr. Wolshon, who is also a professor at Louisiana State University. “But that same low-cost provider had the same contract with the county next door, and they had the capacity to evacuate only one of these counties.”

For the full story, see:
GARDINER HARRIS. “Dangers of Leaving No Resident Behind.” The New York Times (Tues., March 22, 2011): D1 & D4.
(Note: the online version of the article is dated March 21, 2011.)

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