It recently occurred to me that many people who work for the City today have no recollection of mid-Twentieth Century public school training designed to protect children in the event of a nuclear attack. I am sure most people my age recall crawling under their desks and/or being marched down to a basement marked by the sign shown below:
It’s hard to know the effects of living in a world where potential mass annihilation is an accepted fact of life and is even drilled into school children. Every generation has had to live with personal insecurity about mortality, illness, starvation, and poverty; however, I suspect people born before WWII thought little about human extinction.
I was raised with knowledge of the Doomsday Clock, which, according to Wikipedia, “… is a symbolic clock face, maintained since 1947 by the board of directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists at the University of Chicago. The closer the clock is to midnight, the closer the world is estimated to be to global disaster. As of January 14, 2010 (2010-01-14)[update], the Doomsday Clock now stands at six minutes to midnight.” Midnight is the symbolic end of the world.
The focus over the past 60 years on “midnight” may help explain why some people seem almost eager to predict doom, either in the form of natural disasters or man-made catastrophes. I was reading a blog yesterday where the writer was very smug about putting his assets into gold as a hedge against impending economic collapse. I like the idea of preparing for an emergency; but gold’s value is subject to huge fluctuations, and you can’t eat it.
Most of us are in a position to have a 72-hour kit available in our homes. These kits can be the difference between relative independence during an emergency and complete reliance on the efforts of others. Taking a few minutes to put together a kit from stores you may already have in your home is relatively easy. The following link is one of many that provide guidance on what to include in a 72 hour kit: http://www.nationalterroralert.com/72hourkit/.
The City is in the process of updating our Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan to assist us in emergency response planning. This update requires managers to take refresher courses on use of the Incident Command System employed by federal and state agencies during emergencies. The carrot for city participation in this planning is eligibility for certain federal grants, but the real value is forcing us to think about a systematic response to likely emergencies.
I’m not sure how much good it would have done to crawl under a student desk in the event of a nuclear attack, and I’m grateful I’ve never had to put that training to the test. I’m hopeful any emergencies or disasters we experience in the future will be limited in scope, duration, and intensity. I know that taking the simple step to prepare 72-hour kits for everyone in our homes is prudent and effective emergency preparation. If we are truly living in the Age of Insecurity, the peace of mind we can achieve with a little preparation is worth the investment.