In the unlikely event of nuclear war

Preparedness can mitigate personal disaster in case of nuclear war
Preparedness can mitigate personal disaster in case of nuclear blast (infographic from cdc.gov)

While a nuclear detonation is unlikely, it would have devastating results and there would be limited time to take critical protection steps.  Despite the fear surrounding such an event, planning and preparation can lessen deaths and illness…”  This was the introduction to a highly anticipated Centers for Disease Control (cdc.gov) Grand Rounds on the health response to a nuclear detonation.  Unfortunately, the January 16th topic “Public Health Response to a Nuclear Detonation” was shelved to discuss the current flu epidemic.  Home owners want to know how to protect their homes and family in the unlikely event of nuclear war.

Living just outside Washington DC, it feels as if the anxiety for such as disaster has increased in recent months.  Many of you might wonder if there is anything you can do to save your homes and your families in the event of a nuclear war.  Like other potential disasters, preparedness can help mitigate personal disaster.

I had the opportunity to correspond with the Outreach Coordinator for Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, Joe Corona, CEM.  When asked if the county has a plan in case of a nuclear war, he stated “We’ve taken a look at what we would need during the unlikely scenario of a nuclear attack (i.e. plume modeling, evacuation planning, public messaging, recovery planning, etc.), and applied them to multiple situations, so that in the unlikely event of a nuclear attack, we’re able to look at the priorities and provide the most effective response that we can.”

Corona described the Montgomery County’s Emergency Operation Plan as an “all hazards framework” that is able to prepare, respond and recover from an incident “regardless of the type of event.”  He added, “Our focus is responding to community needs effectively regardless of the event, and to be able to quickly increase or direct resources in order to provide the maximum benefit to the community, with life safety always being the number one priority.”

In this unlikely scenario, what can you do to protect your home and family?

Prepare by creating a plan, and building an emergency kit.  Corona suggests tapping resources from agencies such as Ready.gov, The American Red Cross, Department of Homeland Security, Environmental Protection Agency, etc. to help you with your plan.  He recommends that you think about areas in your home that provide the best shielding from outdoor elements, and to “take steps now to prepare to shelter in place for longer periods of times.”  Corona suggests that you prepare at least three days of emergency supplies. However, in the unlikely case of nuclear war, you probably need to plan for “longer periods.”

Ready.gov (ready.gov/nuclear-blast) provides information on what to do before, during and after a nuclear blast.  Preparedness recommendations include building an emergency kit, make a family emergency plan, as well as identifying any designated fallout shelters in your community, and/or make a list of potential shelters near home, work and school.   “During periods of heightened threat,” you should have at least a two week emergency supply.

Corona recommends staying informed through Alert Montgomery (alert.montgomerycountymd.gov), noting that your chance for survival increases if you can act quickly.  “Alert Montgomery is the official emergency communications service for Montgomery County, MD. During a major crisis, emergency or severe weather event, Montgomery County officials can send event updates, warnings and instructions directly to you on any of your devices.

Check your homeowners or renter’s insurance coverage.  He stated, “In our responses, those who have insurance require so much less of the limited government resources and have tremendously more options through ‘loss of use’ provisions to seek alternate accommodations.  Photographing pre-conditions, keeping policy info in your go kit [emergency kit], and notifying the insurance company early after events go a long way to promoting recovery for the individual and recouping any losses.”

The Montgomery County OEMHS is a rich source of information on preparedness for disasters, including the unlikely event of a nuclear war. Their outreach personnel can answer your questions about staying informed, making a plan, building an emergency kit, as well as getting involved in the community (www.montgomerycountymd.gov/OEMHS/hazards/tech/radiological.html).

Copyright© Dan Krell
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EMP’s, solar flares and your home – are you prepared

homesYour home takes on different functions at various times. Maybe you think of your home as place of relaxation and entertainment, or maybe it’s where you create gourmet meals. And although much of the living you anticipate in your home may be for enjoyment – will your home be a suitable shelter to protect you and your family?

To bring attention to preparedness, the Centers for Disease Control (cdc.gov) played on pop-culture in a 2011 posting of a tongue in cheek account of preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse. The result of this and other efforts increased awareness of planning for emergencies and severe weather. As a severe weather event might inconvenience you for as much as a day or two, preparedness experts have since turned to preparing for and the aftermath of Katrina-like events, or worse – the takedown of the electric grid.

Preparedness experts have recently brought attention to the electric grid’s vulnerabilities with reports of hacking and alleged terrorist activity. However, one weakness that has been talked about in recent years, although has been known since the cold war, is the electromagnetic pulse (EMP). R. James Woolsey and Peter Vincent Pry, in their August 12, 2014 Wall Street Journal article (The Growing Threat From an EMP Attack; wsj.com), describe EMP’s, the aftermath, and preparedness. Woolsey and Pry quoted a 2008 EMP Commission report that estimated “within 12 months of a nationwide blackout, up to 90% of the U.S. population could possibly perish from starvation, disease and societal breakdown.”

