Who Will Love the City After a Nuclear Attack?
This is not simply an exercise in emotional readiness. At stake are hundreds of thousands of lives. Over the past decade, both the Obama and Bush administrations quietly conducted research about the outcome of nuclear terrorism, which the U.S. National Strategy for Counterterrorism describes as "the greatest threat to global security." It would be a catastrophe beyond anything any of us have ever seen, devastating the targeted city as well as yielding extended consequences for communities around the world.
But government studies also revealed that a prepared citizenry equipped with two simple, life-saving steps could reduce casualties by an order of magnitude in the "gray zone," or the area outside the immediate blast, but within range of fatal fallout levels.
There were only two problems.
First, the life-saving actions are counterintuitive. When confronted with the end of existence and maybe five minutes' notice for the arrival of a deadly radioactive cloud, most people's instincts will be to run. This will get them killed, because the only protection against radiation is to put as much hard mass between you and the fallout as possible (for example, a basement or interior room in a large concrete building) and wait 12 to 24 hours for it to dissipate before evacuating. Worse, even a knowledgeable citizenry will ignore instructions if they aren't sure their kids are safe, which means that entire communities need to prepare together, including schools and workplaces. So, education is necessary.
This leads to the second problem. Governments, it seems, cannot educate their citizenry on how better to survive a nuclear terrorist attack without raising anxiety about the possibility of such an attack. This leads to accusations of fear mongering, which governments evidently dislike. And this, in turn, leads to nothing being done about the community preparedness that could save hundreds of thousands of lives.