For the first time since the end of the Cold War, the possibility of a nuclear attack feels real.
Between Donald Trump at the helm of the United States and North Korea getting real keen on making their nuclear weapons program a reality (even if they say otherwise), things are heating up, leading the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to bring the Doomsday Clock to two minutes to midnight.
That is the closest we’ve been to midnight since 1953, when both the United States and Russia expanded their nuclear arsenals to include the hydrogen bomb. This signifies the likelihood of a humanmade global catastrophe, which as of 2007 also includes issues stemming from global warming.
It is now two minutes to midnight—the closest the Clock has ever been to Doomsday, and as close as it was in 1953, at the height of the Cold War. Read the 2018 Doomsday Clock Statement https://t.co/X1rEdqH90X #MadamSecretary @atomicbell pic.twitter.com/7CWaL54RZR
— BulletinOfTheAtomic (@BulletinAtomic) May 21, 2018
Basically, the threat is the most real it has ever been, so it’s probably not the worst idea for our governments to have a bit of an action plan for what to do when it starts raining fire.
Luckily, the US Government has prepared for this situation, with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) having created a Protective Action Guide (PAG) that outlines 99 likely questions people in charge are going to have to answer.
“Pre-scripted radiation emergency public safety messages will both improve timeliness and increase consistency of the information communicated, which will enhance emergency planners’ ability to effectively communicate with the largest number of people,” the manual reads.
“Ideally, these messages never will be needed; nevertheless, we have a responsibility to be prepared to empower the public by effectively communicating how people can protect themselves and their families in the event of a radiological or nuclear emergency.”
What follows is 37 pages of information, ranging from the manual itself and what those in the most affected areas can expect to radiation health issues and decontamination.
There are also a number of questions under the heading “Special issues and concerns”, covering issues such as pregnancies, people with disabilities, and pets.
Here are a handful of questions and part of the respective answers taken from the PAG:
Is radiation contagious?
No. Radiation is not like a cold. You cannot catch it from someone.
It is true, however, that people who have radioactive dust on their clothes or their bodies can leave some of that contamination on objects or people they come into contact with.
What will happen to people in the affected neighborhoods?
As appropriate: Lives have been lost, people have been injured, and homes and businesses have been destroyed. All levels of government are coordinating their efforts to do everything possible to help the people affected by this emergency.
What should I do if I come across an object that might be radioactive?
Don’t approach, pick up or touch debris or other objects that may be contaminated with radioactive material. These objects could be dangerous, especially in the immediate
vicinity of the incident.
Obviously there’s a lot to take in, but some of the best advice for those in affected areas is to get indoors and stay there, because fallout can cause death and destruction long after the bomb has gone off.
Cheery stuff. But we don’t need to be too worried about it, right Don?