Readers — Are you and your children ready for a nuclear explosion set off by terrorists during the school day when the highways are so jammed you’d get stuck in traffic trying to reach them and die of radiation poisoning?
That is the pressing question posed by California’s Ventura County Health Department, as you’ll see in the memo below.
There is something bizarrely fatalistic about telling folks to stay inside so their kids “will have healthy parents to come home to.” They WILL? Not, “If this happens, this could happen and then this COULD happen…” Just, they “WILL”? And does it seem coincidental that this warning comes to us from the same neck of the woods that’s brought us everything from Independence Day to Wall-E? “What would happen to students if terrorists attacked WHILE they were at school and their parents got caught stuck in traffic?” It’s an elevator pitch for a disaster movie!
Er…plan. Look, I think the idea of reminding people not to go outside in fallout is possibly valid, but do we need a whole big program, concentrating on parents of school kids?
And speaking of terrorism “planning,” check out this amazing piece in Cracked.com by David Wong about our excessive and extravagant response to 9/11. Also see security guru Bruce Schneier’s work on what he calls “Movie Plot Threats,” which, he explains, are threats “that would make a great movie plot, but [are] much too specific to build security policy around.” Hmmm. -L.
Dear Parents and Guardians:
On Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, Ventura County will commence an educational public health campaign that is the first of its kind in our nation. The topic: Teaching county residents how to stay safe and help others if there were ever a nuclear explosion set off by terrorists in nearby Los Angeles. Just as we prepare for all sorts of public health challenges, from earthquake safety to annual flu vaccinations, it’s important that we also prepare for an unlikely man-made event. Why now? Good question. We have absolutely zero knowledge of any terrorist threat to Ventura County or any other county in the country. However, it’s the responsibility of public health departments to protect and care for the residents they serve. And nuclear safety is just another one of the public health topics we think is important for residents to learn.
To give a little background, we have been developing a nuclear safety plan in Ventura County since 2006. While some people along the way have asked, “Why are you doing this? You’re going to scare my family,” most have said, “Thank you for taking this seriously.” Ventura County’s Emergency Planning Council has determined that it is our responsibility to prepare the residents of our county. We have been provided federal funding to support our efforts. This program will run for the next 12 months and will ultimately be incorporated into our ongoing education efforts.
The name of our public health program is “Get Inside. Stay Inside. Stay Tuned.” Why? Because in the event of a nuclear explosion, the safest way to avoid dangerous radioactive fallout is to immediately get inside a building — and to stay inside that building — until public health officials say it’s safe to come out.
So, why are we giving you an early heads up? As a parent myself, I recognize that if a nuclear explosion were to occur during school hours, there would be a natural tendency for me and other parents like me to rush to their children’s school to pick them up. “Get Inside. Stay Inside. Stay Tuned” is the safest plan to follow. No matter where you are, the safest place to be is inside a building, away from the radioactive fallout. A car is not a safe place to “shelter” — and would likely put you and your children at further risk. You may, in fact, get stuck in traffic and develop serious health problems from radiation exposure.
My request for you today: Be comfortable that our schools are one of the safest places to be in an emergency, and your children will be cared for as long as necessary in the event of a nuclear explosion so that you can stay off the road and they will have healthy parents to come home to. As as of September 18, 2013, please visit us on the Web at ReadyVenturaCounty.org or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask any questions you may have about nuclear safety. – Ventura County Public Health Officer