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The Real Risks of Fire

By Jay Whimpey, PE, TACDA Board Member

firemen at housefire

Fire Safety and Survival

There are over 360,000 house fires in the United States every year with a substantial number of injuries and deaths. Eighty percent of the deaths and injuries occur in residential structures, with most of those fatalities occurring while those people are asleep. We can reduce the risk of death or injuries by fire through understanding how and where fires start and how to prevent the fires and ensure prompt notification if a fire occurs.

Studies of fires during emergency situations show a substantial increased risk because of the frequency and severity of fires when individuals and families are using cooking and heating methods that are less familiar and more hazardous than they normally use. The principles and methods for preventing fires and protecting ourselves apply both in our everyday lives and emergency situations.

Asphyxiation, or lack of oxygen, causes most fatalities in fires. A fire is dangerous because of the direct exposure to heat and flames that can burn us, super-heated air that can damage the lungs and breathing passages, inhalation of toxic smoke and gases, and simple lack of oxygen. Calculations show that a typical house with 2000 square feet of living space with 8-foot ceilings has 16,000 cubic feet of air and 20.8% of that air by weight is oxygen. At normal conditions, there is roughly one pound of air in 13 cubic feet. So, there are about 1,230 pounds of total air and about 260 pounds of oxygen in the house. If a fire starts and begins to use that oxygen to support the combustion, it only has to use about half of the oxygen before a human would be largely incapacitated and incapable of escape due to lack of oxygen. A human will lose consciousness and die when an additional 5% of the oxygen is gone. When most materials or fuels burn, they use roughly two pounds of oxygen for each pound of fuel. This includes most carpets, plastics, and wood furniture. So, a fire only has to burn 65 pounds of fuel before it is impossible for people in the house to save themselves from the advancing fire. That corresponds to the weight of a single piece of relatively small furniture or a moderate section of carpet.

In an underground shelter that is 10-feet in diameter and 50-feet long there is only 4000 cubic feet of air and it would only take 16 pounds of fuel burning to make the entire shelter deadly to any occupants.

Studies have indicated the average house today can overwhelm the inhabitants by asphyxiation in roughly two minutes once a fire starts because of the fast burning nature of many of the materials that we use for making carpets, furniture, and electrical appliances. The cotton, wood, and wool that we formerly used to make carpet and furniture have been replaced by nylons, polyesters, and other plastics that burn much more readily. The solid wood that was formerly used in furniture has been replaced by plywood and particle board which contain a substantial amount of highly combustible glue or resins. Prompt notification of a fire, especially when we are asleep, is critical to survival.

Fire Prevention and Elimination

The most common type of fire in the home is caused by cooking on a stove top. Of course, most of the fires are small and can be contained quite easily. The fire inside a pan can be snuffed immediately but we should remember to keep a pan lid within easy reach while cooking. A small fire blanket is another option for fires that have spread beyond the pan but are still contained on the cook top. The use of salt or baking soda is also useful but we should be careful not to spread the flaming materials while applying the salt or baking soda. Other combustible powders such as wheat flour or sugar will feed and spread the fire. A fire extinguisher is also useful but can possibly spread the fire if not used properly. The cook top should always be attended to prevent small fires from growing.

Electrical appliances can also be the source of a fire. A loose electrical connection where the resistance at a connection can generate heat and start a fire on the wiring insulation and surrounding combustibles. A short in the power supply or transformer can also create heat and start a fire. The fires that may have been largely contained in the steel case of the appliances in the past are now able to spread to the plastic on circuit boards and electrical leads and then on to the plastic housing. It reduces risk to unplug appliances when not in use and reducing the overall number of appliances that we use. For example, we should carefully consider whether we need an electric can opener. Such appliances have started fires before.

The use of candles, lanterns, and heaters with a live flame should be minimized and such devices should never be left unattended. Fuel should be stored in a separate area and the fuel should not be added to the devices when they are hot. Fueling should preferably be done outside.

Electrical outlets should not be overloaded and the connections on power strips and other electrical distribution equipment should be cleaned regularly. The dust buildup behind cabinets and entertainment centers where there are electrical connections should be cleaned to control dust buildup. Inspect electrical connectors for signs of heat or poor connections.

