Throwback Thursday - Civil Emergency Preparedness

Published: Feb. 10, 2023 at 10:18 AM EST
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Many who lived through the cold war may remember duck and cover drills at school, or seeing fallout shelter signs on community buildings which were all part of Civil Emergency Preparedness in the later 20th century. NewsSource8′s Brian Bouchard has this week’s throwback Thursday.

With a Russian invasion of Ukraine and recent incidents involving Chinese spy balloons, we’re seeing headlines that haven’t been relevant since the cold war. Back then, communities across the country developed plans on what to do in the event of a communist strike. In this week’s throwback Thursday, we dial the time machine back to 1982 where Loring air force base was a strategic target and where WAGM Reporter Gary Bowden informed the public of the steps that would be taken following a nuclear attack.

The film is the culmination of over 2 years of reevaluation of this country’s evacuation plans in the event of pending nuclear attack. The most significant difference in the program as it has been reassessed is the recognition of primary risk areas, likely targets in the event of nuclear attack. 400 such areas have been identified nationally, 7 of them are here in Maine and Loring Air Force Base is one of those 7.

According to Mike Pomerleau, a planning and research associate with the bureau of Civil Emergency Preparedness, the film will only be aired should an intense international crisis necessitate the evacuation of persons living in and around Loring. Members of the press were given a preview of the film this morning and it is now here at WAGM where it will be aired should the decision to evacuate be announced in the future. The film is designed to provide the public with specific relocation instructions, a more detailed account of the material contained in the new telephone directories.

Should the evacuation plan actually have to be implemented, residents of Caswell, Hamlin and Cyr Plantations, along with persons living in Connor, the unorganized territories, and Loring on base dependents as well as half the population of Caribou would go to Madawaska. The other half of Caribou would be evacuated to Fort Kent, while residents of Limestone would go to Houlton. Key workers who must remain in the area such as police, fireman and communications people will be housed at the University of Maine campus in Presque Isle.

Pomerleau says the entire relocation would take 12 hours but adds it would be nearly 3 days before all support equipment and supplies could be moved into the host communities. Transportation will be provided for both the handicapped and those without any other means of evacuation. Under the plan some 20,000 people would be relocated, but in no case would a host communities population more than double. With that many people, first on the highways and then arriving in one of three communities the question of congestion and possibly confusion was posed to Mr. Pomerleau.

“Our planning has looked at the highways, we have an emergency highway traffic regulation committee which is composed of state police, department of transportation highway engineers, the maine highway uses council which is represented by the maine petroleum association representing the truckers as well as U.S. First Army, maine civil preparedness and the national guard. They review our movement plans and check them against military contingency plans to make sure there wouldn’t be any potential conflicts. "

He adds that once people arrive in their host community, they will be directed to a specific reception area.

“The reception center provides a couple of things, it provides parking. Cars would be parked bumper to bumper, door to door because there wouldn’t be any need to use them until it was necessary to return back to the risk area after the crisis had been…”

Ironically the plan is based, to a large extent, on a similar plan the soviet union developed several years ago. Pomerleau says experience with the evacuation of hurricane victims in the gulf coast states indicates that approximately 60 percent of the people living in the primary risk area will have to be evacuated. He says about 20% will have already gone, and 20% will refuse to leave.

For Newsline 8, I’m Gary Bowden