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By W. E. Manry, Jr., M.D .
Published in the Journal of Civil Defense; October 1987
(Dr. W. E. “Bill” Manry looks at American civil defense without the soporific “benefits” of apathy, wishful thinking and procrastination. This leads him to some shocking conclusions about the fate of his fellowman when the nuclear chips are down. Here he prescribes bitter but best available action in the absence of timely and meaningful citizen survival measures by government or utilization of self-help shelter measures.)
It is obvious that no significant civil defense protection for the population of the United States is in prospect any time soon. Perhaps we don’t need it soon, but I’m reminded of a Labor Day conversation that I had with several people in 1939. Up until then we had been hearing more and more bluster about militarism in Germany, and my friends admitted that Germany was certainly getting strong militarily, but insisted that Hitler could not possibly be ready yet to undertake a major war. In other words, we didn’t have to worry yet. That was the day Hitler’s troops moved into Poland.
Maybe Russia is not ready yet – but how will we know?
Clearly, in the next few years we are not going to have public shelters to any worthwhile degree. Further, no matter how hard we try, we apparently are not even able to get significant numbers of people to pay attention to the possibility of nuclear attack, let alone make some basic plans for it.
What can we do with the very negligible amount of money now being allowed for the Civil Defense Program? If we do nothing we can predict very emphatically that without any warning, or even with a day or two warning, that the entire population of the country will panic completely.
During this interval, immediately after blast, those who have not been killed or seriously injured have that one major danger: gamma radiation from fallout. Those in an area where all structures have been demolished must move as rapidly as possible outside of that circumference to large buildings and go to the lowest middle portions of these structures. Those outside the blast zone must still worry about fallout and they too should go to the middle of their homes and struggle through as best they can. They will always be much safer there than running around outdoors in the initial high radiation interval, trying to find a better place of protection. Time permitting, expedient shelter is a good alternative.
A house with no advance preparation at all can provide protection simply by keeping fallout deposits at the greatest possible distance from the inhabitants. Radiation diminishes as the square of the distance from the source, so that the safest place for anybody will be at the furthest distance he can get from the radioactive dust. Intervening insulating materials (building a “shelter inside a . . . A WAY TO TAKE THE BLINDFOLDS OFF POLITICAL LEADERSHIP. shelter”) can be of great help – books on tables, heavy appliances and materials to reduce radiation, etc. There will be some areas in which the radiation is so intense that even with it diminishing by the square of the distance, the inhabitants at the central portion of the building will still get lethal doses. On the other hand, in a very large percentage of homes the radioactive dust that settles will be of lesser intensity.
There are very reliable estimates that even in quite heavily radioactive areas, the radiation danger will have essentially subsided by two weeks after the blast.
Accordingly, survivors must have a minimum amount of potable water for a total of two weeks’ time. It would also be good to have food during that time but almost nobody will starve to death for lack of food over a two-week period.
So, there are two things that we can try for with limited government finances:
- Convey to the people the importance of staying indoors for possibly 2 weeks. Advance educational promotion of this idea is worthwhile – if we can get people’s attention. (Regardless of any success in this education effort, there should be provided to every radio and TV station, detailed material to be announced when needed that is consistent with the principles we are talking about.)
- Promote storage of water in homes. These are simple and basic. All other considerations become quickly more complicated -worthwhile but expensive. These are high priority items to give attention to while we try to find a way to take the blindfolds off our political leadership.
Watch this story about Peter Larson (a good friend to TACDA board members) on National Geographic’s TV show “Doomday Preppers”.
Peter Larson is a recognized expert in the field of Prepping. His unique brand of planning, training and preparing helps Peter stand out as a voice of reason amongst conspiracy theorists, renegades, anarchists and all around crazies.
The following is a letter from President John F. Kennedy to the members of Congress and read by Stewart Pittman
October 6, 1961
I was gratified to learn of the productive meeting of the Committee on Civil Defense of the Governors’ Conference on September 17 in the Pentagon. The basis was well laid for continuing and close cooperation between your committee and all of us concerned with the federal civil defense program.
There is need for a nationwide understanding of what each level of government, each private organization and each citizen can do to bring about and maintain the best attainable protection for the civilian population against the major effects of a thermonuclear attack. Information is in preparation which I will use to inform the American people on what individuals should know and can do for their own protection. In the meantime, your committee may wish to inform the Governors of the goal towards which the Federal Government, the state governments, industry and other institutions in the United States should work.
In simple terms, this goal is to reach for fallout protection for every American as rapidly as possible. Radioactive fallout, extending down-wind for as much as several hundred miles, could account for the major part of the casualties which might result from a thermonuclear attack on an unprotected population. Protection against this threat is within reach of an informed America willing to face the facts and act.
The Federal Government is moving forward to bring into operation fallout shelter space for large groups of people under very austere conditions. Many homeowners, communities and business firms can and will provide more adequate and better located shelter space for their own needs. The Federal Government is backing this effort with a massive dissemination of technical information. In addition, we will inform those who cannot afford costly structures on low-cost methods of improvising shielding against fallout radiation. The people of this country will be urged, by me, by the Governors and by other leaders to do what is within their means.
