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If Kim Jong Un lobs a nuke at us, will we know before the flash?

How would you get a disaster warning?

Herb Simmons, director of the St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency, talks about how you might get a nuclear disaster warning.
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Herb Simmons, director of the St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency, talks about how you might get a nuclear disaster warning.

There was a time when every school student knew that when the siren sounded, they should duck and cover beneath their desks.

We are a long way from those Cold War worries about the Soviets dropping an atomic bomb on us. But we have new dirty bomb and Iran and North Korea worries. Plus, we live near a major headquarters that controls much of our military's ability to move service members and equipment.

We no longer have Civil Defense shelters with barrels of crackers and water in school basements to shield survivors from radiation. We're pretty much on our own these days.

The recent false alert in Hawaii demonstrated that even in our hyper-connected information age, sometimes the information is wrong. We also seem to have a patchwork alert system that relies on the feds alerting the state alerting the county alerting the cities alerting us. No possibility of something going wrong there, right?

A recent report on NPR discussed the issue, and how many in Hawaii did exactly the wrong thing and went outside. We've gone from every child knowing what to do, to a society that has no clue.

So here's a refresher course, courtesy of Ready.gov.

If you survive the blast, you have about 15 minutes to get inside before the fallout drifts down. Get into a brick or concrete structure as soon as you can and as far from the walls and roof as possible. Wash exposed skin and get out of contaminated clothing.

If you are inside, stay inside for 24 hours or until authorities advise otherwise. Don't let the pets out unless you want them to track a lot worse than dirt inside.

But before all that, figure out what you would do and where you would go should the unthinkable happen. Make sure your family knows the plan. Strategically place emergency supply kits containing bottled water, packaged foods, emergency medicines, a crank or battery radio, a flashlight and extra batteries in your vehicles or basement or at work.

A nuclear attack is not the most likely threat, said St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency Director Herb Simmons. But a lot of the preparedness measures would also serve you well in a tornado or earthquake.

Better to be prepared for something that never happens, than unprepared when something does.

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