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A Citizen’s Eye View of Public Preparedness

In Wake Of Nuclear Summit, Role Of State/Local Authorities, Public During Incident Is Underscored

April 15th, 2010 · 1 Comment

After the Nuclear Security Summit during which President Obama expressed serious concern about the danger of nuclear terrorism here, USA Today’s Steve Sternberg has a story, “Nuclear Blast Victims Would Have To Wait,” saying that the Administration has “warned state and local governments not to expect a ’significant federal response’ at the scene of a terrorist nuclear attack for 24 to 72 hours after the blast.”

The warning came in a White House document, “Planning Guidance for Response to a Nuclear Detonation,” which was sent to state and local government officials earlier this year. But I’m sure that news did not come as a surprise to any of them. The article quotes a couple of experts who point out the public’s lack of knowledge and preparedness when it comes to a possible nuclear incident. But they say that even a little information could turn out to be very useful:

The prospect [of a nuclear explosion here] is anything but far-fetched, says Rick Nelson of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Do I think in my lifetime I’ll see the detonation of a nuclear device? I do.”

One challenge he says, will be to persuade survivors to stay indoors, shielded from dangerous radiation until they’re given the all-clear or told to evacuate. “In all likelihood, families will be separated,” he says. “It’s going to be scary to sit tight, though it’s the right thing to do.”…

…Disaster experts say local governments aren’t prepared for a nuclear attack. “There isn’t a single American city, in my estimation, that has sufficient plans for a nuclear terrorist event,” says Irwin Redlener of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

The message for families is simple, he says: Stay put. Wait for instructions. If you’ve been outside, dust off, change, shower. “What citizens need to know fits on a wallet-sized card,” Redlener says. “A limited amount of information would save tens of thousands of people.”

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Tags: Nuclear Terrorism

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 William R. Cumming // Apr 16, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    Actually the document was released at least unofficially in January 2009 just before the Bush Administration departed.

    It has been criticized by some for its technical deficiences. See or something like that site.

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