The state governments have a vital role to play in accelerating attainment of the goal of full fallout protection. Shelter can be provided in new construction of state and local public buildings. State and municipal laws and ordinances can be adapted to encourage private initiative in this effort. State and local leadership in organizing people to prepare, and communities to operate, during and immediately after an attack is a cornerstone of any successful civil defense effort.
I look forward to the closest cooperation between all levels of government in the United States to move rapidly towards this goal. Your committee is making a major contribution in stimulating participation by the state governments in the nationwide civil defense effort.
JOHN F. KENNEDY
By Edward Teller, Ph.D.
(published in the Journal of Civil Defense, Spring 1993)
I had just finished a delightful lunch with my grandson. At the end of it, he made a statement as horrible as it was surprising: “A few years ago,” he said, “I thought that the human race would not survive the 21st century. I have become more optimistic. There’s now a 50% chance.”
Is that what our children think? And their children? Is it this far that our fear of innovation of science, of the future, has escalated? To imagine the worst is all right as long as you couple your thoughts with the determination and the conviction that the worst can be averted.
We see now the beginnings of replacing confrontation between East and West by cooperation for mutual benefit. But it is true that the fear of a cataclysm of the big conflict is being, in fact, replaced by worry of conflict on a smaller scale. Indeed, proliferation of nuclear weapons continues as a possibility and proliferation of missiles is developing as a fact.
In view of the fear of a cataclysm, civil defense appeared as a necessity. One of my reasons for advocating it was my experience that a good beginning often has a one hundredfold payoff. And such a big payoff might even have sufficed.
Now, considering the properly reduced fears of my grandson, I will repeat my response to him. “I am firmly convinced that we will survive for better or for worse. I even predict that we shall survive for the better. To do this, we must continue to consider the worst. By being prepared for an attack from any part of the world, we may finally arrive at the state where violence between nations will have become as rare and as absurd as violence between individuals.
“But to do this, it will be of growing benefit to establish defenses against the possibilities of violence. The idea of a success of violence is the main reason why violence is still planned, particularly by those people to whom power is an ultimate goal rather than a heavy obligation.
“To me, the question is no longer whether civil defense will succeed. The only remaining question is whether the success of civil defense will have to be preceded by some bitter experiences or whether, for once, reason will suffice to produce protection.”
Hi. James here. I have a question for you:
I am in the beginning process of building a barn with a small 16 x 12 safe room in the basement. The walls will be poured concrete, 12” thick and I faced with 9” of stone. The ceiling is an 8” slab. I was opening that you could help me with the door and NBC system, as well as suggest what steps need to be taken to ensure I have properly planned for both the installations. Can you help me with this situation?
Sounds like a neat project! If you site your safe room in the corner away from the outside wall and next to solid earth (all the way to the top) the walls will likely be OK. My concern is the thickness of the ceiling. In Switzerland, bomb shelters are Federal building code…..everybody must have them. There are one million surplus shelter spaces there, and they are still building 500 shelters each month. Swiss shelter code is very explicit and well engineered for fallout protection and blast to three atmospheres (45 psi overpressure). Their ceilings are anywhere from 30 inches to a meter thick, heavily reinforced with lots of rebar. Depends on what other structure will be built on top, or how much additional earth will be added on top. Most communal shelters feature a meter of concrete and a meter of earth. I have lots of video we shot in Switzerland that show this. We also have the Swiss building code on a PDF that you can purchase from TACDA.
Vertical, walk in type doors let in a great deal of radiation. The Swiss use armored doors, which feature an eight -inch thick concrete door leaf. This door must be cast into the wall- retrofits are possible, but difficult.
Your emergency escape tunnel hatch should be made of solid steel and sit horizontally on the ground. DO NOT compromise your ceiling thickness with a hatch…..run a tunnel out twelve feet or so, and then go vertical for the hatch.
The Swiss concrete shelters with 36 inches of concrete in the ceiling (though good for fallout and blast) WILL NOT defeat initial radiation, which is present within 7500 feet of a nuclear detonation). At 3 atmospheres (45 psi), initial radiation could be a problem. But those Swiss shelters that have a meter of concrete over them, plus a meter of earth, will fare well.
An eight-inch concrete ceiling will provide a protection factor (PF) of only around ten. This will reduce your exposure to outside fallout type (gamma) radiation by only a factor of 11. My personal minimum is PF-250, which will require a 24 inch ceiling and/or wall between you and the radiation source. If the earth-side wall is completely below grade, then that wall only has to be ten inches thick. You can play around with the formula by using 2.7 inches of concrete for a halving thickness. Each 2.7 inches doubles the protection factor. Ten halving thicknesses provide a PF of 1,000. That’s 27 inches. PF1000 makes for a nice shelter that will provide a margin of safety if you get a rainout….that is, all the fallout that was jettisoned into the air by a local ground burst is scavenged from the atmosphere and returned to the ground instead of drifting hundreds of miles downwind. This can raise your exposure level outside the shelter from 1000 rads/hour to as high as 10,000 rads/hour. A PF250 shelter will probably not be enough in this scenario.
President of Utah Shelter Systems – www.utahsheltersystems.com