The storage of fuels and other chemicals in the garage or utility areas of the house should be minimized. The dryer vent and dryer itself should be cleaned regularly to clear lint and other combustibles. The storage of combustible materials in the laundry and utility areas of the house should be minimized.

Bathroom fans should periodically be cleaned and inspected.

Fire Response

It should be emphasized that the primary responsibility of everyone in the house is to get out of the house as quickly as possible if there is a fire. To that end, an escape plan should be prepared that includes designating multiple escape routes for every room in the house, a single meeting area outside the home, and plan to notify the emergency response personnel. It is important to discuss and demonstrate the plan for younger members of the family and make sure they can actually open windows and exit the window openings if that is part of the plan.

Proper equipment should be stationed at appropriate areas such as fire extinguishers near the doors. Fire blankets should be provided near the kitchen for smothering kitchen fires and other fires where appropriate. A wooden bat or similar tool should be provided to help open windows where appropriate. A fire can create a significant vacuum draft in a home when it finds a place to vent and that can put a negative pressure on widows, making them difficult to open. Thus, a wooden bat for breaking the windows, if necessary, should be stationed near the windows designated for escape. A step stool near the window can help to egress the window and a flexible ladder for the outside of the window, if the window is on the second story of the structure, are also advisable. Special locator stickers should be placed on bedroom windows to notify emergency responders or even neighbors where people in the house normally sleep. The stickers can save time in rescuing the people in the house by directing the response to the right rooms.

Fire Alarm Equipment

The most important pieces of fire equipment for protecting the people in the house are the smoke, heat, and carbon monoxide detectors. The people in the house must rely almost entirely on the detectors while they sleep. As stated earlier in this article, the lack of oxygen kills or incapacitates most victims in their sleep and they die in their beds with no chance to escape.

The most disturbing information about the common smoke detectors in most homes is that they do not work in a timely fashion in many actual fires. The documentation that accompanies most ionizing smoke detectors indicate that they will not work in up to 35% of all fires. There is also a substantial amount of information enumerating the situations and types of fires where the detectors would not be expected to work that seem designed to limit the amount of liability for the manufacturers.

Actual studies have found that the ionizing smoke detectors do not work in roughly 55% of actual fires. They do work many times when the toaster burns a piece of toast or when food is broiled leading to a false sense of security, but when it comes to a real fire burning the actual furnishings or carpets in a house that produce fewer larger particles than when the toast burns, they do not warn the occupants in the structure in time to allow them to escape. Please refer to a short video on YouTube called “When Seconds Count” for some additional information and accounts of testing and actual fires where the smoke detectors failed to provide adequate warning.

To corroborate the findings of several other studies, I conducted some testing on available fire alarms from three different manufacturers. Two ionizing smoke detectors and one combination ionizing smoke detector and CO detector were subjected to some informal testing. Fires with various fuels such as wood, particle board, carpet, and electrical cords with vinyl insulation were established in a portable fire pit about 30 inches in diameter. All three detectors were placed in the smoke plume about 36” above the fire for a period of up to two minutes. The results varied but there were several instances where the detectors failed to trigger when placed directly in the smoke plumes. Even the newest smoke and CO detector failed to trigger after a full two minutes in the electrical cord fire that had the most noticeable black smoke. All the detectors triggered in at least some of the tests after being in the smoke for only 10 seconds which added some validity to the test method, but the findings confirmed that the results were varied and the smoke detectors were not entirely reliable.

There are optical smoke detectors on the market today that are substantially more reliable than the ionizing smoke detectors in most homes. They have been manufactured since the 1970’s and there has never been a fatality from a fire where they have been employed. Applied Fire Technologies of Coppell, Texas manufactures a line of smoke, carbon monoxide, and heat sensors that network together so that every alarm on the local network sounds when one alarm is triggered, thus alerting everywhere in the home. The units have permanent batteries that last for up to 20 years and they run internal diagnostics continuously to ensure that they are operating correctly. They are normally installed by a company representative after an on-site review of each home. You can contact the company and find your local dealer by going to http://www.crossfirealarms.com and going to the “contact us” tab.

