Some of America's biggest states have started warning residents to prepare for a nuclear emergency, citing Russian President Vladimir Putin's persistent atomic threats — but many experts are decrying the government message as either lacking substance or a veiled attempt to control Americans.
Taking seriously Putin's threats to use "all the means at our disposal" amid Russia's continued war in Ukraine, New York and New Jersey have begun deploying their own public service announcements geared toward prepping Americans in the event of a nuclear attack on the homeland.
As part of September's "National Preparedness Month," New Jersey public buses featured large transit ads on their sides asking "Do you know what to do in a radiation emergency?"
The ad offers citizens a three-step guide: "go inside, stay inside, and stay tuned for news updates."
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Similar PSA-style ads have been spotted in New Jersey shopping malls and even inside New York City subways.
Last summer, New York City Emergency Management issued a public service announcement video informing New Yorkers what to do if a nuclear bomb exploded.
Experts say the biggest issue with the message is that it lacks the lifesaving information pertinent for this type of catastrophic event.
"These ads are likely to cause panic, but lack the most basic information that could save millions of lives outside the zone of complete destruction," said Dr. Jane Orient, president of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness.
New York's video PSA begins with a narrator saying, "So there's been a nuclear attack. Don't ask me how or why, just know that the big one has hit. OK? So, what do we do?"
It then echoes the same advice the bus ad does: get inside, stay inside, and stay tuned.
A subway ad provided a step-by-step guide for decontaminating yourself and others during a radiation emergency. The four steps involved removing the outer layer of clothing, showering, putting on clean clothes, and then helping others and pets.
While overall awareness is certainly important, Orient said the PSA lacks vital information and "seems designed to get people cowering inside indefinitely and depending on a totally unprepared government."
She says the most important tip for this type of crisis is nowhere to be found: If you see a bright flash, drop to the ground behind or under any available cover.
Another tip: Immediately put your hands against your ears. A nuclear explosion creates a blast wave that creates shock waves of air easily capable of blowing out a person's ear drums.
These potentially lifesaving tips, along with several other recommendations that are not being circulated by officials, can be found on the "60-second nuclear detonation training card," which Doctors for Disaster Preparedness has provided to thousands of first responders.
Dr. Orient said the advice of "staying tuned is likely to be impossible unless you have a battery-powered radio," considering the damage from a nuclear attack would render massive power outages.
She noted that taking a shower and washing your clothes is "probably both impossible and not helpful" considering the initial radiation will be gone.
She recommends that Americans familiarize themselves with the 60-second training card, which features helpful tips such as keeping your eyes closed to prevent blindness and covering up with anything, even a newspaper, to protect against burns.
It also explains the 7/10 rule — that fallout, which looks like sand, ash, or grit as it falls and accumulates on the ground, loses 90% of its radioactivity in the first 7 hours after a detonation and an additional 90% for every 7-fold increase in time.
To be sure there is no fallout, the guide recommends placing a piece of white paper, a dinner plate, or anything with a smooth surface on the ground to check every 15 minutes for particles. If fallout is present, seek shelter for two to three days underground or behind thick walls.
Dr. Orient also recommends stocking up on water, food, medications, batteries, and other essentials as well as reading and printing out a copy of the Nuclear War Survival Skills book, which provides "invaluable information for surviving any type of crisis."
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