Home » Psychological Effects of Disasters
Category Archives: Psychological Effects of Disasters
March 1, 1955. (House of Commons)
This was the last great speech made by Winston Churchill in the House of Commons. It was listened to with deep respect and almost total silence in a packed Chamber. It contains the last of the remembered Churchill phrases “… safety will be the sturdy child of terror, and survival the twin brother of annihilation”. The two final sentences may be regarded as Churchill’s farewell to the House of Commons and to the British people.
I beg to move, ‘That this House approves the Statement on Defence, 1955, Command Paper No. 9391.’
This Motion stands in my name, and it is supported by my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Minister of Defence.
We live in a period, happily unique in human history, when the whole world is divided intellectually and to a large extent geographically between the creeds of Communist discipline and individual freedom, and when, at the same time, this mental and psychological division is accompanied by the possession by both sides of the obliterating weapons of the nuclear age.
We have antagonisms now as deep as those of the Reformation and its reactions which led to the Thirty Years’ War. But now they are spread over the whole world instead of only over a small part of Europe. We have, to some extent, the geographical division of the Mongol invasion in the thirteenth century, only more ruthless and more thorough. We have force and science, hitherto the servants of man, now threatening to become his master.
I am not pretending to have a solution for a permanent peace between the nations which could be unfolded this afternoon. We pray for it. Nor shall I try to discuss the cold war which we all detest, but have to endure. I shall only venture to offer to the House some observations mainly of a general character on which I have pondered long and which, I hope, may be tolerantly received, as they are intended by me. And here may I venture to make a personal digression? I do not pretend to be an expert or to have technical knowledge of this prodigious sphere of science. But in my long friendship with Lord Cherwell I have tried to follow and even predict the evolution of events. I hope that the House will not reprove me for vanity or conceit if I repeat what I wrote a quarter of a century ago:
We know enough [I said] to be sure that the scientific achievements of the next fifty years will be far greater, more rapid and more surprising than those we have already experienced . . . High authorities tell us that new sources of power, vastly more important than any we yet know, will surely be discovered. Nuclear energy is incomparably greater than the molecular energy which we use to-day. The coal a man can get in a day can easily do 500 times as much work as the man himself. Nuclear energy is at least one million times more powerful still. If the hydrogen atoms in a pound of water could be prevailed upon to combine together and form helium, they would suffice to drive a 1,000 horse-power engine for a whole year. If the electrons those tiny planets of the atomic systems were induced to combine with the nuclei in the hydrogen, the horse-power liberated would be 120 times greater still. There is no question among scientists that this gigantic source of energy exists. What is lacking is the match to set the bonfire alight, or it may be the detonator to cause the dynamite to explode.
This is no doubt not quite an accurate description of what has been discovered, but as it was published in the Strand Magazine of December, 1931- twenty-four years ago-I hope that my plea to have long taken an interest in the subject may be indulgently accepted by the House.
What is the present position? Only three countries possess, in varying degrees, the knowledge and the power to make nuclear weapons. Of these, the United States is overwhelmingly the chief. Owing to the breakdown in the exchange of information between us and the United States since 1946 we have had to start again independently on our own. Fortunately, executive action was taken promptly by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition to reduce as far as possible the delay in our nuclear development and production. By his initiative we have made our own atomic bombs.
Confronted with the hydrogen bomb, I have tried to live up to the right hon. Gentleman’s standard. We have started to make that one, too. It is this grave decision which forms the core of the Defence Paper which we are discussing this afternoon.
Although the Soviet stockpile of atomic bombs may be greater than that of Britain, British discoveries may well place us above them in fundamental science.
May I say that for the sake of simplicity and to avoid verbal confusion I use the expression ‘atomic bombs’ and also ‘hydrogen bombs’ instead of ‘thermo-nuclear’ and I keep ‘nuclear’ for the whole lot. There is an immense gulf between the atomic and the hydrogen bomb. The atomic bomb, with all its terrors, did not carry us outside the scope of human control or manageable events in thought or action, in peace or war. But when Mr. Sterling Cole, the Chairman of the United States Congressional Committee, gave out a year ago – 17 February 1954 – the first comprehensive review of the hydrogen bomb, the entire foundation of human affairs was revolutionized, and mankind placed in a situation both measureless and laden with doom.
It is now the fact that a quantity of plutonium, probably less than would fill the Box on the Table-it is quite a safe thing to store-would suffice to produce weapons which would give indisputable world domination to any great Power which was the only one to have it. There is no absolute defence against the hydrogen bomb, nor is any method in sight by which any nation, or any country, can be completely guaranteed against the devastating injury which even a score of them might inflict on wide regions.
What ought we to do? Which way shall we turn to save our lives and the future of the world? It does not matter so much to old people; they are going soon anyway; but I find it poignant to look at youth in all its activity and ardour and, most of all, to watch little children playing their merry games, and wonder what would lie before them if God wearied of mankind.
