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Advancing U.S. Resilience to a Nuclear Catastrophe
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Rad Resilient City Project  PDF

Overview and Status Update, May 19, 2011

Two decades after the end of the Cold War, we face a cruel irony of history—the risk of a nuclear
confrontation between nations has gone down, but the risk of nuclear attack has gone up.
—President Barack Obama, Remarks at the Nuclear Security Summit, April 13, 2010

What Is the Goal of the Project?

To provide leaders from high terrorism risk cities with a checklist of preparedness actions that could save tens of thousands of lives or more following a nuclear detonation through adequate protection against radioactive fallout.

Why Is this Project Needed?

Nuclear terrorism is a real threat. The world’s fissile materials today total about 1.6 million kilograms of highly enriched uranium and 500,000 kilograms of plutonium—enough to make more than 125,000 crude nuclear bombs. Detonation of a crude nuclear device in a U.S. city could kill tens of thousands of people, dislocate millions, and inflict significant material and moral damage.

This possibility demands effective contingency planning, because a 100% success rate in prevention cannot be guaranteed, and because the potential damage would be intolerable in humanitarian and political terms. Experts generally concur, however, that the U.S. is not well prepared to respond to such a catastrophe. In FY2008, nuclear incident management constituted only 1.3% of U.S. nuclear weaponsrelated appropriations.

Recent federal studies suggest that many lives could be saved if first responders and the public took appropriate actions in the hours and days immediately following a nuclear terrorist event. Tens of thousands of deaths due to radioactive fallout exposure could be prevented if the public understood 3 things: a nuclear detonation has occurred, they should immediately seek adequate shelter, and they should await further information before evacuating.

However, most Americans are not familiar with correct safety measures against radioactive fallout, nor are local emergency management structures fully equipped to instill this knowledge meaningfully either before or after an incident. Important federal guidance is emerging to remedy these gaps, but emergency professionals are on their own to piece together lengthy documents and to translate generic guidance into actionable preparedness and response plans. In the current economic environment, emergency officials have limited resources with which to take on planning for new, complex hazards.

The Rad Resilient City Project converts new federal guidance, scientific reports, and other technical information into clear and actionable steps for cities.

What Is the Project's Approach?

The Rad Resilient City Project will develop and promote a set of actions against which high terrorism risk cities can improve their readiness to protect resident populations from fallout. The project will provide both a model vision of population-level preparedness as well as practical steps to mark gains by jurisdictions working with different baselines. By implementing the project’s checklist (such as the interim one below), a locality will have prepared both the emergency management infrastructure and the larger population to save tens of thousands of lives following a nuclear detonation.

Fallout Resilience Checklist

Action 1: Obtain broad community backing for nuclear event preparedness to sustain the program over time and to magnify its impact in an incident

Action 2: Conduct a pre-event public education program to inform the public about the effects of a nuclear detonation and how people can protect themselves

Action 3: Enable building owners and operators—from individual householders to skyscraper managers—to assess shelter attributes and to teach others

Action 4: Strengthen the region’s ability to deliver actionable public warnings following a nuclear detonation through well-chosen technologies and organizational procedures

Action 5: Establish a rapid system for mapping and monitoring the Dangerous Fallout Zone to inform public warnings about appropriate protective actions

Action 6: Develop planning strategies and logistical capabilities to support a large-scale, phased evacuation

Action 7: Integrate, test, and conduct training on the above elements of a comprehensive fallout preparedness and public warning system

What Knowledge Informs the Project?

The Nuclear Resilience Expert Advisory Group constitutes the project’s brain trust. Members include seasoned decision makers at local and federal levels of government; practitioners in emergency management, public health, public safety, radiation control, and law enforcement—all from high terrorism risk jurisdictions; representatives from business, community, and volunteer sectors; and subject matter experts in health physics, disaster sociology and psychiatry, vulnerable populations, public education, public warning and evacuation. Recommendations will reflect the experience and professional judgment of this Expert Advisory Group, as well as evidence obtained by the review of prevailing federal guidance on radiological and nuclear incident response; technical reports from key practitioner organizations (eg, NCRP, CRCPD); and select local radiological emergency plans.

