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October Disaster in Place: Rad/Nuc Event!

Happy October!  Please take 10 minutes to enjoy this month’s Disaster in Place and as always, please feel free to share with your partners and peers.  If you do, send me a message or leave a comment and let me know who’s joining in!

Also, for the fellow emergency leaders distributing this in your areas, here is the link to the Radiological Terrorism Toolkit referenced below where you can print, download or order a full kit of your own for no charge (and I strongly encourage this for you, your peeps, and your partners!)

It’s that time again!

Welcome to the October Disaster in Place!

This month’s scenario is a radiological/nuclear terrorism event.

If a radiological/nuclear event were to happen in your area right now, how would you protect yourself?  Are you familiar with your local evacuation routes?  What if it happened in Washington, DC (or your nearest well-populated city?)…could you support our closest state managed shelter and leave your family for 1-3 days without worrying about them, and are you affiliated with an agency that allows you to do so?  What if you were told to shelter in place for the next two weeks?

For all kinds of information about being involved in a radiological/nuclear event, check out these resources from the CDC, including protection, treatment and health effects:

For training on responding to a radiological/nuclear event, check out the free online course from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health – Radiation Terror 101:

You can also email me if interested in learning more about our cache of Radiological Terrorism kits, full of information for public health professionals and clinicians, available free from the CDC.

See you next month! Tanya


Why Do Zombies Work?

A friend told me recently that nobody is going to pay attention to emergency preparedness unless we give them a reason to care (in so many words). And I have to say, truer words may never have been spoken. The funny thing is, everything that can actually happen seems to never motivate people into action. In reading Amanda Ripley’s The Unthinkable, history often shows us that even when disasters are actually happening right then and there, people seem to sink into a state of denial. So that really begs the question…why do zombies work?

I have this theory. Preparedness is boring, response is exciting. And the idea of fending for yourself in a cataclysmic event seems to be strangely attractive. came up with a great list of reasons we secretly want the zombie apocalypse (Note: Rated PG-13) that I can’t say I disagree with. The alluring factor of having nothing that stands between you and imminent danger is shocking to me, and yet I am subject to it.

Ask someone what they’ll do in a floodplain, tornado warning, or terrorist attack and they may shrug and mutter something about shelters or insurance. Ask them what they’ll do in a zombie apocalypse? They’re likely to pull out one of these gems (courtesy of

The key to my theory is this: no one is going to rescue the public in a zombie apocalypse and they know it.

In an apocalypse, it’s every man for themselves. If you know nobody is coming to rescue you, instinctually, you can only plan to rescue yourself. Meanwhile, the public often misunderstands their safety or places an extreme sense of trust into whomever they believe is supposed to protect them and that this agency will follow through. Not that we don’t warrant some trust, but the care of each and every individual is a task that we simply lack the resources to fully meet in a certain events. Why prepare for something you believe you will always be protected from? (Of course my question – why risk it in real life?) We’re all subject to zombieism!

Another key, in a disaster, everyone believes they will know that it’s coming.

Warnings will appear and they’ll have “plenty” of time to get ready. But zombies? Those suckers just arrive. In the movies, there is always someone waking up suddenly out of a coma and the world is overrun. There’s no time to think, only time to act. I’d venture to say people believe they will always have the luxury of knowing in “plenty” of time when something bad is going to happen. But that doesn’t always seem to make a difference anyway, as noted when a local to me river flooded and everyone parked near it just decided, “it won’t happen to me!”


Like I said, response is exciting, and I offer that it’s action movies and shows that have turned this super bad actionista/actionisto idea into something sexy. Even popular zombie shows like The Walking Dead have over 1.4 million Twitter followers and not a day goes by that #zombies isn’t a trending topic of some sort. In addition, they have over 16.4 million “likes” on Facebook, and over 2.4 million people talking about them at any given time. Millions of people who have no doubt questionned their own response in the apocalypse…millions of open minds. And there’s something creatively motivating about recognizing the direness of such a situation and realizing you will have no time, no warning, and no one to save you.

In today’s world, the farther we get from a disaster, the more complacent we become. And that’s whether you experienced it first hand or from afar. Rememer the slew of funding we received after 9/11? I think we’ve all noticed that’s significantly dwindling. And with every day that passes that we remain protected, lucky, or blissfully unaware, emergency funding is displaced and fire chiefs, town managers, or some other unprepared soul is “voluntold” to accept responsibility for planning. Without the tools and training. What happens next? Another big event with potential for major loss of life and property, more funding comes, years go by without an incident, complacency sets in, funding decreases, and so on and so forth.

Tthe CDC had it right. People care about zombies. For whatever reason, whatever theory. You just can’t beat the “what if…” in someone’s mind. But maybe, if we guide it a little bit, we’ll start really talking about preparedness, and maybe have a little fun, too.