‘Expert’ Advice 2.0
The City of New York's new 'Nuclear Preparedness' PSA has aroused scorn and derision
The City of New York recently released a 90-second public service announcement (PSA) on “Nuclear Preparedness.” The Emergency Management department’s video is so odd, it’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry at the thought that people may put their trust in it.
Imagine, the video’s narrator says, that “the big one has hit” — a big nuclear bomb, presumably aimed at Manhattan. The narrator then presents the City’s expert advice: 1) Get inside, fast, and away from windows; 2) Stay inside, remove clothing, and get clean; 3) Stay tuned, and follow media and officials who will send alerts. The narrator encourages future participants in this apocalyptic scenario by saying “You’ve got this!”
Needless to say, the emergency managers have received plenty of comments on where their advice goes wrong. One wonders if they even checked with nukes experts at nearby universities or military bases! The website of Popular Mechanics magazine has an article detailing all the points NYC officials got wrong, but the article is behind a paywall. I hoped to see a take-down by people who actually know how things work.
A scathing response to the PSA by an international peace group is highlighted at the online news site Pressenza (July 16; a link is below). The International Campaign to Ban Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which “was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its work leading to a landmark treaty outlawing nukes,” corrected the message for misled New Yorkers. “The reality is, if this comes to pass, you don’t ‘got this,’” said ICAN. Further, the group points to the absurdity of advice to “get inside, fast” after a nuclear explosion “when, in a matter of seconds, houses up to 175 kilometers away from the epicenter crumble like they are made of cards.” So much for the PSA’s point number one.
The City experts’ point number two (“stay inside… get clean”) sounds like they think a nuclear blast will be a teensy bit worse than COVID. Assuming every basement or interior room hasn’t been stocked by a prepper, the plan to merely hide, perhaps half naked, will quickly be trumped by thirst and hunger. Here the PSA could have cited the old wilderness survival rule of thumb: “You have three days to find potable water, and three weeks to find edible food.”
As for PSA point number three, assuming the nuclear blast’s electromagnetic pulse (a.k.a. EMP) hasn’t fried all nearby electronics, the advice to rely on government alerts sounds iffy. (Remember how New York governor Cuomo and his experts thought it was smart to place people sick with COVID under the same roof with the vulnerable nursing-home population? And COVID was a relatively slow-moving disaster compared to a bomb.) Amid nuclear destruction, exactly who would be “in charge” and what they could possibly advise besides “Go west!” makes for a fascinating mental exercise.
In answer to the spin-off question of why the PSA was released now, and whether officials know of any specific threat, CBS News (July 13) quotes Christina Farrell, the city’s emergency management deputy commissioner. “There’s no overarching reason why this is the time we sent this out. It’s just one tool in the toolbox to be prepared in the 21st century.” She leaves out that the U.S. is currently engaged in a proxy war with one nuclear power and lately has been squabbling with another over Taiwan.