British atomic weapon

UPDATE: The CDC announced Friday it was postponing the nuclear preparation workshop in order to hold a session on this year’s flu season. The agency said it would be rescheduled, but didn’t say when, according to The New York Times. It also did not address whether the publicity the January 16 workshop generated in the Times and other large media outlets “influenced its decision to switch topics … or whether its decision was discussed with anyone in the Trump administration,” the newspaper reported.

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You like to see federal and state officials stay on top of potential natural and health disasters with a little advance planning. But I doubt there was a big public sigh of relief after reports that the Centers for Disease Control was holding a workshop this month to discuss community health responses to a “nuclear detonation.”

I don’t think there was a lot of, Oh good, they got this. Now we can get back to Netflix.

The meeting, with four speakers covering topics like “Roadmap to Radiation Preparedness,” and, “Public Health: Preparing for the Unthinkable,” is scheduled for January 16 in Atlanta, where the CDC is based.

By the way, this workshop was planned long before President Trump’s tweet on how his nuclear button was bigger than Kim Jong-un’s, The New York Times says. It’s been in the planning stages since April, a solid three months into the Trump Administration.

We haven’t heard all that much about a nuclear attack since the Cold War ended.

Over the past several decades, most people have concluded that nuclear war would be, not so much a game-changer but a game-ender. Sure, there might be a few survivors hanging out in the Everglades coughing up blood and roasting iguanas, but it wouldn’t be Western Society’s finest hour.

As Jimmy Buffett said about preparation for a nuclear attack: “Don’t be scared, do not cry/ just dive under your desk and kiss your ass goodbye.”

The CDC is a little more optimistic.

“Despite the fear surrounding such an event, planning and preparation can lessen deaths and illness,” the agency’s news release says. “For instance, most people don’t realize that sheltering in place for at least 24 hours is crucial to saving lives and reducing exposure to radiation. While federal, state, and local agencies will lead the immediate response efforts, public health will play a key role in responding.”

I went back and looked at some of the old civil defense films from the 1950s and early 1960s and — I guess not surprisingly — that was their approach as well. The general message was, lay low for a couple of weeks, and then it should be OK to head back to soccer practice.

In Duck and Cover (1951), Burt the Turtle shows everyone how it’s done when an atomic bomb flash occurs.

“It looks something like this,” the narrator says. “There’s a bright flash, brighter than the sun, brighter than anything you’ve ever seen. If you’re not ready and don’t know what to do, it could hurt you in different ways … but, if you duck and cover, like Burt, you’ll be much safer.”

Families know, he says, “that even a thin cloth can help protect them. Even a newspaper can save you from a bad burn.”

In Walt Builds a Family Fallout Shelter (1960), Walt gives you simple step-by-step instructions on how to make one out of concrete blocks in your basement.

“You know, this shelter is a real good idea,” Walt tells a couple who came downstairs to see it. “If we would ever have a nuclear war, we could get a heavy fallout even though we were nowhere near the target area. So, Ruth and I got to thinking about it, and figured we’d rather be prepared than sorry.

“Ruth and I can live in here quite comfortably for at least two weeks … and when the grandchildren come this would be a great place to put them.”

Walt ends the video with a bit of whimsy, saying, “now, you really don’t have to paint your walls but my wife thought it would be nice if I did, so I better get busy painting!”

In the drama, Atomic Attack – The Motorola Television Hour (1954), schoolgirl Barbara gets tested for radiation with a Geiger counter by Walter Matthau, who calms her down after he gets a reading by saying: “It’s hardly stirring at all. Just picking up a tiny bit a radioactivity you picked up going from the school into the bus and from the bus to here.”

Barbara notes with excitement that the amount of radiation was below anything that might cause a health problem for her. “Correct,” Matthau says. “I have the honor to report that you are a very well-informed, 100 percent red-blooded American girl!”

In the past, it seems the CDC has discussed apocalypse under a couple of different guises — including the 2011 tongue-in-cheek blog, Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse.

“So what do you need to do before zombies…or hurricanes or pandemics for example, actually happen? First of all, you should have an emergency kit in your house. This includes things like water, food, and other supplies to get you through the first couple of days before you can locate a zombie-free refugee camp (or in the event of a natural disaster, it will buy you some time until you are able to make your way to an evacuation shelter or utility lines are restored).”

Other CDC web posts reaching out to the public have centered around weather events, like hurricanes and tornadoes.,

But I was unable to locate another CDC concern about “nuclear detonation.”

Do they know something we don’t? Hopefully not. Maybe it’s just like Walt said, “We’d rather be prepared than sorry.”

 

Photo:  Detonation of Britain’s first atomic weapon on October 3, 1952. Australian War Memorial via Wikimedia Commons

Post headline with apologies to Bob Dylan

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