Thursday, December 16, 2010

Duck and Cover Was Right?

The Obama administration is trying to figure out how to educate the public about a tricky truth: that getting indoors in the immediate aftermath of a nuclear explosion significant improves the chances of surviving.  The first burst of radiation is apparently the big threat, after the immediate explosion and fires I would guess, so avoiding that is key. 
For people who survive the initial blast, the main advice is to fight the impulse to run and instead seek shelter from lethal radioactivity. Even a few hours of protection, officials say, can greatly increase survival rates.
There is already information the web to advise folks, but how do you tell the public not to panic in the face of a nuclear explosion without panicking them about the possibility of a nuclear explosion?  Instead, politics plays its usual role:
“Public education is key,” Daniel J. Kaniewski, a security expert at George Washington University, said in an interview. “But it’s easier for communities to buy equipment — and look for tech solutions — because there’s Homeland Security money and no shortage of contractors to supply the silver bullet.”
The agenda hit a speed bump. Las Vegas was to star in the nation’s first live exercise meant to simulate a terrorist attack with an atom bomb, the test involving about 10,000 emergency responders. But casinos and businesses protested, as did Senator Harry Reid of Nevada. He told the federal authorities that it would scare away tourists. Late last year, the administration backed down. “Politics overtook preparedness,” said Mr. Kaniewski of George Washington University.
The risk of a terrorist attack using a nuclear device is still seen as very, very unlikely.  So, the question becomes--how much to invest in a low probability?

I have a recommendation: break out the old Cold War materials:

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