Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Report says U.S. unprepared to defend its citizens from nuclear attack

Does the fact that the United States is not prepared to defend its citizens from a nuclear attack frighten you? It should. This report from the Washington Post discusses the failure of Homeland Security to devise a comprehensive, full-proof protocol for the United States and its citizens in the event of a terrorist nuclear attack. Furthermore, Homeland Security's website for U.S. citizens, Ready.gov gives ambiguous advice on how protect onself from a nuclear attack and experts say its advice is misleading.

To the Point:
·
…more than 3 1/2 years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the U.S. government has failed to adequately prepare first responders and the public for a nuclear strike, according to emergency preparedness and nuclear experts and federal reports.
· Although hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved by rapidly evacuating people downwind of a radiation cloud, officials have trained only small numbers of first responders to prepare for such an event, according to public health specialists and government documents. And the information given to the public is flawed and incomplete, many experts agree
· Members of the public who seek information from Homeland Security's Web site, Ready.gov, may not be getting the best advice, experts said.
· U.S. officials say they are only in the first stages of planning ways to communicate with endangered downwind communities, via radio, television or cell phones.
· Homeland Security officials point with pride to the nuclear response training given to 2,200 first responders. But domestic defense experts point out there are 2 million such firefighters, police officers and emergency medical personnel nationwide.
· The government also has failed to communicate well with the public about nuclear dangers, terrorism experts said.
· In late 2003, months after the debut of Homeland Security's Ready.gov Web site, Rand Corp. released a detailed study advising individuals on responding to various attack scenarios - but with starkly different recommendations. Ready.gov gave almost no information on which to base a hide-or-flee decision, beyond advice such as to "Quickly assess the situation" after a nuclear blast. In general, it advised going inside, underground if possible, and fleeing by car rather than on foot. Rand, which in the 1950s was an architect of U.S. nuclear doctrine, said going indoors "would provide little protection in a nuclear attack." It said Ready.gov's suggestion that people in the blast zone head underground after a blast is "misleading" because few people would have time to take that step. Ready.gov made no mention of the critical factor of wind. But Rand advised that if wind is carrying smoke and the mushroom cloud toward people, they should immediately head perpendicular to it, on foot, for at least a few miles, to get out of the plume's path. Driving would be futile because of impassable roads, Rand said.
· "Guidance from Ready.gov fails to indicate the time urgency involved," said Lynn E. Davis, a former undersecretary of state for arms control who was the Rand study's lead author. "We must act in a matter of minutes to survive."
·
"Ready.gov treats a nuclear weapon in this case as if it were a big truck bomb, which it's not," said Ivan Oelrich, a physicist who studies nuclear weapons for the nonprofit Federation of American Scientists. "There's no information in Ready.gov that would help your chances" of surviving a nuclear blast or the resulting mushroom cloud, he said.

Full story written by John Mintz (Washington Post)/Story appeared in the "New Hampshire Union Leader"

5 Comments:

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