Evacuation Behavior at Three Mile Island

March 1984 (VOL. 2, NO. 1)

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Evacuation behavior associated with the accident at Three Mile Island is described based upon data from field surveys. The question addressed in whether this evacuation was unique or whether it conformed to the pattern normally found in natural disasters. Demographic and social aspects of the evacuation are compared with those in the disaster literature. The conclusion is that the voluntary evacuation at Three Mile Island did not differ significantly from those taking place in natural disasters. Therefore, no special plans, policies, or procedures seem needed over and above those in place for other kinds of disaster evacuations. But in emergencies that are unusual and infrequent, where public officials must rely exclusively on experts who themselves disagree, and where the incident is part of an existing public controversy, forced evacuation may be a difficult action to take. This should not prevent officials from taking steps to make voluntary evacuation available to all citizens who choose to take such protective actions.