In addition to a now-infamous tweet about nuclear button-pushing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just contributed even more to our renewed interest in underground bunkers that can withstand a nuclear bomb. The agency will be holding a drill session on January 16th that will address the “planning and preparation efforts for a nuclear detonation,” PBS reports.
The CDC posted a notice online of its Grand Rounds, which will take place at the agency’s Atlanta headquarters and outline how public health professionals should handle the aftermath of nuclear war, a topic that puts fear in the minds of many who believe that Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un could very well escalate their verbal sparring to a multi-megaton-sized showdown.
In an effort to quell the hysteria that stemmed from the announcement of the upcoming session, the agency quickly assured the public that scheduled presentations such as “Public Health: Preparing for the Unthinkable” and “Roadmap to Radiation Preparedness,” have been in the works for months and are in no way tied to two opposing world leaders exchanging barbs about button size. In fact, a previous nuclear session took place in March of 2010.
“As part of its mission, CDC provides for the common defense of the country against all health threats,“ said Kathryn Harben, chief of the CDC’s news media branch. "Planning for the Grand Rounds takes place regularly, and planning for this one began last April.”
The session will air on a live webcast and be posted on the Grand Rounds page a few days after the event. But in the spirit of readiness, we consulted with Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, senior associate at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, on which issues we can expect the CDC to address.
“The briefing will likely cover topics regarding the benefits of sheltering in place to avoid radiation exposure, the basics of acute radiation sickness, the potential medications that might be of benefit in such an attack, and the efforts that federal, state and local health agencies have taken to prepare for the medical consequences of a nuclear attack,” Adalja tells Playboy.
According to the Roper Center, recent Pew Research Center polls demonstrate the general public’s overwhelming concern over the potential for nuclear war between the U.S. and North Korea. An October 2017 survey of 1,504 respondents found that 71 percent believe that the U.S. should take North Korea’s threats to employ the use of nuclear missiles “very seriously.” Furthermore, 75 percent of respondents believe the East Asian nation poses a “major threat to the well-being” of the U.S., and 65 percent of those surveyed believe North Korea will make good on its threats to launch a nuclear attack on the U.S.
Those numbers alone suggest that the American public could certainly benefit from the CDC’s precautionary measures. Moreover, the need for the agency’s nuclear detonation roundtable exists for other concrete reasons.
“Since the events of September 11, there has been a strong interest in preparing the country, from a public health perspective, for a variety of different threats ranging from biological agents to nuclear weapons to dirty bombs,” Adalja explains. “The general public, as well as most medical professionals, are not familiar with the protective actions that would save lives during a nuclear exposure. The Cold War era in which ‘duck and cover’ was something every child had practiced has long passed.”
Preparedness in the wake of a nuclear attack sounds ideal, however, reassurance that our government is doing everything in its power to avert a nuclear crisis (as opposed to inviting it) would be more than welcomed right now.