When the Soviet Union was rattling its nuclear missiles and issuing not-so-veiled threats to the free world, students in American schools trained to hide under their desks at the sound of a siren.
Families built bomb shelters in their back yards, some of which still exist.
And who can forget when Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev pounded a shoe on the U.N. podium and declared, “We will bury you!”
Actually, his son, Sergei, who later moved to the United States, recalled that his father’s words probably were better translated, “We will outlast you.”
But whatever the precise meaning, Americans feared a nuclear attack and were prepared to do their best to survive.
Now, Physicians for Civil Defense, which works to save lives of first responders and the public in the event of disasters, especially terror attacks, has started a campaign to prepare citizens to survive a nuclear attack.
The group has created the Good News Nuke website, where Shane Connor has written an article, “The Good News About Nuclear Destruction.”
He explains that nuclear explosions, dirty bombs, terror attacks and more are survivable if targets “know what to do beforehand and have made even the most modest of preparations.”
Today’s culture, Connor wrote, has “been jaded” by the pervasive “myths of nuclear un-survivability.”
“Most people think that if nukes go off then everybody is going to die, or it’ll be so bad they’ll wish they had. That’s why you hear such absurd comments as, ‘If it happens, I hope I’m at ground zero and go quickly.'”
Connor said the “defeatist attitude was born as the disarmament movement ridiculed any competing alternatives to their ban-the-bomb agenda, like Civil Defense.”
“The activists wanted all to think there was no surviving any nukes, disarmament was your only hope,” he said. “The sound Civil Defense strategies of the 50s, 60s and 70s have been derided as being largely ineffective, or at worst a cruel joke.”
Connor said that since the end of the Cold War in the 1980s, most Americans have seen neither a need to prepare nor believed preparation would do any good.
“Today, with growing prospects of nuclear terrorism, and nuclear saber rattling from rogue nations, we see emerging among the public either paralyzing fear or irrational denial,” he said. “People can’t even begin to envision effective preparations for ever surviving a nuclear attack. They think it totally futile, bordering on lunacy, to even try.”
“The biggest surprise for most Americans, from the first flash of a nuke being unleashed, is that they will still be here, though ill-equipped to survive for long, if they don’t know what to do beforehand from that very first second of the initial flash onward.”
In an interview with WND, Dr. Jane M. Orient said the threat today is higher, if anything.
She noted the escalating tensions in the world as the U.S. disarms, pointing to Ukraine, Russia and possible terrorist nukes or radiation dispersal devices.
The Chernobyl disaster in the Soviet Union and the Fukushima meltdown in Japan have demonstrated that nuclear disasters are significant, dangerous and a threat, but they are survivable.
“We should just take a deep breath and learn something about the hazard,” she said. “The public urgently needs to be told about nuclear effects and these proven protective actions. They are easy to learn and grasp and could save many from needlessly perishing in a future nuclear disaster.”
The Physicians for Civil Defense website lists “Drop and cover,” “Shelter in place” and “Radiologic monitoring” as routine defense steps for any disaster. Orient says the danger actually increases if someone tries to run away from a blast and ends up heading right into the path of radiation.
Her group publicizes basic precautions that are applicable to any disaster or emergency situation.
The organization also posted a billboard in Salt Lake City just a few weeks ago to begin advertising its GoodNewsNuke.com website.
“The advice has been proven to work, at Nagasaki and in the 2013 meteor air burst in Chelyabinsk, Russia,” the organization reported.
Connor recalled that the meteor air burst stunned thousands. About 1,500 were injured, mostly from the shock wave hitting glass, which then hit the people who “were anxiously scanning the winter sky … trying to see what/where the bright flash was.”
A fourth-grade teacher in Chelyabinsk, Yulia Karbysheva, was hailed as a hero after saving 44 children from imploding window glass.
“Despite not knowing the origin of the intense flash of light, Karbysheva thought it prudent to take precautionary measures by ordering her students to stay away from the room’s windows and to perform a duck and cover maneuver,” Connor said.
“Karbysheva, who remained standing, was seriously lacerated when the blast arrived and window glass severed a tendon in one of her arms; however, none of her students, whom she ordered to hide under their desks, suffered cuts.”
Connor said even at Nagasaki, police officers survived because they had looked at the impact in Hiroshima, and decided that ducking would be a prudent response to a white flash.
The “unsurvivable” ground zero for nuclear explosions these days would be about 2.2 miles. Death and injuries could occur for another nine miles.
With “duck and cover” employed by all, there could be more than 15 times fewer casualties from a blast wave.
But the U.S. has not only neglected teaching such defensive maneuvers, it actively teaches fatalism.
Former Department of Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff at one point told a USA Today audience, “In the area of a nuclear bomb, it’s prevention, prevention, prevention. If a nuclear bomb goes off, you are not going to be able to protect against it.”
“The current Obama administration also fails to grasp that the single greatest force multiplier to reducing potential casualties, and greatly enhancing the effectiveness of first-responders, is a pre-trained public so that there will be far fewer casualties to later deal with,” Connor said in his article
“Spending millions to train and equip first-responders is good and necessary, but having millions fewer victims, by having also educated and trained the public beforehand, would be many magnitudes more effective in saving lives.”