How Will the Work Move Forward? What Impact Will the Project Have?

The Rad Resilient City Project’s fallout preparedness checklist and supportive technical materials will be published in the fall of 2011. The Center for Biosecurity will then lead efforts to disseminate and encourage implementation of the checklist by holding instructional workshops for elected officials, emergency responders, and community leaders in high risk jurisdictions and by conducting briefings at major professional association meetings and conferences in 2011-2012. The project will provide community leaders in and out of government with a unified vision of fallout preparedness as well as concrete steps for its implementation. By singling out fallout preparedness as an achievable priority objective, the project can create momentum for high risk jurisdictions to tackle other nuclear readiness, response and recovery issues like the surge in demand for medical services, search and rescue capabilities, and the sheltering of mass, displaced populations.

Nuclear Resilience Expert Advisory Group

Claudia Albano, Neighborhood Services Manager, City of Oakland, California

Steven M. Becker, PhD, Associate Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, The University of Alabama at Birmingham

James S. Blumenstock, MA, Chief Program Officer, Public Health Practice, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials; Project Liaison to the National Alliance for Radiation Readiness

Brooke Buddemeier, MS, CHP, Certified Health Physicist, Risk and Consequence Management, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Anita Cicero, JD, Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Director, Center for Biosecurity

Daniel Dodgen, PhD, Director, Division for At Risk Individuals, Behavioral Health, and Community Resilience; Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Joseph B. Donovan, Senior Vice President, Beacon Capital Partners

Elizabeth Dugan, MS, MPH, PhD; Principal Analyst, Homeland Security Studies & Analysis Institute

Joseph E. Fitzgerald, Jr., MS, Saliant, Inc.; Contributing Scholar, Center for Biosecurity

Thomas C. Heneghan, Manager—Preparedness; Preparedness and Health & Safety Services, American Red Cross, National Headquarters

Thomas V. Inglesby, MD, Chief Executive Officer and Director, Center for Biosecurity

Peter Jutro, PhD, Deputy Director for Science and Policy, National Homeland Security Research Center, Environmental Protection Agency

Kathleen Kaufman, Former Director of Radiation Management, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, California

John J. Lanza, MD, PhD, MPH, FAAP; Director, Florida Department of Health—Escambia County Health Department

Robert M. Levin, MD, Health Officer/Medical Director, Ventura County Public Health, California

Carmen E. MacDougall, Vice President, Communications, Nuclear Threat Initiative

Karen Marsh, MBA, Director, Community Preparedness Division, National Preparedness Directorate, Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

David M. McKernan, MS, Coordinator, Office of Emergency Management, Fairfax County, Virginia

Dennis Mileti, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University of Colorado at Boulder

Charles W. Miller, PhD, Chief, Radiation Studies Branch, Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects, National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Ryan Morhard, Analyst Intern, Center for Biosecurity

Patrick D. Neville, Captain, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department—Homicide Bureau

Ann Norwood, MD, Senior Associate, Center for Biosecurity

Juan M. Ortiz, Emergency Management Coordinator, Office of Emergency Management, City of Fort Worth, Texas

Irwin Redlener, MD, Director, National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Columbia University; President, Children's Health Fund

Jeffrey W. Runge, MD, Principal, Chertoff Group, LLC; former Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs and Chief Medical Officer, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Monica Schoch-Spana, PhD, Senior Associate, Center for Biosecurity ; Chairperson, Expert Advisory Group

James Schwartz, Chief, Arlington County Fire Department, Arlington, Virgina

Tara Kirk Sell, MA, Analyst, Center for Biosecurity

John H. Sorensen, PhD, Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Page O. Stoutland, PhD, Vice President, Nuclear Materials Security, Nuclear Threat Initiative

Tammy P. Taylor, PhD, PE, Nuclear Nonproliferation Division Office, Los Alamos National Laboratory

Kate Uraneck, MD, Senior Medical Coordinator, Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

John C. White, CNMT, Radiation Safety Officer, VA North Texas Health Care System; Vice Chair, Texas-Vermont Low Level Radioactive Waste Compact Commission; Chair, North Texas Radiation Response Group

Jessica Wieder, Public Affairs Specialist, Radiation Protection Division, Environmental Protection Agency