Though the war on terror continues, the U.S. government has left the public completely exposed to the aftermath of a radiological attack. There is no better evidence of this than the actions of the Department of Homeland Security. The DHS is very focused on interdiction, government continuity and infrastructure protection, but it has not yet prepared for civil defense, which is the protection of civilians in time of war or disaster.
Recently a Toronto Star news reporter was given a guided tour of the fallout shelters in Beijing and was told that the entire population of the city could be underground in three minutes. Russia has a vast civil defense establishment that they have begun to upgrade within the last year. What are the Chinese and Russians preparing for? Why aren’t we equally concerned? Why does America, the richest nation in the world, have no civil defense?
During the Cold War, 6 million high-level radiation survey meters were distributed in communities from coast-to-coast. Civilians were trained in their use and taught simple defensive techniques for nuclear and chemical threats. Since JFK, successive administrations have degraded our civil-defense structures.
Under President Clinton, civil defense was completely disbanded and the equipment largely disposed of. It has not been replaced.
The only radiological threat the government wants to discuss is small-scale “dirty bombs” because that is the only threat they have prepared for, but even for that they are ill-equipped. Hazmat teams and a few first responders now carry overly sensitive, low-level instruments that will be useless after a nuclear detonation or even a large dirty-bomb explosion. We are woefully unprepared to assure public safety in a real nuclear event.
The DHS response to this deplorable situation has been to develop a standard for instruments carried by “first responders.” Radiation meters meeting this standard are overly sensitive and so expensive ($2,000 to $12,000) that very few will be deployed. The highest level of radiation measurable by the approved instruments is equivalent to the exposure one sometimes receives on an airline flight during a solar flare – clearly not life threatening.
When the responders encounter even this meager reading, they will be forced to back off, abandoning the public within a perimeter that cannot be entered for lack of instruments that identify TRUE hazards.
It will be impossible to map the footprint of a nuclear event because there are insufficient suitable instruments deployed. They will not be able to recommend a wise course of action because they will not know where the greatest hazards are. Because of these exotic, over-sensitive instruments, emergency responders will be unable to prioritize neighborhood evacuations or to assure the safest routes out.
The DHS approved instruments are appropriate for customs agents screening for smuggled radioactive materials at close range, but these are police duties – our responders should have emergency response equipment, not detective gear!
Do you think your community is protected? Visit your local fire department and ask about their radiation detection equipment. Most likely, they have little or nothing. The good news is that radiation hazards are relatively easy to defend against with simple training of the population and appropriate instruments widely distributed. The American people should immediately demand civil defense from their government. Meanwhile, in the years that it takes for government actually to do anything, evaluate your own preparation to protect your family from a radioactive cloud drifting toward them from an event even hundreds of miles away.
Just as we all see the need for family medical insurance, while still hoping and praying never to have to use it, so too, acquiring this knowledge and these preparations are equally prudent as we race toward nuclear disaster – a day that no one will ever forget!
When the TV or radio program switches abruptly to a terse announcement saying: “We interrupt this program for a special bulletin!” and your kids look up to you with questioning, wide eyes, eager for assurances, know then that you are confidently ready for them with your own plan of action and preparations ready to go.
That’s what this is all about … protecting our precious children!
“A prudent man foresees the difficulties ahead and prepares for them;
the simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”
– Proverbs 22:3
Shane Connor is president of KI4U, which markets products to help families survive any type of nuclear disaster.