There is quite a lot of confusion about The DEFCON Warning System, so we put together this FAQ which will hopefully help quell some of it.
We will continue to update this FAQ as more questions are come across.
* Does the DWS report the DEFCON status of the US military?
No. We are not affiliated with any government agency and DWS does not represent the alert status of any military branch. Military DEFCON levels are secret. We don’t know them and wouldn’t report them even if we did as that would compromise security.
* What is the purpose of DWS?
DWS is designed to be a digest of information related to the possibility of nuclear war. While there are many sources of news and information out there, we try to be one-stop-shopping for important and relevant information. We can’t possibly report everything, but we do try to pick out the stuff that can have the greatest impact.
We also feel that nuclear war is such a terrifying subject that most people don’t want to think about it. When nuclear war comes, the government is likely not going to say anything until it is much too late if ever. Our system is designed to be a barometer which will (in theory) see nuclear war coming much earlier than the government will admit. We will then issue a warning which the public can decide for themselves what to do about.
* Where do you get your information?
Over the years, The DEFCON Warning System has grown to gain some contacts within government and military agencies. However, most of our information is public knowledge and can be easily searched for. We often post news article links on our message board for commentary.
Information from confidential sources is vetted and, by necessity, often redacted to protect the source as well as not compromise national security or field plans. We do not, however, hold back information necessary to the safety of the public.
* Doesn’t this mean that DWS is unreliable?
No matter how hard anyone tries, unless you’re inside the enemy’s situation room, you’re going to have to make a guess. It’s an art not a science, and one that has been around since Cain first slew Abel.
The DEFCON Warning System, by nature, is designed to react to certain situations. In order to give the most warning possible, it has to make an educated guess as to whether the event will pass or the missiles will fly. This means that sometimes an alert will be raised and the situation will calm and nothing will come of it.
Historically speaking, the world has marched toward nuclear war numerous times and backed away. You’ll see the DEFCON Warning System reflect that.
Ultimately, you must decide for yourself what to do with the information presented. We’re only a barometer.
* Aren’t you just DoomPorn?
When did that become a word?
We are not survivalists. No one here is rooting for World War III. Truth be told, most of the DEFCON staff live in or near targeted locations and would not survive the first few minutes of a nuclear war. So believe it when we say no one here wants to see that happen.
As more countries develop nuclear weapons, the world becomes a more dangerous place and the potential for nuclear war increases. We do our best to only sound the warning when necessary, but when events dictate, we will issue the proper alerts. Most of the time, the situation will resolve itself and things will calm down. But that doesn’t mean that the potential for nuclear war wasn’t there. To look at it another way, if you have an open flame next to pool of gasoline, just because it didn’t explode doesn’t mean the potential wasn’t there. The same can be said of the DEFCON alerts. Just because nothing happened at the time of an alert doesn’t mean the potential for disaster wasn’t there.
It is always up to the public to decide what to do in the event of an emerging situation.
* Are you a commercial/for profit site?
For many years (over 30 actually) , we carried no ads, sold no merchandise, and asked for no donations. The site owner paid for everything out of his own pocket. Unfortunately, times have changed and things have become more expensive, especially now that we’re a million page views a month and our provider requires us to run an upgraded plan when the traffic gets to be too much. So, in 2016, we started looking for some revenue streams to help pay for some of the expenses. We’ve done our best to make everything as unobtrusive as possible while still being functional.
* Are you just a religious/right wing site?
We’re human, so we do have our religious and political beliefs. But we do our best to be non-partisan in our reporting and analysis. Notice that we rarely name politicians, but rather refer to countries. We take no position on political issues unless they affect nuclear warfare. To use an extreme example, but one that will make the point, if Adolf Hitler was in charge of the United States, we wouldn’t care about his position on Jews except how it would affect the chances of the use of nuclear weapons.
* But you have religious links…
When it comes down to it, it’s our website and we can put anything we want there. Just be glad we didn’t link Battlestar Galactica, the webmaster’s favourite show. (Classic better than new, though new has its redeeming values.) Oh look, we did put a link!
* How long as DWS been running?
1984 is when it started. The announcer was an old SAM Software voice. You can hear one of the original alerts here. No details were given back then, and no regular updates. Only alerts.