Alternatively, the effect of a direct hit of a coronal mass ejection (CME) would be very similar to an EMP; causing “widespread power blackouts, disabling everything that plugs into a wall socket…” Although 1859 was the last time a CME hit the Earth (when most of daily life did not depend on electricity), a CME barley missed the Earth (by several days) during July 2012. Scientists estimate a 12% chance of being hit by a CME in the next ten years (Near Miss: The Solar Superstorm of July 2012; science.nasa.gov; July 23, 2014).

Although discussions about EMP’s and CME’s seem extreme; it should make you think about your preparedness level. If you don’t yet have (or need to update) a plan, preparedness information is available through government agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (ready.gov). FEMA’s “Are You Ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness” interactive course is “a training program designed to help the citizens of this nation learn how to protect themselves and their families against all types of hazards…” and is a comprehensive source on individual, family and community preparedness (www.ready.gov/are-you-ready-guide).

Locally, the Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security offers a resource library of information to prepare for and the aftermath of emergencies (montgomerycountymd.gov/oemhs/).

In addition to having an emergency plan, experts recommend reviewing your homeowners’ insurance policy to ensure of adequate coverage as well as compiling an inventory of your home’s contents; this is supposed to help you recover quicker from disaster. Additional recommendations include (but are not limited to) mitigating weather related damage: making sure your home’s doors and windows are secure and impermeable to weather, and also ensuring your roof and gutter system is well maintained (draining water at least five feet from your home); as well as removing debris and dead trees/shrubs from the home’s perimeter.

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Protect your home before disasters and emergencies happen

Protect your home before disasters and emergencies happen

by Dan Krell © 2012
DanKrell.com

Protect your homeUnlike recent years, when we experienced blizzards, earthquakes, and hurricanes, this year’s weather has been mild thus far – that is until last week. Although the disasters and emergencies we typically experience are usually local and often weather related; disasters/emergencies can also originate from other sources, such as: power outages, terrorism, wildfires, civil unrest, earthquakes, and pandemic health concerns. Even though we had some warning of the approaching storm, the after effects emphasize the need for preparedness.

If you don’t yet have a plan (or would like to update your current plan), preparedness information is available through Federal Agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA.gov), the Department of Homeland Security (dhs.gov), and the Centers for Diseases Control (cdc.gov), and Citizen Corps (citizencorps.gov) .

FEMA’s “Are You Ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness” is a comprehensive source on individual, family and community preparedness. In addition to the pamphlet, there is an interactive guide with the focus “on how to develop, practice, and maintain emergency plans that reflect what must be done before, during, and after a disaster/emergency to protect people and their property” (www.ready.gov/are-you-ready-guide).

Montgomery County’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security offers advice on planning and preparing a disaster kit, as well as recommending to sign up for “Alert Montgomery,” which can alert you to emergencies by text messages, twitter, email and other devices (www.montgomerycountymd.gov/oemtmpl.asp?url=/content/homelandsecurity/index.asp).

Preparing for disaster/emergency also includes making sure your property insurance is adequate. Having the proper coverage may help you recover from a disaster quicker than those without coverage. Experts recommend that you review your home owners’ policy with your insurance agent (or insurance company representative) to make sure your coverage is up to date and is able to replace your home and/or possessions in case of a catastrophic loss.

Protect your homeAdditional recommendations to mitigate damage from weather related disaster/emergency come from the American Insurance Association (aiadc.org). Your home can be prepared by ensuring that doors and windows are secure; ensuring that exterior doors should have at least three hinges and a deadbolt length of at least one inch; replacing older garage doors and windows for systems that are certified for wind and impact; consider storm shutter installation; repairing any cracks or leaks around windows, doors, roof, exterior walls and foundation; ensuring that gutters and downspouts are secure and can drain water at least five feet from your home; inspect the roof and repair if necessary; remove loose debris from around the home; remove dead or dying trees and shrubs; trim back tree limbs from your home’s exterior and roof; compile an inventory of your home’s contents by taking pictures or video.

Recognize your risks and plan accordingly. FEMA offers mitigation and risk planning resources such as: flood maps, loss mitigation software, and the risk management series. Along with these resources, FEMA offers specific advice on protecting your home or business from natural disasters, earthquakes, fire, flood and high winds (www.fema.gov/plan/prevent/howto/index.shtm).

And if you’ve yet prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention remarks that “it’s better to be safe than sorry.” The CDC offers “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse:” preparedness for the Zombie Apocalypse and real emergencies (blogs.cdc.gov/publichealthmatters/2011/05/preparedness-101-zombie-apocalypse).

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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of July 2 , 2012. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.

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