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Random thoughts about impending nuclear disaster, past and present

Steve Arstad is the Penticton reporter for iNFOnews.ca
January 10, 2018 - 12:18 PM

OPINION


Will 2018 be the year they drop the Big One?

News starting 2018 sure seems to be pointing in that direction, from U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader’s Kim Jong Un's nuclear button debate to reports in the New York Times about American intelligence’s uncertainty as to how well developed North Korea’s nuclear program is.

Does he have 20 or 50 warheads? Uhh, we dunno.

Topping the bad New Year’s news is a report from the U.S. Centre for Disease Control which announced it will conduct a briefing on Jan. 16 on how the public should respond in the event of nuclear war.

Rookies. For those of us old enough to remember, this was standard for decades ever since the 1960s, punctuated by the Cuban Missile Crisis.

I recently came across a copy of the 1961 booklet, “11 Steps to Survival,” issued by the Canadian Federal Government back in the days of the Cold War.

Fifty-six years ago, the feds produced several of these booklets, advising citizens how they could best survive a nuclear attack. Other titles include the alliterative “Fallout on the Farm,” and “Survival in Likely Target Areas,” amongst others.

Why it has survived in my possession since 1961, I’m not really sure.

I guess it’s because I find history can be instructive.

And after looking it over, I think that observation holds up, although I think they missed a 12th step.

More on that later.

(By the way, you can view this document today. It’s part of the federal archives, and can be found online.)

First of all, the introduction to the booklet refers to an ironic and somewhat foreboding possibility of nuclear war "either by intended actions of evil madmen or by miscalculation.”

See what I mean about history being instructive?

The book’s "11 steps to safety" include such basics as knowing the effects of nuclear explosions and radioactive fallout, having a shelter to go to, stockpiling emergency supplies, knowing how to light fires, perform first aid and understanding "emergency cleanliness,” whatever that is.

The booklet also points out the value of having a battery powered radio, understanding how to get rid of radioactive dust, understanding municipal emergency plans and having a plan of your own, or your family.

One of the messages in that document also stressed the need to find shelter in the hours following a nuclear attack, sometimes suggesting almost laughable situations - including digging a trench in your yard ( not too close to any building which could collapse onto it) and climbing into it, or ducking and covering on the floorboards of your vehicle if you get nuked while out on a Sunday drive.

The suggestions seem rather basic and elementary, but surprisingly, seem to me to be consistent with modern advice on how to survive a nuclear war, which also preaches  the importance of finding shelter from the initial blast wave and radiation for at least 24 hours.

(It should be noted this survival technique is applicable only to those of sufficient distance away from ground zero.)

It’s one of the major points being made at the Jan. 16 U.S. Centre for Disease Control briefing.

As a matter of fact, research into one of the largest non-atomic blasts in history - the Halifax explosion of 1917 - concluded many of the victims maimed or killed in that explosion could have survived, or survived with much less injury, had they ducked and covered immediately after hearing the initial blast.

Step four involved building a shelter in your home. Another government document provided blueprints for a shelter that could be integrated into new home plans.

The $500 cost could be financed through a government loan, repayable at the rate of $3.40 a month over 25 years.

If I had been building a house in those days, I would have certainly gone for the loan. After all, what’s to lose?

If they dropped the big one, at least I would have a good excuse not to pay it back.

A running theme throughout the phamplet reminded citizens to have a battery operated radio on hand in the survival gear as the most important item.

I’m not sure how useful that would be in 2018, other than for tuning in whatever Classic Rock station I could find still broadcasting.

Can you even buy a battery operated radio today?

This might be a good time to recall an almost daily reminder many of us will remember from the late 1970s and 80s regarding a nuclear holocaust, most commonly manifested as a bumper sticker which read, “One nuclear bomb can ruin your whole day.”

True, that.

Finally, getting back to that missing step in the 1961 survival booklet - after all, why was there only 11? Why not make it an even dozen?

I think they forgot the most important point of all, the one that wasn’t lost on anti nuclear war protesters who made parodies of civilian defence posters produced by the U.S. government in the late 1960s and 70s.

Their final instruction: “Immediately upon seeing the brilliant flash of a nuclear explosion, bend over and place your head firmly between your legs. Then kiss your ass goodbye.”

Proof once again, history is instructive.

— Steve Arstad is the Penticton reporter for iNFOnews.ca

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