* Can you change your name to something less confusing?
We’ve had this name for 30 years. We aren’t changing it.
* Shouldn’t DEFCON 1 be the lowest and 5 be the highest?
Think of it as a countdown to nuclear war. 5…4…3…2…1…VAPORIZE!
* Your colours are wrong. DEFCON 5 is blue and DEFCON 1 is white.
We use our own system of colours. The public is more accustomed to Green being “good” and Red being “bad”, so we have adopted that system.
* What does it mean when you send out a Ping on social media?
Those are generally communication tests for our Twitter and other social media accounts. Ping is an old-school command to check if you are being heard by the receiver and how long it takes for the signal to reach them.
We also will send out a Ping if the channel has been silent for a while to let everyone know it is still active.
Pings can be safely ignored. They carry no meaning for the public.
* What The DEFCON Warning System is NOT
- We are not a resource for suvivalism. While we do provide a modicum of information on that subject, there are other places which specialize in survival and survival resources.
- We are not a fringe site. We do not do conspiracy theories, black helicopter, NWO, space aliens, or shadow governments. We are fact-based and do fact-based analysis.
The following are the recommended steps to take for each of the different DEFCON Warning System Alert Levels. The pubic is advised that these are only recommendations and that each individual must determine for themselves what they should do at a particular time.
DEFCON 5 – Green
This is the standard peacetime alert level. All is quiet. There are no known imminent nuclear threats. Updates will be given the 1st of every month (except for April 1st or if the day falls on a Saturday, in which case the update will appear a day later) with immediate updates issued as the situation warrants.
The public should utilize this time to plan and build a fallout shelter. It is best to do this during peace where there is no time pressure. Instead of having to build an Expedient shelter which provides only minimal and cramped protection, one planned for and built now has the potential to offer far more protection under much more comfortable conditions. Remember that it will take 17.5 inches of packed earth to provide a Protection Factor of 32. The minimum PF for government fallout shelters is 40. This is considered to be grossly inadequate. It is highly recommended that you obtain a PF of at least 1000. For every 3.5 inches of packed earth you add, you will double your Protection Factor. To achieve a PF of 1024, you will need 35 inches of packed earth. Remember, the more packed earth you add, the higher your Protection Factor. For those who live downwind of major or multiple targets (or anyone who lives east of the Rockies), a PF of 10000 is the absolute minimum you should strive for. That’s 49 inches of packed earth, only 14 inches more than a PF of 1000.
Now is also an excellent time to begin stocking up on non-perishable items. Each time you go to the grocery store, pick up one or two additional items and store them. Think bathroom tissue (do you really want to live life without that?), paper towels, trash bags, toothbrushes, cat litter, plastic wrap, empty plastic bottles (for water), and anything else you may need personally that is non-perishable. It will hopefully be years before you will need to use it, so make sure it won’t go bad in that time. Think about clothing and blankets as well. A trip to to your local Thrift Store will allow you to stock up on these essential items without costing much at all. Don’t let your pride get in the way. After nuclear war, you won’t care what you’re wearing. This is also a good time to read the handbook Nuclear War Survival Skills by Cresson H. Kearny. You can find it at http://www.ki4u.com/free_book/s73p904.htm
DEFCON 4 – Blue
This is the non-standard peacetime alert level. All is quiet, though there have been some events which warrant observation. There are no known imminent nuclear threats. More likely than not, nothing will happen and the DEFCON level will eventually revert back to Green. Updates will be given every three weeks with immediate updates issued as the situation warrants.
Generally speaking, there is no need to alter activity from Level Green. The DEFCON Warning System is designed to be sensitive to certain situations, and has gone to Blue several times in the past and reverted back to Green a few weeks later. This is normal and nothing to be concerned about.
Continue to stock up on non-perishable supplies and building your fallout shelter.
DEFCON 3 – Yellow
Events of concern are occurring in the world theatre. There are no known immediate nuclear threats, however the situation is considered fluid. Updates will be given every seven days with immediate updates issued as the situation warrants.
This is the most uncertain of the Alert levels. You must make a decision every day (or sometimes every hour) as to whether you think the situation will resolve itself or get out of hand. To be on the realistic side, you should hope for the best but plan for the worst.
