In a radio interview this week, a leading expert on weapons of mass destruction preparedness said that the public needs to realize that a nuclear terror incident is a possibility, and they should learn some protective response steps for themselves and their families.
Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Biosecurity, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said that the U.S. first and foremost should continue its extensive initiatives to prevent a nuclear terror incident, but that we need to acknowledge the fact that those efforts may not ultimately work. He was interviewed by Randy Larsen, on Federal News Radio as part of its Science and National Security series.
Inglesby said that despite how difficult the scenario may be for Americans to imagine, we have to accept “this could happen” because then people “at least will be familiar with what it could be like” so they can be prepare.
The Center for Biosecurity, a leading academic hub for community readiness and engagement, recently held a conference, “Preparing to Save Lives and Recover After a Nuclear Detonation: Implications for U.S. Policy”. A focus of the parley was reducing the number of casualties in a nuclear incident and the role of the public in that effort. I previously wrote about the conference report highlighting the comments of White House aide, Dr. Tammy Taylor who “noted that it is essential to educate people in advance because officials will not have accurate information immediately, and protective action will be effective only if people know what to do directly following the detonation.”
In the interview (audio file here), Inglesby offered the public advice on what they should know about responding to a nuclear incident. He said the most important step is finding adequate shelter because taking protective actions for 24 hours reduces risk from radioactive fallout. Inglesby differentiated between “good shelter” (inside a building, deeper and lower the better) and ”bad shelter” (in a car or in small single-story structure).
He said that the government is beginning to more openly present this kind of information, particularly with the publication last year of the “Planning Guidance For Response To A Nuclear Detonation” guide from the U.S. Homeland Security Council.
The challenge, of course, as we’ve discussed frequently on the blog is how officials engage the public and the media on this delicate topic in a constructive way that is not dismissed as fearmongering.