The threats seem to come almost daily now out of North Korea — ballistic missile firings, preparations to test a nuclear bomb and routine bravado. State-owned media in the rogue nation last week vowed a “super mighty preemptive strike,” one that will reduce the U.S. to “ashes.”
The invective is seen as overblown by American weapons experts, who believe Pyongyang is likely a few years from having the capability of firing a nuclear-equipped missile that can reach the U.S. mainland.
Yet some leading emergency response planners view the persistent menace of North Korea as a new opportunity: reason to alert the American public that a limited nuclear attack can be survivable, with a few precautions.
The simplest of the warnings is: “Don’t run. Get inside.” Sheltering in place, beneath as many layers of protection as possible, is the best way to avoid the radiation that would follow a nuclear detonation.
That conclusion has been the consensus of the U.S. emergency and public health establishments for years, though national, state and local governments generally have been less than aggressive about putting the word out to the public.
Officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Homeland Security say the nuclear safety directives are available, including online at Ready.gov, but they have not broadcast them more widely. Asked about spreading the word beyond the website, a FEMA spokesperson emailed a terse response: “At this time time there are no specific plans to do any messaging on this topic.”