If North Korea fires nuclear missiles at Los Angeles, Dr. Robert Levin might seek protection from fallout by wedging himself into the crawl space under his Ojai home.
If the Ventura County public health officer were at the Oxnard office decorated with a photo of him administering a flu shot, he would rush to a hallway in the very center of the two-story building and wait.
“Get inside. Stay inside. Stay tuned,” Levin said, explaining the importance of the phrase that is his mantra. “It would save hundreds of thousands of lives. Locate yourself as far away from the roof and the walls as possible.”
Four years ago, Levin guided the public health department in a nuclear readiness campaign described by preparedness experts as the first of its kind since the Cold War.
Before that, he led efforts to compile an equally rare 243-page nuclear response plan for Ventura County that dives into strategies ranging from the 2 million people who might flee north from Los Angeles to the trenches that could be used for temporary storage of corpses.
Back then, in town halls and newspaper interviews, Levin carefully explained there is no known or immediate threat of a nuclear explosion. On Tuesday, the public health officer pointed at the exchange of threats of destruction between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un as proof of the need for readiness.
“It gives us a teachable moment,” said Levin, who spoke about preparedness at a January conference near the nation’s capital.
If a nuclear bomb the size of those used on Nagasaki and Hiroshima were aimed at Southern California, it might be targeted at the densest population pocket — Los Angeles, Levin said. Nearly all of the people living within nine blocks of the explosion would likely die in the blast.