The best defence would of course be bona fide disarmament all round. This is in all our hearts. But sentiment must not cloud our vision. It is often said that ‘facts are stubborn things.’ A renewed session of a sub-committee of the Disarmament Commission is now sitting in London and is rightly attempting to conduct its debates in private. We must not conceal from ourselves the gulf between the Soviet Government and the N.A.T.O. Powers, which has hitherto, for so long, prevented an agreement. The long history and tradition of Russia makes it repugnant to the Soviet Government to accept any practical system of international inspection.
A second difficulty lies in the circumstance that, just as the United States, on the one hand, has, we believe, the overwhelming mastery in nuclear weapons, so the Soviets and their Communist satellites have immense superiority in what are called ‘conventional’ forces-the sort of arms and forces with which we fought the last war, but much improved. The problem is, therefore, to devise a balanced and phased system of disarmament which at no period enables any one of the participants to enjoy an advantage which might endanger the security of the others. A scheme on these lines was submitted last year by Her Majesty’s Government and the French Government and was accepted by the late Mr. Vyshinsky as a basis of discussion. It is now being examined in London.
If the Soviet Government have not at any time since the war shown much nervousness about the American possession of nuclear superiority, that is because they are quite sure that it will not be used against them aggressively, even in spite of many forms of provocation. On the other hand, the N.A.T.O. Powers have been combined together by the continued aggression and advance of Communism in Asia and in Europe. That this should have eclipsed in a few years, and largely effaced, the fearful antagonism and memories that Hitlerism created for the German people is an event without parallel. But it has, to a large extent, happened. There is widespread belief throughout the free world that, but for American nuclear superiority, Europe would already have been reduced to satellite status and the Iron Curtain would have reached the Atlantic and the Channel.
Unless a trustworthy and universal agreement upon disarmament, conventional and nuclear alike, can be reached and an effective system of inspection is established and is actually working, there is only one sane policy for the free world in the next few years. That is what we call defence through deterrents. This we have already adopted and proclaimed. These deterrents may at any time become the parents of disarmament, provided that they deter. To make our contribution to the deterrent we must ourselves possess the most up-to-date nuclear weapons, and the means of delivering them.
That is the position which the Government occupy. We are to discuss this not only as a matter of principle; there are many practical reasons which should be given. Should war come, which God forbid, there are a large number of targets that we and the Americans must be able to strike at once. There are scores of airfields from which the Soviets could launch attacks with hydrogen bombs as soon as they have the bombers to carry them. It is essential to our deterrent policy and to our survival to have, with our American allies, the strength and numbers to be able to paralyse these potential Communist assaults in the first few hours of the war, should it come.
The House will perhaps note that I avoid using the word ‘Russia’ as much as possible in this discussion. I have a strong admiration for the Russian people -for their bravery, their many gifts, and their kindly nature. It is the Communist dictatorship and the declared ambition of the Communist Party and their proselytizing activities that we are bound to resist, and that is what makes this great world cleavage which I mentioned when I opened my remarks.
There are also big administrative and industrial targets behind the Iron Curtain, and any effective deterrent policy must have the power to paralyse them all at the outset, or shortly after. There are also the Soviet submarine bases and other naval targets which will need early attention. Unless we make a contribution of our own-that is the point which I am pressing-we cannot be sure that in an emergency the resources of other Powers would be planned exactly as we would wish, or that the targets which would threaten us most would be given what we consider the necessary priority, or the deserved priority, in the first few hours.
These targets might be of such cardinal importance that it would really be a matter of life and death for us. All this, I think, must be borne in mind in deciding our policy about the conventional forces, to which I will come later, the existing Services.
Meanwhile, the United States has many times the nuclear power of Soviet Russia – I avoid any attempt to give exact figures and they have, of course, far more effective means of delivery. Our moral and military support of the United States and our possession of nuclear weapons of the highest quality and on an appreciable scale, together with their means of delivery, will greatly reinforce the deterrent power of the free world, and will strengthen our influence within the free world. That, at any rate, is the policy we have decided to pursue. That is what we are now doing, and I am thankful that it is endorsed by a mass of responsible opinion on both sides of the House, and, I believe, by the great majority of the nation.
A vast quantity of information, some true, some exaggerated much out of proportion, has been published about the hydrogen bomb. The truth has inevitably been mingled with fiction, and I am glad to say that panic has not occurred. Panic would not necessarily make for peace. That is one reason why I have been most anxious that responsible discussions on this matter should not take place on the B.B.C. or upon the television, and I thought that I was justified in submitting that view of Her Majesty’s Government to the authorities, which they at once accepted-very willingly accepted.
Panic would not necessarily make for peace even in this country. There are many countries where a certain wave of opinion may arise and swing so furiously into action that decisive steps may be taken from which there is no recall. As it is, the world population goes on its daily journey despite its sombre impression and earnest longing for relief. That is the way we are going on now.
I shall content myself with saying about the power of this weapon, the hydrogen bomb, that apart from all the statements about blast and heat effects over increasingly wide areas there are now to be considered the consequences of “fall out” as it is called, of wind-borne radio-active particles. There is both an immediate direct el feet on human beings who are in the path of such a cloud and an indirect effect through animals, grass, and vegetables, which pass on these contagions to human beings through food.
