WellNews: Being prepared for a nuclear disaster
Apr 20,2007 00:00 by Scott_LaFee


In the popular TV series "24," Los Angeles is nuked with a small bomb detonated by a terrorist. The likelihood of such a thing really happening is relatively remote, but the U.S. government, through Web sites like Ready.gov, does offer advice in how to prepare for such threats.

Two researchers at Carnegie Mellon University wondered just how practical that advice was. They asked some basic questions: Is it worth the time and effort to stock supplies needed for a home shelter? How quickly should one seek shelter in the event of a nuclear explosion? How long should one remain in the shelter?

Writing in the May issue of the journal Health Physics, Keith Florig and Baruch Fischhoff suggest the government's recommendations are neither wholly realistic nor complete.

"A number of emergency management organizations recommend that people stock their homes with a couple dozen categories of emergency supplies," said Florig, a senior research engineer. "We calculated that it would cost about $240 per year for a typical family to maintain such a stock, including the value of storage space and the time needed to tend to it."

The Carnegie Mellon professors concluded that for many families the investment probably wasn't worth it, especially given the low probability that the stocked supplies would actually be used in a nuclear emergency.

NUCLEAR THREAT - The U.S. government, through Web sites like Ready.gov, offers advice in how to prepare for nuclear attacks and natural disasters. CNS Photo.

MEDTRONICA - The AMA Doctor Finder Web site at www.ama-assn.org provides professional information on more than 690,000 physician-members in the United States. CNS Photo.

Government guidelines also recommend people take shelter or evacuate following a nuclear blast. Evacuation is best, but not always possible.

"If you are within several miles of the blast," Florig says, "there will be no time to flee and you will have only minutes to seek shelter. If you are 10 miles from the blast, you will have 15 to 60 minutes to find shelter, but not enough time to reliably flee the area before the fallout arrives."

If you seek shelter, Florig says, how long you stay depends upon the shelter and circumstances.

"Those who have poor shelters, limited stores and no access to a vehicle will need the most help to escape," he says.


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