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DOCUMENTS


The Tentacle


April 21, 2008

This is NOT a Test! Part 1

Steven R. Berryman

Your radio or television begins the strange squealing, coded sounds you have heard so often before. “Here we go again” is the first thought that comes to mind. Programming is instantly interrupted. In disbelief, the Emergency Alert System (EAS) continues with “This is NOT a Test!”

 

You see a brilliant flash of light, the sky darkens or turns yellow, or the ground begins to tremble beneath you. Are you prepared?

 

A disaster of biblical proportions could be appearing right in front of your eyes and totally without warning.

 

Strange things, some terrible, do happen over the course of a lifetime. If you are reading this now, count yourself lucky. Either you or your ancestors were lucky; or more probably, well prepared for their emergencies. The thing about luck, by the way, as my Dad says, you make your own luck often times.

 

Be prepared and make your contingency plan.

 

It’s not hard at all, and I’m going to cover some basics just to get you started. Then it will be up to you and your family to take it from there. This, and some “situational awareness,” will get you through a lot.

 

As an example of a strange unexpected event, I was rained out of a motorcycle trip back to college and found myself stuck in a Holiday Inn watching CNN in Harrisburg, PA. I found the story of the runaway nuclear power plant to be right on time, as it was fascinating to watch unfold…until I discovered that those hydrogen bubbles exploding and radiation leaks were coming from a location two miles due north of where I was – at Three Mile Island (TMI). The date was March 28, 1979.

 

Randomness can strike you, as well.

 

Then, after having grown up in the Cold War, I had another shocker, on the way back from the Norfolk, VA, area on a business trip (which is ground zero for any preemptive war) the precursor warning system EBS squawked from my car stereo with “This is NOT a test” again. This time it was due to a tornado in nearby Richmond. But for seven full seconds I was scanning my surroundings for a storm drain or pipe to climb into. This was 1983 at paranoia maxima. That one was too close to me.

 

These were wake-up calls for me, and I eventually came to the conclusion that one had to be self-sufficient in this day and age.

 

There are many types of potential emergencies, each with their own level of probability, if you believe the statisticians.

 

First Stage: A storm, snow event, wind event, or nearby tornado is most likely.

 

Second Stage: Would be a bad flood, local tornado, hurricane, or earthquake.

 

Third Stage: An influenza outbreak, if drug resistant strains could cause weeks of house confinement in some circumstances. And for Frederick locals, God forbid that something escapes from Fort Detrick. Smallpox, for example potentially has a very long shelf life. Civil unrest could cause disturbances and rioting as a result of racial strife or food shortages.

 

Hurricane Katrina needs to be an object lesson to us all. There are some situations that are so large that your police cannot help you, and civilization itself can break down for extended periods of time.

 

Fourth Stage: Least likely by far, but not impossible, catastrophic events can include: a terrorist detonation of a nuclear bomb; a catastrophic stock market and currency collapse leading to civil unrest and chaos; or even a huge volcanic eruption leading to a “nuclear winter,” blocking the sun, ruining crops, and plummeting temperatures.

 

Keep in mind that your potential protectors may not be what you think they are. To make matters worse, much of our safety net here is focused on the containment and cleanup of big problems, not in heading them off. Think “reactive.”

 

The principal job of the State Police is to protect the state’s property and government. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is most concerned with the Continuity of Government (COG) program, saving key members of the federal government and whisking them to secure locations. Think black helicopters here.

 

Ironically, the National Emergency Training Center in Emmitsburg closed during both minor snow events this winter. This gets a low confidence vote from me, but also should tell you that their job is not so much as first responders as planners for a post-mortem.

 

Again, in New Orleans, law and order broke down, and the police themselves disbanded for a while.

 

In the case of the terrorist nuclear detonation, it is estimated that a single blast, if successful on a medium sized American city, would require and absorb the entire emergency response capability of the medical community nationwide.

 

Keep in mind that al-Qaeda typically goes after four targets at the same time, such as airplanes and buildings. They are terribly persistent, and only got the World Trade Centers on their second attempt. Yet, I digress.

 

(Part 2 tomorrow.)



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