This would confront many who escaped the direct effects of the explosion with poisoning, or starvation, or both. Imagination stands appalled. There are, of course, the palliatives and precautions of a courageous Civil Defence, and about that the Home Secretary will be speaking later on to-night. But our best protection lies, as I am sure the House will be convinced, in successful deterrents operating from a foundation of sober, calm, and tireless vigilance.
Moreover, a curious paradox has emerged. Let me put it simply. After a certain point has been passed it may be said. “The worse things get, the better”.
The broad effect of the latest developments is to spread almost indefinitely and at least to a vast extent the area of mortal danger. This should certainly increase the deterrent upon Soviet Russia by putting her enormous spaces and scattered population on an equality or near-equality of vulnerability with our small densely populated island and with Western Europe.
I cannot regard this development as adding to our dangers. We have reached the maximum already. On the contrary, to this form of attack continents are vulnerable as well as islands. Hitherto, crowded countries, as I have said, like the United Kingdom and Western Europe, have had this outstanding vulnerability to carry. But the hydrogen bomb, with its vast range of destruction and the even wider area of contamination, would be effective also against nations whose population, hitherto, has been so widely dispersed over large land areas as to make them feel that they were not in any danger at all.
They, too, become highly vulnerable: not yet equally perhaps, but, still, highly and increasingly vulnerable. Here again we see the value of deterrents, immune against surprise and well understood by all persons on both sides I repeat “on both sides” who have the power to control events. That is why I have hoped for a long time for a top level conference where these matters could be put plainly and bluntly from one friendly visitor to the conference to another.
Then it may well be that we shall by a process of sublime irony have reached a stage in this story where safety will be the sturdy child of terror, and survival the twin brother of annihilation. Although the Americans have developed weapons capable of producing all the effects I have mentioned, we believe that the Soviets so far have tested by explosion only a type of bomb of intermediate power.
There is no reason why, however, they should not develop some time within the next four, three, or even two years more advanced weapons and full means to deliver them on North American targets. Indeed, there is every reason to believe that within that period they will. In trying to look ahead like this we must be careful ourselves to avoid the error of comparing the present state of our preparations with the stage which the Soviets may reach in three or four years’ time. It is a major error of thought to contrast the Soviet position three or four years hence with our own position to-day. It is a mistake to do this, either in the comparatively precise details of aircraft development or in the measureless sphere of nuclear weapons.
The threat of hydrogen attack on these islands lies in the future. It is not with us now. According to the information that I have been able to obtain I have taken every opportunity to consult all the highest authorities at our disposal-the only country which is able to deliver to-day a full-scale nuclear attack with hydrogen bombs at a few hours’ notice is the United States. That surely is an important fact, and from some points of view and to some of us it is not entirely without comfort.
It is conceivable that Soviet Russia, fearing a nuclear attack before she has caught up with the United States and created deterrents of her own, as she might argue that they are, might attempt to bridge the gulf by a surprise attack with such nuclear weapons as she has already. American superiority in nuclear weapons, reinforced by Britain, must, therefore, be so organized as to make it clear that no such surprise attack would prevent immediate retaliation on a far larger scale. This is an essential of the deterrent policy.
For this purpose, not only must the nuclear superiority of the Western Powers be stimulated in every possible way, but their means of delivery of bombs must be expanded, improved, and varied. It is even probable, though we have not been told about it outside the N.A.T.O. sphere, that a great deal of this has been already done by the United States. We should aid them in every possible way. I will not attempt to go into details, but it is known that bases have been and are being established in as many parts of the world as possible and that over all the rest the United States Strategic Air Force, which is in itself a deterrent of the highest order, is in ceaseless readiness.
The Soviet Government probably knows, in general terms, of the policy that is being pursued, and of the present United States strength and our own growing addition to it. Thus, they should be convinced that a surprise attack could not exclude immediate retaliation. As one might say to them, ‘Although you might kill millions of our peoples, and cause widespread havoc by a surprise attack, we could, within a few hours of this outrage, certainly deliver several, indeed many times the weight of nuclear material which you have used, and continue retaliation on that same scale.’
‘We have,’ we could say, ‘already hundreds of bases for attack from all angles and have made an intricate study of suitable targets.’ Thus, it seems to me with some experience of wartime talks, you might go to dinner and have a friendly evening. I should not be afraid to talk things over as far as they can be. This, and the hard facts, would make the deterrent effective.
I must make one admission, and any admission is formidable. The deterrent does not cover the case of lunatics or dictators in the mood of Hitler when he found himself in his final dug-out. That is a blank. Happily, we may find methods of protecting ourselves, if we were all agreed, against that.
All these considerations lead me to believe that, on a broad view, the Soviets would be ill-advised to embark on major aggression within the next three or four years.
One must always consider the interests of other people when you are facing a particular situation. Their interests may be the only guide that is available. We may calculate, therefore, that world war will not break out within that time. If, at the end of that time, there should be a supreme conflict, the weapons which I have described this afternoon would be available to both sides, and it would be folly to suppose that they would not be used. Our precautionary dispositions and preparations must, therefore, be based on the assumption that, if war should come, these weapons would be used.