Fire extinguishers can be very useful once you have been alerted to a fire but they must be kept in good working order. They are normally fitted with a pressure gauge but they should also be checked to ensure that the powdered fire-retardant material has not solidified. The condition of the fire retardant can be checked by testing the weight balance when the fire extinguisher is gently turned on the side and most of the retardant should be at the bottom. Then the extinguisher can be pushed on its side from a vertical position on a soft carpeted surface. If the horizontal weight balance changes substantially after the “fall” on its side then it can be assumed that the retardant is still loose inside and the fire extinguisher has a high probability of working appropriately when required.

Summary

The images we see on television and in the movies with bright flames of a house on fire with people moving around inside the house and trying to rescue someone are very misleading. Most actual house fires create an environment with thick smoke so that you cannot see anything and acrid and toxic smoke, where an individual cannot maintain consciousness for more than a few seconds. We need to prepare to survive by minimizing the risk of a fire starting with installing the appropriate alarm equipment in place to ensure that we can escape during the early stages while it is possible.

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The Military: making a difference

A not so well known story from the Pentagon on 9-11-2011 (Author Unknown)

Military Man Hugs Daughter

During a visit with a fellow chaplain, who happened to be assigned to the Pentagon, I had a chance to hear a first-hand account of an incident that happened right after Flight 77 hit the Pentagon. The chaplain told me what happened at a day care center near where the impact occurred.

This day care had many children, including infants who were in heavy cribs. The day care supervisor, looking at all the children they needed to evacuate, was in a panic over what they could do. There were many children, mostly toddlers, as well as the infants that would need to be taken out with the cribs. There was no time to try to bundle them into carriers and strollers. Just then a young Marine came running into the center and asked what they needed. After hearing what the center director was trying to do, he ran back out into the hallway and disappeared. The director thought, ‘well, there we are—on our own.’

About two minutes later, that Marine returned with 40 other Marines in tow. Each of them grabbed a crib with a child, and the rest started gathering up toddlers. The director and her staff then helped them take all the children out of the center and down toward the park near the Potomac and the Pentagon. Once they got about 3/4 of a mile outside the building, the Marines stopped in the park, and then did a fabulous thing – they formed a circle with the cribs, which were quite sturdy and heavy, like the covered wagons in the Old West. Inside this circle of cribs, they put the toddlers, to keep them from wandering off. Outside this circle were the 40 Marines, forming a perimeter around the children and waiting for instructions. There they remained until the parents could be notified and come get their children.

The chaplain then said, “I don’t think any of us saw nor heard of this on any of the news stories of the day. It was an incredible story of our men there. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. The thought of those Marines and what they did and how fast they reacted; could we expect any less from them? It was one of the most touching stories from the Pentagon.

Remember Ronald Reagan’s great compliment: “Most of us wonder if our lives made any difference. Marines don’t have that problem.” God Bless the USA, our troops, and you. It’s the Military, not the reporter who has given us the freedom of the press. It’s the Military, not the poet, who has given us the freedom of speech. It’s the Military, not the politicians that ensures our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It’s the Military who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag.

If you care to offer the smallest token of recognition and appreciation for the military, please re-tell this story, and pray for our men and women who have served and are currently serving our country, and pray for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.

History of the 1960s Fallout Shelter Program

NRDL039

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.

Christmas Safety Tips

Christmas house 2012 010

The staff and volunteers at the Red Cross offer these safety tips to help keep the season safe, happy and bright.

1. Prepare your vehicle for traveling to grandmother’s house. Build an emergency kit and include items such as blankets, jumper cables, road maps, shovel and extra clothing.

2. Drive your sleigh and reindeer safely. Avoid driving in a storm. If you must travel in bad weather, let someone know where you are going and when you expect to arrive.

3. Help prevent the spread of the flu. Stay home if you’re sick. Wash hands with soap and water as often as possible, or use an alcohol-based hand rub.

4. Follow Santa’s fashion lead — dress in layers. When it’s cold outside, layered lightweight clothing will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat.

5. Use a trained baby sitter when attending holiday festivities. Red Cross-certified baby sitters learn to administer basic first aid, properly hold and feed a child and monitor safe play.

6. Avoid danger while roasting chestnuts on an open fire. Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen even for a short period of time, turn off the stove.

7. Be a lifesaver during the holidays. The Red Cross recommends that at least one person in every household have first aid and CPR/AED training.

