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In Case of Nuclear Attack

By Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, B.Sc., M.D., Ph.D.

Article printed on page 11 in the September 17-18, 2005 issue of
The Mississauga News under the feature: Health & Wellness, Medical Matters
Portrait of Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, supplied 2005
Dr. Peter W. Kujtan

I suppose it is quite easy to sit in the easy chair on a hot afternoon glued to the boob tube with a cool drink watching the Hurricane Katrina disaster evolve and wonder at the litany of confusion and how it came to be. In observing all this, I really wonder whether we would behave any differently, and how we would cope under similar circumstances. Forecasting weather is a complex science which main purpose is to forewarn us of impending problems. Thank goodness the warnings outnumber the disasters, but this same process makes some people complacent. Witness the early reports of people surfing in the Gulf and newscasters heroically broadcasting while being pelted with various wind-blown projectiles. These scenes subliminally contradict the weather forecasters and convey a dangerous sense of immortality. This storm resulted in two distinct disasters. The greater and more complete catastrophe was seen in the shoreline areas to the east of New Orleans. In these areas, tidal surges and great winds combined to result in complete destruction. New Orleans suffered a different type of problem attributed mostly to delay flooding in which buildings were left standing.

One message that has been lost in the coverage is how some people survived for weeks amidst the loss of services. Was it fate, luck, or preparation? In this regard, there is a lesson for all of us. I am a tail end Yuppie that can still vaguely recall the strange cold war "fire drills" that rushed us all into the dungeon located beneath my old public school near High Park. Rumor has it that this nuclear fall-out shelter is still there gathering cobwebs. I also remember when at the height of the Vietnam War the air-raid sirens sounded for hours around Toronto. The strange part was that no one understood what the wailing sound was about or what to do. This fortunate short circuit served as a reminder that we actually do have an emergency response network.

One of those cottage trivia items in my possession is a 50-page guide, published in 1969 by Emergency Canada, entitled "11 Steps to Survival" which outlines what to do in case of nuclear attack. The chapter on nuclear fall-out and shelter construction was a source of cottage humor until I realized that the rest of the guide has worthwhile meaning even today. Would you be prepared if our power, phone, cable, water, gas supplies were suspended due to a tornado, a snow or an ice storm? Would most people have a 10-day supply of non-perishable goods, water and fuel to see them through a disaster? Is first aid knowledge with a properly equipped kit a priority in your house? How would you communicate with your family, and how would you track the whereabouts of your family members? Are you familiar with setting up a latrine and disposing of waste and garbage? Does anyone even use cash anymore in our magnetic strip crazy existence? Having an emergency pack always ready with essentials like flashlights, portable radios, batteries, first-aid kits, maps, marking pens, water containers, vital documents, rope, whistle, blankets, etc. seems like an extremist gesture these days. We are very fortunate in having an infrastructure that is able to withstand minor disasters with provisions for victims. Ontario does get a good number of tornadoes, blackouts, floods, but in our minds, it is always on a small comparative scale.

I think that having an emergency plan and reviewing it at a family sit-down is a good idea. Anyone who has been associated with a natural disaster realizes that organized progression ceases with practice drills. Unforeseen elements always produce an air of seeming chaos. I think that having an emergency plan and reviewing it at a family sit-down is a good idea. Anyone who has been associated with a natural disaster realizes that organized progression ceases with practice drills. Unforeseen elements always produce an air of seeming chaos. I would encourage you to visit the Emergency Preparedness from Public Safety Canada at www.publicsafety.gc.ca. It could save the lives of the ones you care about the most, someday.

Related resources:

Are You Ready? A In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Emergency Preparedness and You from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Emergency Preparedness and Response from United States Department of Labor.

What to Do If a Nuclear Disaster Is Imminent! This guide is for families preparing for imminent terrorist or strategic nuclear attacks with expected blast destruction followed by widespread radioactive fallout downwind, from KI4U.

How to Survive a Nuclear Attack, Preparing in Advance and Surviving an Imminent Attack from Wikipedia.

READY Business. Preparedness Planning for Your Business from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) - Every business should have an emergency plan. How quickly your company can get back to business after a terrorist attack or tornado, a fire or flood often depends on emergency planning done today.

READY America from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) - Get a Kit, Make a Plan, Be Informed: Biological Threat, Chemical Threat, Explosions, Nuclear Blast, Radiation Threat, Natural Disasters.

How Schools Can Become More Disaster Resistant. Resources for Parents & Teachers for Kids.

Emergency Preparedness & Response Site - Agents, Diseases, & Other Threats from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Bioterrorism Agents, Chemical Emergencies, Radiation Emergencies, Mass Casualties, Natural Disasters & Severe Weather, Recent Outbreaks & Incidents.

Emergency Essentials.

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