Monday, August 21, 2023

Civil Defense in the United States

By Tim Gamble 

Even during the height of the Cold War, the US politicians were uneasy with the concept of Civil Defense. This can be seen in the history of the US Civil Defense program, which was changed numerous times:
  • 1941: Created during WWII as the Office of Civilian Defense
  • 1950: Replaced by the Federal Civil Defense Administration
  • 1958: Replaced by the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization
  • 1961: Transferred to the Department of Defense's Office of Civil Defense
  • 1964: Reorganized as the Office of Civil Defense, Department of the Army
  • 1972: Replaced by the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency
  • 1979: Abolished by executive order of Jimmy Carter
  • 1979: FEMA created, which now handles what little is left of Civil Defense matters in the US
Unlike Sweden (see previous article), there are no modern Civil Defense booklets in the US, just some general emergency preparedness information put out by FEMA. And we have lacked any national level civil defense strategy for at least 30 years. For more on this lack of strategy, see Lucie, Quinton. “How FEMA Could Lose America’s Next Great War.” Homeland Security Affairs 15, Article 1 (May 2019)

FEMA does provide some general preparedness information, geared mostly towards short-term disasters. And they do maintain the Emergency Broadcast System. But mostly the government just ignores Civil Defense, leaving it up to individuals and communities to prepare, or not, for themselves. 

However, we do have many surprisingly informative Civil Defense videos produced in the 1950s and 1960s which we can examine, some of which I will look at below. 

First, let me answer one objection some folks may try to make with looking at older information, claiming the information is out-of-date merely because it is old. The physics of nuclear war have not changed since the Atomic Age began in 1945. The basic information contained in the following videos is still applicable today. Sure, the clothes and haircuts of the actors may be dated, but most of the information presented is still useful. 

Also, please remember that Civil Defense is not just about nuclear war preparedness. As we saw with Sweden's Prepare For War booklet, Civil Defense is about preparedness for a wide range of possibilities. 

Having said that, if you do want a new source of nuclear war preparedness, I suggest David Kobler's (aka SouthernPrepper1) book published earlier this year, entitled Nuclear War Survival: A One Hour Crash Course - Learn the basics fast, just in case. It is a short book that is exactly what it says it is - a crash course covering the basics for nuclear war survival.  Cresson H. Kearny's Nuclear War Survival Skills, originally published in 1979, is THE classic guide and worth having. I own both of these books. 

Here are a couple of the videos I mentioned, along with my commentary. I'll look at some other Civil Defense videos in the next article, and still more can be found on YouTube and around the Internet with minimal searching. 

1963 Civil Defense film - "Shelter on a Quiet Street"   

Tim's Comments: If your location is hit with a direct nuclear strike, no homemade bomb shelter is going to protect you. That is one reason why you shouldn't be living in or very near a likely target - the mega-cities, major military bases, communications hubs, etc. Living away from those areas, you will be safe from the destruction and heat of a direct hit, but still have to worry about the radioactive fallout. That is where a bomb shelter can make all the difference. Another video you may want to watch is Fallout: When And How To Protect Yourself (1959)

1950s Civil Defense film - Fallout Shelter Supplies

Tim's Comments: Most areas today don't have fully stocked public nuclear bomb shelters anymore. At best, they may have certain buildings which have been designated as public shelters in case of natural disasters, such as hurricanes or winter storms. Many of these could be used as bomb shelters, and some were designated as such early in the Cold War, but supplies at these locations tend to be sparce and not well-maintained. 

Local communities could identify, designate, upgrade and stock potential public bomb shelters for themselves. No need for permission or oversight from the Federal or even State governments. Individual churches, civic organizations, and other groups could do the same for their people. No need for even Local government permission or oversight. Families could build their own bomb shelters, of course. Perhaps even big enough, and with enough supplies, to take in a few close friends or neighbors.

Necessities: Shelter with Proper Ventilation (Filters), Space to Sleep, Food, Water, Medicine and First Aid, Sanitation Facilities and Supplies.   

Worth Having (space allowing): Other supplies to increase comfort, improve health, or raise morale. Chairs. Cots and blankets (stacked bunks can save space). Soap and hygiene supplies. Fire extinguishers. Toys, puzzles, games for children. Bibles and other books. Playing cards. Supplies for folks with special needs (infants, the elderly, disabled folks, etc.).  A land-line phone. Emergency radios. Flashlights. Extra batteries. Generator and extra fuel. Tools. Cleaning materials. Pencil, pens, and paper. 

A Final Note: It is funny that the video shows people smoking in the bomb shelter. The video is definitely dated in this point. Smoking inside a bomb shelter is not a good idea for a variety of reasons, and should NOT be allowed. Perhaps shelter supplies should include nicotine gum for smokers who are forced to not smoke while occupying the shelter. 

*** You can find Tim Gamble on social media! Follow at Gab (@TimGamble), Instagram (@DystopianSurv), Twitter (@TimGambleSpeaks), and TruthSocial (@TimGambleSpeaks) 
Cresson H. Kearny's Nuclear War Survival Skills is available on Amazon. This is the highly-recommended classic nuclear war survival guide commissioned by the US government. The paperback of the 1987 edition is available on Amazon for just $10.39 at the moment. There are newer, and more expensive, editions available at that same link. Folks, in my opinion it doesn't matter what edition you get, as the physics of nuclear war haven't changed, and the information originally  presented by Kearny is not "out of date." Choose whichever edition you are comfortable with.

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