8. Designate a driver or skip the holiday cheer. Buckle up, slow down, don’t drive impaired.

9. When the weather outside is frightful, heat your home safely. Never use your stove or oven to heat your home. Never leave portable heaters or fireplaces unattended. Install smoke alarms!

10. Cut down on your heating bills without being a Grinch. Get your furnace cleaned and change the filters. Make sure your furniture isn’t blocking the heat vents.

11. Going home for the holidays? Travel safely. Give your full attention to the road — avoid distractions such as cellphones.

12. Resolve to Be Red Cross Ready in the New Year. Get ready now for emergencies in the coming year.

Shared from: http://www.greatfallstribune.com/story/news/local/2014/12/22/safety-tips-christmas/20748435/

Fallout Shelters

iStock_falloutsheltersign

TACDA received the following email from a concerned citizen:

Hello,

Due to heightened world tensions I recently contacted Emergency Services here in Lane County Oregon to see if we had any public fallout shelters near my town of Florence. I was surprised to discover the public shelter program no longer exists. They didn’t even know if there were any suitable buildings that could be used in a pinch. Having been raised in the 60’s I remember those yellow shelter signs.

My question is are you aware of any members of congress or public officials who would support starting a shelter program again. So far when I have brought this up officials either don’t want to talk about it, make me feel like some kind of nut or pretend interest. My local Senator Merkly sits on the FEMA committee and I brought this up with him but interest is low. FEMA wouldn’t even answer a letter. So I’m searching for officials who might be pro shelter programs to lend support or at least get some discussion going. Any help appreciated.

Thanks,

Dave P.

Here is our response:  (written by Paul Seyfried and Sharon Packer – http://www.utahsheltersystems.com/)

Dear Dave,

We have found it to be almost impossible to find government officials who would be interested in revamping our national shelter program.  One city, Huntsville in Madison County, Alabama, under the direction of Kirk Paradise (unfortunately now deceased), revitalized its fallout shelter program in 2006.  It was an amazing effort.  I have attached a report he made for the Physicians for Civil Defense. (Kirk’s attachment will follow.) I’m not sure if they have kept this program current or not.  He served on our TACDA Board of Directors for several years before his death in May of 2012.

TACDA exists for the education and enlightenment of the public to national threats and mitigation efforts.  We are convinced that until the conversion of the general public to civil defense brings a public outcry, there will not be officials who will support the funding of such a program.   It is our hope, that folks like you will spread the civil defense message and help in the accomplishment of that goal.  Most government officials want to please their constituents, and they will only support popular efforts that will help them to retain their office.

TACDA encourages the building of private shelters, but does not (and cannot) recommend one company over another.  Sheltering in place appears to be the most practical option.  A  fallout shelter can quite easily be incorporated into a basement room.  Stand alone underground shelters, however, would be required for full NBC protection (fallout, blast, thermal chemcal/biological and EMP effects).   Public shelters in the U.S. were basically fallout shelters, only, with minimal blast protection.  The U.S. never did advocate shelters built to the Swiss standard.

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.  LBJ 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% 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 (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 as possible 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 offshore at Washington DC, programmed for a depressed flight trajectory, would arrive on target in just a few 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.  The power drop from an EMP would be the only warning the general public would perceive, and ‘in place’ sheltering the only chance of survival when living in close proximity{F to primary targets (targets with retaliatory capability).

[Russia will have 80% of it’s strategic nuclear missile force on road and rail-mobile launch vehicles by 2015.  Its 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 Kamchatcka 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 (and are) to be housed in hardened bunkers, designed for high over pressures.  We know how to protect people from WMD, we just don’t do it for the taxpayer.

Sharon Packer (TACDA Board Member), Paul Seyfried (TACDA Advisory Committee)

Document by Kirk Paradise, Plans Coordinator:

Huntsville in Madison County, Alabama, is revitalizing its Fallout Shelter Program. The program consists of three parts: shelters; plans and training and monitoring equipment. Huntsville-Madison County Emergency Management Agency has identified Fallout Shelters for both the general public and selected hospitals and clinics under the DHS Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS) program.