I repeat, therefore, that during the next three or four years the free world should, and will, retain an overwhelming superiority in hydrogen weapons. During that period it is most unlikely that the Russians would deliberately embark on major war or attempt a surprise attack, either of which would bring down upon them at once a crushing weight of nuclear retaliation. In three or four years’ time, it may be even less, the scene will be changed. The Soviets will probably stand possessed of hydrogen bombs and the means of delivering them not only on the United Kingdom but also on North American targets. They may then have reached a stage, not indeed of parity with the United States and Britain but of what is called ‘saturation.’
I must explain this term of art. ‘Saturation’ in this connection means the point where, although one Power is stronger than the other, perhaps much stronger, both are capable of inflicting crippling or quasi-mortal injury on the other with what they have got. It does not follow, however, that the risk of war will then be greater. Indeed, it is arguable that it will be less, for both sides will then realize that global war would result in mutual annihilation.
Major war of the future will differ, therefore, from anything we have known in the past in this one significant respect; that each side, at the outset, will suffer what it dreads the most, the loss of everything that it has ever known of. The deterrents will grow continually in value. In the past, an aggressor has been tempted by the hope of snatching an early advantage. In future, he may be deterred by the knowledge that the other side has the certain power to inflict swift, inescapable, and crushing retaliation. Of course, we should all agree that a world-wide international agreement on disarmament is the goal at which we should aim. The Western democracies disarmed themselves at the end of the war. The Soviet Government did not disarm, and the Western nations were forced to rearm, though only partially, after the Soviets and Communists had dominated all China and half Europe. That is the present position. It is easy, of course, for the Communists to say now, ‘Let us ban all nuclear weapons.’ Communist ascendancy in conventional weapons would then become overwhelming. That might bring peace, but only peace in the form of the subjugation of the Free World to the Communist system.
I shall not detain the House very much longer, and I am sorry to be so long. The topic is very intricate. I am anxious to repeat and to emphasize the one word which is the theme of my remarks, namely, ‘Deterrent.’ That is the main theme.
The hydrogen bomb has made an astounding incursion into the structure of our lives and thoughts. Its impact is prodigious and profound, but I do not agree with those who say, ‘Let us sweep away forthwith all our existing defence services and concentrate our energy and resources on nuclear weapons and their immediate ancillaries.’ The policy of the deterrent cannot rest on nuclear weapons alone. We must, together with our N.A.T.O. allies, maintain the defensive shield in Western Europe.
Unless the N.A.T.O. powers had effective forces there on the ground and could make a front, there would be nothing to prevent piecemeal advance and encroachment by the Communists in this time of so-called peace. By successive infiltrations, the Communists could progressively undermine the security of Europe. Unless we were prepared to unleash a full-scale nuclear war as soon as some local incident occurs in some distant country, we must have conventional forces in readiness to deal with such situations as they arise.
We must, therefore, honour our undertaking to maintain our contribution to the N.A.T.O. forces in Europe in time of peace. In war, this defensive shield would be of vital importance, for we must do our utmost to hold the Soviet and satellite forces at arms’ length in order to prevent short-range air and rocket attack on these islands. Thus, substantial strength in conventional forces has still a vital part to play in the policy of the deterrent. It is perhaps of even greater importance in the cold war.
Though world war may be prevented by the deterrent power of nuclear weapons, the Communists may well resort to military action in furtherance of their policy of infiltration and encroachment in many parts of the world. There may well be limited wars on the Korean model, with limited objectives. We must be able to play our part in these, if called upon by the United Nations organization. In the conditions of to-day, this is also an aspect of our Commonwealth responsibility. We shall need substantial strength in conventional forces to fulfil our world-wide obligations in these days of uneasy peace and extreme bad temper.
To sum up this part of the argument, of course, the development of nuclear weapons will affect the shape and organization of the Armed Forces and also of Civil Defence. We have entered a period of transition in which the past and the future will overlap. But it is an error to suppose that, because of these changes our traditional forces can be cast away or superseded. The tasks of the Army, Navy, and Air Force in this transition period are set forth with clarity in the Defence White Paper. The means by which these duties will be met are explained in more detail in the Departmental Papers which have been laid before the House by the three Service Ministers.
No doubt, nothing is perfect; certainly, nothing is complete, but, considering that these arrangements have been made in the first year after the apparition of the hydrogen bomb, the far-seeing and progressive adaptability which is being displayed by all three Services is remarkable. [Hon. Members: ‘Oh.’] I understand that there is to be a Motion of censure. Well, certainly, nothing could be more worthy of censure than to try to use the inevitable administrative difficulties of the transitional stage as a utensil of party politics and would-be electioneering. I am not saying that anyone is doing it; we shall see when it comes to the vote.
The future shape of Civil Defence is also indicated in broad outline in the Defence White Paper. This outline will be filled in as the preparation of the new plans proceeds, but the need for an effective system of Civil Defence is surely beyond dispute. It presents itself to-day in its noblest aspect, namely, the Christian duty of helping fellow-mortals in distress. Rescue, salvage, and ambulance work have always been the core of Civil Defence, and no city, no family nor any honourable man or woman can repudiate this duty and accept from others help which they are not prepared to fit themselves to render in return. If war comes, great numbers may be relieved of their duty by death, but none must deny it as long as they live. If they do, they might perhaps be put in what is called ‘Coventry.’ [Laughter.] I am speaking of the tradition, and not of any particular locality.
