BRATTLEBORO -- Poor communication between Vermont and New Hampshire officials may have been to blame in part for a mock emergency school evacuation that the governor has described as disappointing.
The communications breakdown apparently was between state emergency officials in Waterbury and Concord, N.H., according to local leaders. That may have led to the late deployment of 42 buses from New Hampshire during Thursday's test evacuation of area schools.
Local officials sent a request to Vermont Emergency Management in Waterbury at 9:55 a.m., but the buses were not deployed from Swanzey, N.H., until approximately 35 minutes later, according to Town Manager Jerry Remillard of Brattleboro, who also is the town's emergency management director.
Governor James Douglas is "very disappointed" with Vermont Emergency Management's performance Thursday, according to spokesman Jason Gibbs.
Because officials are still assessing the problems with Thursday's drill, Remillard said it was not clear if the communication fallout between Waterbury and Concord, N.H., was the result of glitches in the evacuation plan or the result of human error.
"It should be seamless," Remillard said of the notification process under the plan. "It should flow from point A to B to C to D."
Thursday's drill at public and private schools in five Windham County towns was the first time emergency officials had tested the emergency evacuation plan.
School officials were to load students onto buses and take attendance, simulating the first step of evacuation procedures during a real emergency.
But many of the 42 buses from New Hampshire never arrived at the schools because they were ordered back to run routes in other school districts.
"The evacuation plan is based on the idea that students will be moved out first, before traffic stalls with everyone trying to get out," said Ed Anthes, a member of the Nuclear Free Vermont, an antinuclear group based in southern Vermont. "This drill showed that even under the best of circumstances, the basic plan's assumptions doesn't work."
Officials from New Hampshire allowed use of their buses until 11 a.m., but the evacuation procedures were running an hour late, according to Brattleboro Union High School Board Chairman David Dunn.