The program requires the 124 MMRS cities in the nation to prepare against the effects of a Radiological Dispersion Device (RDD) and a postulated 10 kiloton detonation of either an Improvised Nuclear Device or a nuclear warhead. Preparedness levels are based on population; in the case of Huntsville, it is 7,500 fatalities, 25,000 casualties and 100,000 displaced persons. The medical community can manage the fatalities and casualties but a sheltering program for displaced persons is beyond the scope of hospitals and clinics. Pacing displaced persons in Red Cross-type shelters with no or unknown radiation protection from radiation would leave them vulnerable to high level radiation exposures.

Starting in 2005, Huntsville devised and followed a two-prong solution. First, five MMRS medical facilities were identified which were judged to afford protection from radiation. At the same time, based on fallout shelter survey records kept locally on file since the 1960s and federal records which have not been updated since 1992, over 100 previously surveyed public shelters were identified for the general public. Over time, many of the previously surveyed shelters have been razed, burned or otherwise no longer exist. To counter this loss, thirty buildings in the county also judged to afford protection from radiation were identified and added to the list of the five MMRS medical facilities. Permission to survey all these facilities was sought and obtained and a Civil Engineer was contracted to perform the surveys. The engineer used FEMA formulas and procedures to calculate the “Fallout Protection Factor” in the different areas of each building. Once surveyed, the thirty public Fallout Shelters were added to the existing list; the list totals about 150 usable shelters with an aggregate capacity of about 300,000 persons. Madison County’s population is just shy of 300,000 persons. Permission has been sought from the previously surveyed buildings and about 60% have granted permission so far.

The life-savings qualities of a Fallout Shelter are useless unless people know how to use them. For this purpose, the Huntsville-Madison County Emergency Management Agency developed a Fallout Shelter Guide, a brief plan with checklists to enable a Shelter Manager to quickly select and train a Shelter Management Team to accommodate the needs of the shelter population and enable them to survive in the shelter until they are either rescued/evacuated or it is safe to emerge. Two Fallout Shelter Management Courses were developed and presented. One was for the MMRS medical facilities and was presented in August, 2006. The second was for Public Fallout Shelters. Four sessions of the 8-hour course were held in January, 2007. All MMRS medical facilities and about half the public shelters now have trained shelter staff. In addition, personnel from the Army’s Redstone Arsenal (adjoins Huntsville in Madison County) attended the training. The Arsenal and its major tenant, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, each have several dozen previously surveyed Fallout Shelters with an aggregate capacity of 60,000+ persons. None of the shelters are stocked with any survival supplies or equipment other than what might happen to be there. If activated, the public will be instructed to bring essential supplies: at least one gallon of water per person; personal needs; clothing; bedding and food for an expected shelter stay of perhaps a few days up to two weeks. Purposeful leadership is essential in shelters to organize and motivate people – perhaps entering a shelter bringing nothing but a few supplies but lots of anxiety and fear – into a community capable of group survival.

To provide a radiological monitoring capacity for all the shelters, the Huntsville-Madison County Emergency Management Agency stores a supply of the Civil Defense Radiological Monitoring kits from the 1960s. These kits are still maintained and calibrated by the Alabama Emergency Management Agency. Alabama is one of a few states that has an active maintenance and calibration program for its radiological monitoring instruments. For the MMRS Medical facilities, new, specialized equipment is being procured.

The Fallout Shelter program in Huntsville, which is currently the only jurisdiction in the United States known to be revitalizing its program, will allow MMRS medical facilities to continue medial operations in a high radiation environment and provides for the protection of the general public. The MMRS medical facilities can move operations and patients/staff/families to areas that offer excellent quality protection from high level radiation. The public can go to public Fallout Shelters that will greatly reduce their exposures and where their needs can be met. With protection from radiation and purposeful leadership, people in both types of shelters would emerge as survivors, ready to be part of a national recovery and not be left as just helpless victims of a terror attack. Efforts will continue to gain permission from owners of additional shelters and to schedule more training courses in the future.

© Copyright 1991-2006 Physicians for Civil Defense. All Rights Reserved

Location, Location, Location!

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By Paul Seyfried and Sharon Packer (www.utahsheltersystems.com)

Tips to know when starting your fallout shelter …

Choose your underground (UG) site carefully.  The first attribute for a good shelter location is an area with a low water table- that is, an area where you can dig a trench 18 to 20 feet deep without hitting ground water.  In many areas, the water table can vary by seasonal rainfall (areas subject to hurricanes fall into this category).