The argument which I have been endeavouring to unfold and consolidate gives us in this island an interlude. Let us not waste it. Let us hope we shall use it to augment or at least to prolong our security and that of mankind. But how? There are those who believe, or at any rate say, ‘If we have the protection of the overwhelmingly powerful United States, we need not make the hydrogen bomb for ourselves or build a fleet of bombers for its delivery. We can leave that to our friends across the ocean. Our contribution should be criticism of any unwise policy into which they may drift or plunge. We should throw our hearts and consciences into that.’
Personally, I cannot feel that we should have much influence over their policy or actions, wise or unwise, while we are largely dependent, as we are to-day, upon their protection. We, too, must possess substantial deterrent power of our own. We must also never allow, above all, I hold, the growing sense of unity and brotherhood between the United Kingdom and the United States and throughout the English-speaking world to be injured or retarded. Its maintenance, its stimulation, and its fortifying is one of the first duties of every person who wishes to see peace in the world and wishes to see the survival of this country.
To conclude: mercifully, there is time and hope if we combine patience and courage. All deterrents will improve and gain authority during the next ten years. By that time, the deterrent may well reach its acme and reap its final reward. The day may dawn when fair play, love for one’s fellow-men, respect for justice and freedom, will enable tormented generations to march forth serene and triumphant from the hideous epoch in which we have to dwell. Meanwhile, never flinch, never weary, never despair.
By Paul Seyfried
I don’t know where you are reading this—on a desktop computer or mobile device—but for the sake of argument, let’s say a convicted felon is kicking in your door right now. The only weapons you have to fight him off are the items within a 3-foot circle of your current position. How much trouble are you in?
I’ve said it before: If you are more than three seconds away from your primary self-defense weapon, fix that right now.
My primary defensive weapon is a firearm. But that is only a tool. More important is your understanding of the righteous use of violence as it applies to legal self-defense. In short, are you mentally ready to fight? Will active self-defense be your default setting when the time comes? Gear and gadgets do not matter if you are not ready, willing, and able to use them. If, in the face of great and immediate danger, you don’t automatically reach for a weapon, look for cover, and start thinking about your defensive options, you will be well behind your attacker when the fight starts. That’s no good.
Too many people get caught in sequential thinking that goes something like this: What is happening? Is this really happening? This can’t be happening. I don’t believe this is happening.
By the time those thoughts bounce around your head, you are swinging seriously behind the attacker’s fastball.
Right here and right now clear your head of all that crap. Make the decision to accept that bad things happen. They can happen to you. Understand that when you see, feel, or even sense that they are starting to happen, you need to take action. The time for thinking about what is happening has already passed and you need to take some action or get into the fight.
This does not mean that you need to charge into an aggressive confrontation. Taking action can be as simple as crossing the street to put some distance between you and a potential threat. If you carry your firearm in a purse, get your hand on your gun early and be ready to draw if the situation warrants it. Think about taking defensive action. Self-defense is more than fighting, and it starts with the idea that you will someday have to fight.
In self-defense circles we talk about mindset all the time. There is a reason for that. Think about this: Your attacker is a predator. Before he strikes he stalks, assesses the risk, seeks a suitable location, and waits for the most opportune moment. He has planned his attack and counts on the fact that his element of surprise will give him the advantage. To defeat this type of predator, you need to be as vigilant as he is cunning. You need to be prepared. Most importantly, you need to be willing to act with equal violence and aggression to stop the violent assault. If you are standing there flat-footed trying to figure out what is going on, your chances of winning the fight are greatly reduced.
And make no mistake about it. I want you to win the fight. I don’t want you to simply “survive.” This is a fight for your life. You need to prevail. You do that by being prepared.
In response to an inquiry by Michael McFall, reporter for The Salt Lake Tribune
By Paul Seyfried
The National Facility Survey, done in the 1960s, reveals a valuable history of fallout shelters. President Kennedy was a strong advocate of a national shelter program, much like Switzerland’s shelter program is today. His shelter program was modeled after the Swiss system. He had planned to unveil the program during his trip to Dallas. He was distracted by a murder’s bullet. Lyndon B. Johnson cancelled our civil defense shelter program, which would have built blast-hardened shelters in the nation’s densely populated cities. Less rigorous fallout shelters would have been constructed for rural areas.
Later, an effort was made by the U.S. Government to survey large buildings with multiple stories employing masonry construction to find areas in them that would provide a minimum level of protection that would give occupants a fighting chance of surviving the fallout effects from a nuclear attack. A national grain reserve was established in rural areas that would provide enough food to feed the population for seven years (80 percent of grain is fed to meat-producing animals in peace time, but most of these would be slaughtered immediately, retaining only breading stock to replenish herds during recovery). This frees up millions of tons of grain for human use. We no longer maintain such a reserve, while Russia still maintains a four year supply. We are now on a Just-In-Time system.
