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Surviving the bomb

January 31, 2018

by Barry Hermanson

On Jan. 13, at 8:07 a.m., a ballistic missile alert went out to TV, radio and mobile phones in Hawaii; 38 minutes later, the alert was canceled. Authorities blamed the false alert on a button pushed in error during a shift change. During those 38 minutes, there was widespread panic. Many tried to find some sort of shelter. A few, realizing shelter would most likely not protect them, stayed out in the open. What would you do?

This mock-up illustrates a story published in Esquire the day after the false alarm headlined, “Minutes to Live: When the Nuclear Push Alert Is Not a Mistake.” – Photo: Ben Hoeckel, Esquire

I was born in 1951, just a few years after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bomb has, in many ways, shaped my generation. I remember classroom drills in grade school where we were expected to crawl under our flimsy desks to seek shelter from a nuclear explosion.

No one mentioned that the windows to the classroom would most likely be blown out. Nor was any mention made of the fact that the entire building might be destroyed in an instant, depending on how close we were to the blast. I don’t recall any discussion of what we would do if we survived.

In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, “roughly half of the deaths in each city occurred on the first day. Large numbers of people continued to die from the effects of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries, compounded by illness and malnutrition, for many months afterward,” according to Wikipedia.

On Jan. 13, at 8:07 a.m., a ballistic missile alert went out to TV, radio and mobile phones in Hawaii; 38 minutes later, the alert was canceled. Authorities blamed the false alert on a button pushed in error during a shift change.

Ads for building bomb shelters and how to stock them were very common in the 1950s. I never knew anyone who had one. A few years ago, I came across an article about a homeowner in Los Angeles. A bomb shelter was discovered on the property. It was being converted into a wine cellar.

If you are near the center of a nuclear explosion, a bomb shelter will not save you. If you are not near the center, you will suffer from the fallout. Radioactive waste can spread a long way.

I live in San Francisco. A bomb dropped on the City would most likely kill more than 800,000 people immediately. Many more in the San Francisco Bay Area would die during the weeks, months and years to come. What would it be like in your community?

If you are near the center of a nuclear explosion, a bomb shelter will not save you. If you are not near the center, you will suffer from the fallout. Radioactive waste can spread a long way.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 669 would prohibit a first strike without a Congressional declaration of war. There are currently 76 cosponsors. I agree, Trump should not be allowed to push his “bigger” button. Obama shouldn’t have been given this power either. No one should have that power.

Inspired by the success of the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons was formed in 2007. A decade of work by non-governmental organizations from one hundred countries resulted in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Fifty-six countries have signed since September of 2017. Four of those countries have ratified the treaty.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 669 would prohibit a first strike without a Congressional declaration of war. There are currently 76 cosponsors.

We live our lives under the threat of being vaporized at any moment. Those in Hawaii may not have given much thought to that threat until the morning of January 13th. Instead of just working to make sure a false alarm never happens again, I hope those 38 minutes of terror will help spark a larger debate in this country about banning the bomb.

If it is available to you, I recommend reading “Survive the Bomb: The Radioactive Citizen’s Guide to Nuclear Survival,” edited by Eric Swedin and published in 2011.

Barry Hermanson is the San Francisco-based Green Party candidate for U.S. House of Representatives. Visit his website, barry4congress.org, and email him at Barry@Barry4Congress.org.

5 thoughts on “Surviving the bomb

  1. Denise

    My parents have a bomb shelter on their property in Colorado. It also was turned into a wine cellar. Thanks for this article. A nuclear bomb hitting anywhere near home is a scary thought. It's hard to believe that it's even a possibility. Wish the world could learn to love instead of fight.
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