You always kind of figured that the election of Donald Trump as president would lead us to prepare for a nuclear holocaust, and here we are. After learning in May that North Korean missiles could hit the west coast with 30 minutes of launching, and of course the preposterous Kim Jong-Un propaganda video that nuked San Francisco, one can't help but consider the possibility that the destruction of San Francisco we’ve seen in so many movies might happen before our eyes just as our bodies collectively disintegrate. But in the wake of Trump’s recent threat of “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” the Chronicle reports that San Francisco Department of Emergency Management officials are indeed planning what they will do in case of a nuclear attack.
The current state of the possibly impending nuclear crisis is that it sucks to be Guam, but even the American mainland is vulnerable. According to the Washington Post, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency suspects the North Koreans now have as many as 60 “miniaturized nuclear warheads” that could fit inside an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and strike pretty much anyplace in America.
“An intercontinental ballistic missile is a new concern in terms of preventative radiological nuclear detention,” SF Department of Emergency Management deputy director Michael Dayton tells the Chronicle. “Our previous efforts have focused on what happens if a bad actor got ahold of a dirty bomb and set it off on the Golden Gate Bridge.”
But now, thanks to the escalating drama between Trump and Kim Jong Un, SF is forced to contemplate emergency contingencies in the event of a nuclear attack. The nuclear fireball from just one missile would be a mile in diameter, create surface temperatures as hot as the sun, radioactive fallout would spread for hundreds of miles, and the few hospitals left standing would be overwhelmed. Oh sure, we'd probably get to go home from work early, but the roads and highways would be jammed and in complete chaos.
ABC 7 assures us that the chances are low that San Francisco will be getting nuked anytime soon, because North Korea has not yet tested the ICMBs with the extra weight of the nuclear warheads. But nuclear option blueprints for San Francisco law enforcement, firefighting and public health plans are being put in place.
“San Francisco plans and prepares for all types of emergencies," Department of Emergency Management spokesperson Francis Zamora told ABC 7. He noted that the nuclear attack plan includes "assessing the radiological levels in the city, assessing medical needs, assessing population needs, [and] whether [people] need shelter or need to evacuate."
Cities already have a federal blueprint for nuclear attacks or incidents, because FEMA delivered a nuclear attack response framework in October 2016. (Thanks, Obama!)
This still leads us to the question of what individuals should do in the event of a nuclear holocaust. According to FEMA’s Nuclear Blast Fact Sheet, we are advised to:
Take cover as quickly as you can, below ground if possible, and stay there until instructed to do otherwise.
Listen for official information and follow instructions.
If you are caught outside and unable to get inside immediately:
Do not look at the flash or fireball—it can blind you.
Take cover behind anything that might offer protection, such as depressions, behind berms or ridges, or in mines and caves that engineers have declared usable for that purpose.
Avoid places that channel wind, for example under overpasses or in subway entrances. They make blast waves more intense, like a wind tunnel.
Lie flat on the ground, in a low spot if immediately possible, and cover your head. If the explosion is some distance away, it could take 30 seconds or more for the blast wave to hit.
Take shelter as soon as you can, even if you are many miles from ground zero where the attack occurred - radioactive fallout can be carried by the winds for hundreds of miles and remain aloft for weeks. Remember the three protective factors: distance, shielding, and time.
“The survivors would envy the dead,” nuclear weapons analyst Jeffrey Lewis told the Chronicle. “The best thing to do would be to not make it. It’s gruesome.”
So there is the opposite of your afternoon palate cleanser, and we are now on notice that the threat of a nuclear attack is greater than it's been in about 30 years. Kind of makes me long for the days when the worst our nuke-war worries was that the president couldn’t pronounce the “nuclear” correctly.