The established protection criteria was a protection factor of 40 (or PF 40). Formulas for determining this level were devised, and survey teams went out and identified hospitals, municipal buildings, high rises, etc. that had the right features. The idea was to house as many Americans as possible in hastily organized shelters, stocking them with water, crude rations, and chemical toilets.
The critical need for shelter occurs in the first two to three days, assuming the attack commencement and conclusion occurs within a few hours. In the early years of the 1960s, most weapons would be delivered via aircraft…so we had maybe 14 to 20 hours of preparations before an attack would arrive. Evacuation plans were developed to move as many people outside of large cities. Counterforce weapons and strategies were not developed yet, so cities were assumed to be the primary targets, other than obvious enemy airfields.
The age of the ICBM changed all of that. Americans today would have no warning….the concept of a suit on TV telling Americans that an attack was imminent is fantasy. Flight time of a submarine-launched ballistic missile, fired from 200 miles off-shore at Washington DC, programmed for a depressed flight trajectory, would arrive on target in about 3 1/2 minutes. It is highly unlikely that the U.S. could detect the launch, plot its intended target, pick up the phones and warn the White House Situation Room, and get the POTUS to the bunker entrance in time. The National Command Authority would likely be wiped out, with any surviving members, unable to determine who was in charge (communications would be vastly suppressed from the concurrent EMP laydown) before most of the U.S. nuclear deterrent was reduced to smoking rubble.
[Russia will have 80 percent of it’s strategic nuclear missile force on road and rail-mobile launch vehicles by 2015. It’s remaining fixed silos are “cold-launch” systems, able to be re-loaded in a few hours with fresh missiles. SS-18 silos are “super-hardened”, and are difficult to neutralize. Arms treaties do not address “reloads”…only launch silos. Meanwhile, our land-based nuclear deterrent is the old Minute Man system, initially deployed in 1965. They are still in their original silos, addresses unchanged. We can tell from the laydown splashes of Russian missile tests off the Kamchatka peninsula, which missile field they are rehearsing on. But I digress.]
The old fallout shelters had NO ventilation systems, no sanitation systems, other than the 15 gallon steel drum toilet kits stocked there. No blast doors, or blast valves on ventilation pipes to protect occupants from direct weapons effects (heat, blast, debris, fire). This joke of a system gave ammunition to the anti-civil defense lobby. Indeed, these “shelters” were a joke. A PF 40 is BARELY adequate protection, assuming your area was not heavily hit by fallout. Virtually everyone inside would probably get sick…but most would not die.
Of course, the president and other officials were to be housed in hardened bunkers, designed for high overpressures. We know how to protect people from WMD, we just don’t do it for the taxpayer. Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Singapore, Yugoslavia, Czech Republic, South Korea, Russia, China, Israel, and lately, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and others have initiated shelter programs to some degree or other. Switzerland remains the only country where 120 percent of the entire population, not just government officials, have blast-hardened, nuclear, biological, chemical shelters. They are required by Federal building codes for any area intended for human habitation. Homes, hospitals, schools, churches and temples, apartment buildings, stores, shops, manufacturing facilities, theaters, etc…..they all have them under the building, or a separate one nearby. I toured many of them in 1999, taking lots of pics and video. Everywhere we went, we’d ask to see their shelters. After an odd look, we’d explain that we were Americans and that we didn’t have any shelters in our country….and we would like to see theirs. All showed them upon request.
At a school in a small village, we found the school shelter under a field house and track. So happens, they were conducting their semi-annual war game drills, and cleaning/maintenance routine. Pharmaceuticals were replaced with new ones, the six month old inventory was rotated to retail stores. Diesel fuel for the generators were tested. Kitchens exercised. A clean-cut male teenager asked us in perfect English is we’d like to go inside. Of course, we said “Yes!” A few minutes later, he returned with a seasoned man, white hair, in a pale blue uniform. He was the officer in charge of that shelter. He graciously gave us an hour and a half tour, through the infirmary, medical bays containing 36 patient beds each, and general housing areas for healthy citizens (bed capacity: 250, personnel capacity: 750).
They hot bunk…just like the navy. You get a bunk for every three people. Each had a pillow, exactly placed, as with a ruler. Fresh water reservoir, flush toilets, showers for hygiene and decontamination. Ten kilowatt diesel generator in a separate area, sealed off with a concrete blast door. NBC filtration units, all capable of being operated by six volunteers, on 15 minute shifts. With 750 people, they’ll have no trouble finding volunteers. Ceiling thickness, was one meter of steel reinforced concrete, and a meter of earth (the soccer field). Fallout protection factor: Over one million. [Remember the U.S. spec? PF40?] Most residential shelters had protection factors of around PF5,000.
