Raw Story: Cold War-style Preparedness Could Help Fight Future Pandemics

There is an article over on Raw Story about how local preparedness could be a more effective way of dealing with disasters and pandemics rather than a reliance on top-down response. Who woulda thunk?

Cold War-style preparedness could help fight future pandemics

A key group of allies is missing in the U.S. effort to face the coronavirus pandemic: the American people.

In the wake of World War II and during the Cold War, the U.S. was the world’s best at planning and preparing for mobilizing the citizenry to take action in an emergency. In those days, the anticipated emergency was a nuclear attack on the U.S., likely resulting in a loss of national leadership that required local governments and members of the public to step up.

Every American was asked to help prepare for that possibility, storing extra supplies, planning to communicate with family members and developing survival skills.

A poster from 1941 urged all Americans to contribute to community preparedness for emergencies.
Government Printing Office, 1941/Library of Congress

Eventually, this type of “civil defenseplanning grew to incorporate responses to other extreme events, such as hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes.

Over the latter half of the 20th century, the U.S. civil defense effort encouraged all Americans to be prepared to respond actively to a national emergency.

In recent years, however, Americans’ expectations have shifted from being ready to respond to passively waiting for help from a centralized, bureaucratic federal effort – usually led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency…

…Small organizations are able to adapt: Many have quickly shifted to fill the immediate need. Small wineries, microbreweries and distilleries are making hand sanitizer. Garment and uniform companies are making masks. Schools are using 3D printers to produce face shields.

These examples demonstrate that small-scale approaches can be effective in producing big results. In contrast, larger organizations are more bureaucratic and slower to respond. These inverse economies of scale mirror civil defense efforts: Many working collectively but independently are sometimes more effective than a larger centralized effort.

When facing an unexpected crisis, some amount of disorganization is probably inevitable. But other countries, such as Estonia, Sweden, Finland, Nigeria and Australia, actively work to engage all citizens in disaster preparedness, first aid training and other efforts that give people clear and productive tasks to accomplish.

Following their example – and indeed the United States’ own history – could help create a system of federal oversight and coordination complemented by prepared and trained local responders. That could better prepare the public to pull together as a collective civic community when disaster next strikes.

Click here to read the entire article at Raw Story.

The American Civil Defense Assoc.: Radiation Issues

The American Civil Defense Association recently posted a blog post about Radiation Issues reposted from their Journal of Civil Defense after many readers had questions regarding North Korea.

The explosion of a nuclear bomb in the city.

 

The nuclear threat from North Korea has prompted many callers during the past few weeks, asking about the effects and attenuation of radiation.  There is a great deal of misinformation about radiation from fallout. The following old rule of thumb for shelter design still holds true. NBC shelters should have four feet of dirt cover, or three feet of concrete cover to give a minimum PF level of 1,000 from fallout. If a “rainout” should occur, or if the sheltered area is within 1.5 miles of a potential primary target, the shelter will require a minimum of eight to ten feet of cover. Shelter entrances require careful engineering, as most of the radiation exposure will come from these entrance areas.

I recently reviewed a series of articles about Nuclear Weapons Effects, written by Carsten Haaland, of the Oak Ridge national Laboratory. The entire series of articles can be found in our Journal of Civil Defense published in 1990. Some of you may be fortunate enough to still possess these journal articles. I have re-typed, in part, the section on ‘Fallout’ and ‘Rainout’ for this current article.

 FALLOUT FROM NUCLEAR DETONATIONS

Carsten M. Haaland, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

 What is Fallout?

Fallout is the radioactive dust that comes back to earth as a result of a nuclear explosion at the surface of the earth, or at an altitude low enough for the fireball to engulf solid materials. Fallout dust may look like sand, ash or crystals, depending on the kind of material engulfed by the fireball. If the material engulfed is ordinary earth or sand the fallout will look like sand, but if the engulfed material contains calcium to the extent found in concrete buildings or coral, the fallout may look like ashes. Large dense particles will descend faster than very small particles. For this reason, fallout particles several hundred miles downwind from a nuclear surface burst will be very small, somewhat like particles in atmospheric pollution, and the nuclear radiation from the fallout will be greatly reduced.

The danger of fallout arises from the intense and highly penetrating nuclear radiation emitted from it, which produces a potentially lethal hazard to people in the vicinity unless they have protection. Large areas, covering hundreds to thousands of square miles, depending on the yield and number of surface detonations, can be poisoned with fallout such that radiation from the contaminated area is hazardous or lethal to an unprotected person passing through or dwelling in the area, for periods of days to weeks after the detonations.

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