The Nuclear Option: Surviving an Atomic Bomb Attack in a Big City

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Schoolchildren in the 1950s practice "duck and cover" in an atomic bomb drill. (James Vaughan/flickr)

We talked yesterday with David Sanger, who writes for our partner The New York Times, about the very disturbing notion that North Korea has already become a nuclear power, and the possibility that Pyonyang could sell nuclear materials to enemy nations, or even terrorists. Sanger wrote his article with his colleague William Broad, who has another article in the Times today about whether Americans would know what to do in order to try and survive a nuclear bomb attack.

Broad says the government is quietly trying to spread the word about to survive an attack without unduly worrying Americans. Apparently, however, the touchy subject is worth discussing despite the risk of making people nervous. New research finds that even simple steps, first taught to Americans during the early nuclear 1950s, could help. If people took the minor step of hiding in their cars immediately after a bomb went off, for example, the casualty rate from radiation fallout could be reduced by 50 percent.

Kelly McKinney, Deputy Commissioner for Planning and Preparedness at the New York City Office of Emergency Management, says his office is trying to find a way to educate New Yorkers on ways to survive an attack. He says communicating that the city does have a strategy for citizens to follow is difficult: most people don't want to talk about the possibility of an atomic bomb attack on New York City.


William Broad and Kelly McKinney

Produced by:

Jen Poyant

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