Switzerland’s tax burden to the citizen to maintain their civil defense program is about $60.00 per year per person. That’s a real defense program. Actually defending/protecting the intended victims in the next war. It is not based on the threat of annihilation. DoD is hostile to an American program. It competes with funds for pet weapons programs. In Russia, Civil Defense has a general sitting at the table with the other branches of the armed forces. It is well funded…..Russia is now building more shelters again. Construction of the Yamantau Mountain facility never ceased. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Yamantau
In WWII Germany, there was not a single fatality inside government-built “bombproof”, shelters constructed featuring four foot thick walls and ceilings. Germany has a high water table in many areas, so they build bombproofs up to four stories high. Many were struck with direct hits from 500 lb and 1,000 lb bombs, yet no one inside suffered injury. I doubt that an American city hall building would fare so well. In the Hamburg firestorm raid, 45,000 civilians perished in the fires…mostly exposed in the streets, trapped in hasty basement shelters, or crude trench shelters. None of the 240,000 inhabitants that were sheltered inside bombproofs were injured. Indeed, some had to step in the puddles of melted fat left from people who arrived at the shelters too late when they emerged the next morning.
The old fallout shelters were cleaned out during the Carter Administration, the biscuits fed to the hogs in Nebraska. Some survive with collectors, and biscuits were tested at Brigham Young University and found to still be viable. I have a CD chemical toilet, mostly for memorabilia. We have modern chemical toilets in our shelters. The Clinton Administration destroyed $200 million worth of the Victoreen fallout meters that still remained in the hands of state authorities. We rescued about 1,000 of them from Arizona. Many still work. I would agree that a shelter stay in the old public fallout shelters would be a real trial. The protection value was not very good, and conditions inside would be awful. But the German shelters were occupied at six times their rated capacity….occupants were packed inside like Japanese commuter trains. They slept all night standing up….one couldn’t fall down. Air was very bad, despite ventilation systems…they were overcrowded. But they lived another day.
As we now have a nuclear stockpile that the DOE refuses to certify as safe and reliable, and being that we can no longer manufacture new warheads to replace the long-obsolete (expired) warheads, I wonder how long we will continue to ignore the growing nuclear threat from abroad. Putin is building several new classes of nuclear subs, and new road-mobile, hard target capable ICBMs…..like this one. (http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/russia/rs-24.htm) The older, hard target killers like the SS-18 are getting upgrades to keep them in service for another decade, oddly, by the Ukrainians that manufactured them. Though and old liquid-fueled rocket, the SS-18 has never experienced a launch failure. A far better record than the Minuteman or Titan.
In our current state of vulnerability, it is important to realize that if the worst should happen, we are all on our own. No help is coming, no one is going to rope down from an orange Coast Guard chopper to save us. In the end, you are either ready, or you are not.
By Eugene P. Wigner – (Nov. 1902 – Jan. 1995) Renowned physicist and civil defense analyst. Won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1963.
(NOTE: This article was originally published in one of TACDA’s first issues of the Journal of Civil Defense – forty-six years ago, June 1968. It is interesting that, even after all these years, the message, the concern, and the question remains the same.)
I have often tried to explain the need for a vigorous civil defense effort, why and how such an effort would go far in preserving peace and how it could save many millions of lives if war should come nevertheless. “Why Civil Defense?” would be an apt title for this subject because we want the civil defense effort to be strong and vigorous. But my subject is also the opposite: “Why No Civil Defense?”. What are the roadblocks? Why isn’t the civil defense effort as strong and effective as we would like it to be? Why is there not a popular demand for it? There are, it seems to me, three principal reasons for this .
The first reason is the power of the anti-civil defense establishment. What provides this strength? What are the motives of the establishment?
There are, of course, those who would like to see our country become a second or third-rate power, the nakedness and vulnerability of its people forcing its government to accede to the demands of those governments whose people are better protected or who care less for human life . Persons who have these desires are, however, small in number, and they contribute but very little to the undeniably very great strength of the anti-civil defense establishment. Can this establishment muster valid arguments against civil defense? I think it can, and this is the reason for citing this cause for our lagging civil defense efforts as the first of my “principal reasons”.
If we install shelters, store food and other supplies, we make preparations against an attack on our country. Such preparations naturally set us apart from those against whose attack we protect ourselves and render it more difficult to develop a true friendship between the governments of communist countries and ourselves. This is the theory of Festinger, often derided by social scientists, but I do think there is something to it even if not in the extreme form propounded by Festinger. It is, of course, true that the hate propaganda of the other side also interferes with the development of the true friendship, and it is sad – very sad – that this is never criticized by the anti-civil defense establishment.
The second reason why the civil defense effort is not more vigorous and why there is not more public demand for it is that it is unpleasant to think about disasters, particularly disasters as severe as nuclear war. Let us note that insurance policies offering compensation in case of fire are called fire insurance policies, but that the policies protecting our families in case of our death are called life insurance policies. No similarly euphemistic name has been invented for civil defense, and it would not help much if one were invented. Building shelters would remind us in any case of a great and terrible calamity that could befall us, and we all are reluctant to think about such calamities. Why dig a hole in the ground where one may have to live for weeks if one can, instead, walk in the sunshine? We have a tradition for work, and many of us enjoy it, but we do not have a tradition of thinking about disasters which may strike us. However, whereas our reluctance to face the temporary nature of our sojourn in this world does not, as a rule, shorten our lives, our reluctance to protect ourselves may bring war nearer.