Rocky Soil:

Rocky soil will work, but it can add time and expense to the excavation.  The soil on our remote site is very rocky.  We were taking out rocks the size of a small Volkswagen.  Never back fill with large rocks. If you have solid rock you will need to blast (which is very expensive but doable).   Gravely type soil is fine and drains well.

Wet Soil:

Wet soil of any kind, is a total non-starter. Spring excavations will show you the most likely ‘high water’ level. For installations later in the year, carefully estimate the high water level of the soil.   If you reach wet soil during excavation, back fill to a safe, dry soil level before installing the shelter. If you need more cover for warmth or radiation protection, mound the dirt to make a hill over the shelter.  In areas of potential blast or high winds, make sure the slope of the mound does not exceed 30 degrees.

Hills & Valleys:

We would suggest that you look for an area that is not at the bottom of a vast slope. When placed in these locations, over a period of hours to days, the water that has collected over a shelter will super-saturate the soil and find any imperfection in the integrity of the shelter, and come inside.  When a shelter is located up-slope, on high ground, the rain will run AWAY from the shelter and not saturate the soil deep underground (unless the soil is 100% sand).  In short, high ground is good – low ground, not good.

We have built “submarines”, where the entire shelter is below the water line, but they are welded plate shelters (steel fuel tanks), with solid steel pipe entrances.  Submarine shelters must be held in place by heavy steel straps that are anchored into concrete.  Steel plate shelters are heavy and harder to handle in the hole.  A 48” diameter entrance elbow made of corrugated pipe may weigh 250 pounds, where a 1/2 inch walled steel pipe entrance will weigh thousands of pounds.  Water problems can be dealt with, but they increase costs, and the shelter components are more difficult to assemble on the job site. Keep in mind that wet soil and clay type soils do not ‘arch’ and will compromise your blast protection.

Clay Soil:

Clay type soils hold water for a long time.  When this type of soil is saturated, your underground structure is not only holding up the weight of the soil, but also of the water it holds. Clay soils are not even recommended for use against concrete foundations, as clay creeps and moves, and will eventually crack concrete walls.

In clay excavations, water will collect in and around the disturbed areas and the clay will hold the water, forming a “swimming pool” effect. Clay soils will require a good drainage system, such as a French drain.

Always consult a good soil engineer before installing your underground shelter. When installing in clay, soil Engineers often recommend that you totally remove the clay overburden, fill with crushed rock up to about 3 feet or so of grade and then apply engineer’s fill or road base for another couple of feet before applying a top soil layer.  A layer of sediment screen over the crushed rock before the engineer’s fill goes in will protect your French drains from becoming clogged in the future.

We surveyed a shelter (not one of ours) that was buried in red clay soil in Virginia about six months ago, and it was near collapse when we looked at it.  In addition to the clay soil present, the site was located in a large bowl- about 300 acres worth- so that all the rain in the world drained down to where the shelter was installed. Location, location, location!  Parts of the shelter may possibly be saved if they remove the clay and replace it with engineer’s fill and crushed rock … something that will arch. The crushed rock will arch well, even when wet.  Clay does not arch well, even when dry.

Deformation of Shelter:

Some deformation of the end caps/bulkheads in steel shelters is completely normal and expected.  We know this will happen and we locate the bolt pattern holding the air handler brackets in a close, square pattern knowing that the strut will lift away from the end cap upon backfill. We plan for this when installing the deck (that’s why the deck does not contact the end caps) and the ventilation intake pipe. Corrugated pipe is not a particularly accurate cylinder, as it is wound in a spiral format, like a paper towel tube.  Some deviation in the diameter dimensions is very normal. Most of them seem to come out a little larger on the ends than in the middle – but not always.

We recommend using a large track hoe (size 290 to 330) instead of a backhoe.  The track hoe will get the job done much more quickly, and time is money.  It also provides a huge safety factor when digging a deep installation.  Never, ever, use a Bob Cat to back fill your shelter.

Pick your location carefully.  Don’t be in a hurry.  Dig a test hole and do a perk test.  It will more than pay for its self in the long run—and NEVER back fill with clay.