May 2011 – Preparing the Public to Take Protective Actions against Fallout

Author: No Comments Share:

Fallout protection is not getting the attention it deserves.

Monica Schoch-Spana, Dennis Mileti, and David McKernan, with Ann Norwood as moderator, discussed approaches to educating the public in advance of a nuclear catastrophe.

[dropcap]D[/dropcap]r. Ann Norwood noted that threat fatigue, local fiscal constraints, and reluctance by officials to alarm the public have inhibited efforts to prepare the public for a nuclear fallout.

She said that fear of public panic in the face of such discussion is unwarranted and that officials often underestimate the public’s ability to handle difficult problems. Dr. Norwood emphasized that a small additional investment in falloutspecific preparedness activities could be highly beneficial in terms of lives saved and could complement existing “all hazards” approaches.

New Center for Biosecurity project will help create radiation (rad) resilient cities. Dr. Monica Schoch-Spana, Chair of the Nuclear Resilience Expert Advisory Group, introduced the Center’s Rad Resilient City Project.

The goal of the project is to develop a consensus checklist of 7 preparedness actions that cities could take to save tens of thousands of lives following a nuclear accident or detonation.

The checklist, endorsed by the diverse range of government and nongovernment experts and practitioners on the Nuclear Resilience Expert Advisory Group, will be provided to leaders of cities at high risk of terrorism.

The ultimate goal is to create a unified vision of nuclear preparedness and chart a course toward fallout protection based on specific, concrete actions.

Dr. Schoch-Spana noted that the Rad Resilient City Project will greatly advance local planning and should serve to create momentum for tackling other nuclear response and recovery issues.

We know what works to motivate people to prepare for emergencies. Dr. Dennis Mileti summarized the results of his latest research on what works to motivate people to take action to prepare for disasters.

In short, people of all stripes will respond to calls to prepare for disaster if 3 conditions exist:

1. They can observe others—friends, family, coworkers—taking the encouraged action.
2. Preparedness messages are clearly focused on action, not risk. People want to know what to do, how to do it and how taking such action will cut their losses. People are not interested in messages that focus on risk and science.
3. Messages must be consistent, and they must be delivered repetitively by a variety of trusted sources, across multiple channels.

Local realities in preparedness are difficult. David McKernan shared his perspectives as an emergency manager who is working to address fallout preparedness in his jurisdiction.

He stated that in Fairfax County, VA, sheltering is the only feasible option because dense traffic would make evacuation impossible. He also noted that preparedness activities in his county are continuing, but with diminished resources due to steady decreases in funding.

Mr. McKernan called for more research to provide local governments with critical information on the consequences of  nuclear fallout and more information on response.

Previous Article

Fukushima Daiichi in retrospect

Next Article

Nuclear Accident Committee work to develop common guidance