The third reason that we do not take civil defense very seriously is that we are all too conceited. Sure, other people have been stricken by disasters, other nations have been wiped out or subjugated. But this cannot happen to us, we say. It is not even decent to think about it . I once went to see the now deceased Albert Thomas, who prevented a good deal of civil defense legislation from being enacted in the House of Representatives. He listened to me for a few minutes and then said: “Take it easy, young man, take it easy. This country is so strong it does not need any civil defense.” Most of us would express this self-defeating doctrine less clearly and less bluntly than did Mr. Thomas. But what he said is present in the minds of all of us. On a peaceful day like today, when we are absorbed by so many more pleasant thoughts, is it not unreasonable to think about some country attacking us with nuclear weapons?
In a very real sense, I believe, it will be a test of the democratic ideal whether our people can resist burying their heads in sand or not, whether or not they, can muster the foresight and maturity to carry out the unpleasant and unpopular task of protecting themselves, their country, and their freedom against dangers which seem far away. Nothing but illusory comfort can be gained by closing our eyes to these dangers.
By Josh Lemon
“Bad things happen. As much as we might wish otherwise, close friends and relatives die, painful things happen to our bodies, there are natural disasters and war, and sometimes people do senselessly horrible things to other people.” – George Bonanno and Anthony Mancini.
The recent devastation of Hurricane Sandy crossed over 24 different states in the US alone. Damages to homes, businesses, and cities totaled over $65 billion. While natural disasters are fairly common across the country, this single hurricane left hundreds of thousands of families homeless and, in many cases, separated. Stories are still surfacing depicting the feelings of hopelessness and dread that parents felt as they lost contact with their children, the silence lasting for weeks in many instances. As cleanup commenced, parents across the country raised questions regarding the appropriate way to discuss this life altering disaster with their children and those they came in contact with.
The popular children’s television show, Sesame Street, was one of the first to respond. Elmo was sent onto “The Brian Lehrer Show” to provide a sense of comfort and hope. The show also released a series directed at helping children and parents through the emotional aftermath of natural disasters. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network provided simple activities and learning activities for parents to do with children as an educational tool to increase understanding and familiarity. FEMA and The Red Cross have also included sections on addressing the emotional impacts of natural disasters and reducing fear and trauma in these times.
While these resources have proven beneficial for many, the question at the forefront of each and every parents’ mind still concerns their own children and loved ones. What should parents do in the little time before a natural disaster strikes to prepare their children emotionally? And how do they properly work through the aftereffects of these disasters which then surface in the nightmares of their children? The following tips will help through this process with your own children before and after stressful and traumatic events.
Explain the Facts and Listen
Using language your child is able to comprehend, explain what is going on. This does not mean to recount every gruesome and horrific detail, but understanding what is happening, why it is happening, and where the next step is provides a base for children to grasp on to. Do not lie to your children. Once this has been established, be prepared for questions, fears, concerns, and for the consistent and constant repetition of these. To overcome traumatic events emotionally, your child must first come to understand and accept what it is. With age comes a quicker ability to comprehend and internalize.
Create a Positive and Open Environment
The way you respond to stress and trauma will show your children how they should respond. Maintain a sense of calm, no matter the circumstances. There will likely come a time when you are not able to portray this. When that time comes, fake it. Make sure they know you love them and that these circumstances are not their fault. Show them your love by being present and approachable. Focus on the blessings in your life. Recognize their fears and do all in your power to calm and comfort them. Children may show signs of trauma for years after an event and what you do or don’t do directly influences the time it takes for them to get through it.
Be Consistent and Adaptable
Children thrive in a scheduled environment. Younger children in particular should have set times throughout the day where specific events should happen; meal time, nap time, art time, play time, quiet time and so on. To the best of your ability, create a schedule that works for you and stick to it. The consistency provides a sense of safety and familiarity. It is likely that unforeseen events will arise that will interfere with this set schedule. Adapt to it, but be honest and open with your children along the way about what is happening to the schedule and why it needs to happen. This will decrease the time it takes for them to adjust to bumps in the road.
Recognize Changes in Behavior
Traumatic and stressful events tend to force children into a state of regression. Their behaviors may become more difficult and less characteristic of where they previously were. These responses are normal and will improve with time. Set firm limits and basic family rules. Spend time to understand and recognize what triggers your children and initiates the inappropriate behaviors. These are excellent moments for reassurance, learning, and improvement. Just as important, recognize what triggers you have as well so you are able to maintain your composure and consistency.
Spend Quality Time Together
You, as the parent, are the greatest sign of peace to your children. Spend time with them. Show them you can be happy through difficult times. Smile. Play age appropriate games together and invite conversation. Find activities that will steer their focus away from the stressful, frightening environment that may be ensuing around them. They will feel a sense of security and time will pass faster. This will also help create positive memories to take place of the negative ones which will help in future times of stress and fear.
It is important to remember that your children will all respond differently to the events at hand. What works for one will likely not work in the exact same manner for the next. It will take diligence on your part to ensure the proper emotional responses from your children by walking them through the darkness step by step. While you cannot remove your children from stressful and traumatic situations, you can provide them with an appropriate response in difficult times to lessen the impact and learn from the trials. Overcoming these hardships may be the end result, but the process of doing so is what children will remember and return to in times of need.