If you live in a city or near another target, make evacuation plans to a safer area. Be sure you have family there who will take you in and can have an appropriate fallout shelter and supplies for you. (Generally, you should bring your own supplies and not rely on others.) If the crisis worsens, you may wish to evacuate before the Alert level rises to the next stage.
If you have not already done so, now is the time to begin building a fallout shelter. Use plans for an Expedient shelter and, if there is time later, you can expand upon them.
Begin gathering supplies of fuel. Do not keep them near your shelter. Make sure your weapons are clean and serviceable. If you do not have any, obtain some now and learn how to use them.
Begin gathering some supplies of food with long shelf-life. Cereals, flour, rice, dehydrated foods. Vitamins, medicines, and other items of necessity which have long shelf-lives should also be gathered at this time.
If you have pets, enough dry food should be obtained to last an indefinite period.
How much food and supplies will you need? No one knows. Although FEMA says you need a minimum of two weeks, it is very unlikely that the supply chain will be re-established in that short a time following nuclear war. Prudently, you should plan on being on your own for two years. Remember, the longer you can survive on your own, the better off you will be. If you have land, also consider gathering supplies of seed for farming.
At the absolute barest minimum, wheat and honey will give you everything you need to stay alive and wheat is very cheap. Don’t forget supplements. They will help to make up what you lack in your diet.
When buying supplies, especially on the higher Alert levels, consider placing your purchases on a credit card. If WWIII breaks out, who is going to come and collect?
Remember, if nothing happens, you will be able to use all these things anyway, so nothing will actually go to waste. You’ll just have done your grocery shopping early and gotten it out of the way!
DEFCON 2 – Orange
Hostilities have or are about to break out. There is the possibility of a nuclear strike. Updates will be given every day with immediate updates issued as the situation warrants.
If you live in a targeted city with a population of 100,000 or more or you are near another target area and you do not have a blast shelter (different than a fallout shelter…likely you will not have a blast shelter) then consider evacuation.
Check your inventory. Anything you lack in food or supplies you should make up for now. Get as much as you can. Make several trips if you have to. Remember, put it on the credit card. If you have a bank account, close it and hold all the cash in your shelter or other safe place.
If you do not have a shelter, then you must begin making an Expedient shelter now. Two people can make a 6 person Expedient shelter that is 3-1/2 feet wide, 4-1/2 feet high, and 16-1/2 feet long in less than 48 hours. (In this particular timed experiment, a father and son took 36 hours to build their shelter near the edge of a cornfield. The ground was not hard but was not tilled, either. Your results will, of course, vary.)
DEFCON 1 – Red
A nuclear attack is in progress or is considered to be highly likely. It is planned for the Alert level to go to Red before an actual attack. This will introduce a possibility of error, but will also give the most warning. You must decide for yourself whether to act upon it or not. Updates will be given at 7 A.M and 7 P.M Pacific Time with immediate updates issued as the situation warrants. Post-attack, radiation levels will be given for the Stevens and Ferry County areas as well as any other areas if possible. Updates for radiation will also be given at 7 A.M. and 7 P.M. Pacific Time. Immediate updates will be issued as the situation warrants.
For those in an attack area, if you do not have a fallout shelter, you must begin making one immediately.
Do not travel far from your shelter. If you are in a city or near another nuclear target, you may not have time to evacuate and it may no longer be possible due to jammed roadways or travel restrictions.
Fill all plastic bottles with water. Fill your bathtub and sinks with water as well. If you can fill it with water, do so. You can never have too much water. Repeat: You can never have too much water! Remember that the water in your hot water tank is also another source of clean water.
If there is anything you need in your shelter that you do not have there already, move it there. Disconnect all power sources to prevent damage from any EMP. (Note that the EMP effect is only theoretical.)
Keep your family together.
If you have no supplies and the Alert level has just changed, then you may decide to take a (enormous) risk and do a desperate supply run. There is a chance that you may still have time. Likely, however, a panicked public has already taken all the supplies. Note that we do not recommend this course of action, but a fallout shelter with no supplies is not a fallout shelter but a tomb.