Former New York Mayor Addresses Vermont Emergency Responders

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(Host) As workers at Vermont Yankee voted to approve their new contract Thursday, the plant’s owner, Entergy, was hosting a dinner in Brattleboro for emergency responders. The main speaker was Rudolf Giuliani. The former New York Mayor is using the lessons of 9/11 to reinforce the importance of anticipating the unexpected.

VPR’s Susan Keese has more.

(Keese) Guests at the invitation-only dinner included planners, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and officials from around the region. They listened intently as Giuliani described how decisions were made following the 9/11 attacks. In his years as mayor, he thought the city had planned for and been through every possible emergency. He described watching people jump from the burning towers.

(Giuliani) “And at that instant I said to myself, this is very different than anything we had ever faced before. And I grabbed the arm of the police commissioner and I said, Bernie we’re in uncharted territory.”

(Keese) But Giuliani said he soon realized that the disaster was a combination of things emergency workers had trained for: collapsing buildings, power outages, fires. He said that emergency training is never wasted and that preparing for as many terror scenarios as possible would improve their response to more ordinary emergencies.

Giuliani praised the first responders for their dedication. And he praised Entergy for its commitment to safety and the local community. Entergy has hired the former mayor’s consulting firm for advice on security and emergency planning.

(Giuliani) “And the thing that I can say is that there’s a tremendous receptivity to doing everything that can be done to make you safe.”

(Sound of nearby demonstrators.)

(Keese) The 50 or so demonstrators gathered outside on the highway didn’t see it that way. Some, like Karen Murphy of Guilford, claimed that Entergy cares more about public relations than public safety.

(Murphy) “I’ve lived here since before the plant went online and I still haven’t seen an evacuation plan that is remotely workable.”

(Keese) Inside, Vernon state Representative Patty O’Donnell said the protests missed the point.

(O’Donnell) “When you look in that room, those are all volunteers that spend a lot of their time and effort away from their families to work for the communities they’re coming from. And any training we can give these folks, anyone we can bring in to help these people in these communities be better prepared, then we’ve done our job.”

(Keese) Many guests said the lessons of 9/11 as well as new emergency funding have already improved emergency planning in their towns.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.

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