If It Glows, It Blows June 9, 2010

Although we live in a rural location, I commute an hour each way to work in a major city, Newport News, Virginia.  Newport News is 25 miles long and 4 miles wide, with the James River on the south edge, and the Chesapeake Bay at its end.  What does this have to do with being prepared for disaster?  At the south east end of the city is the Northrup-Grumman Shipyard.  One of only two shipyards in the country where nuclear powered Navy vessels are built and repaired.  The north west end of the city lies within the 10 mile Emergency Planning Zone of the Surry Nuclear Power Station.  Right smack in the middle of town is the Jefferson National Nuclear Accelerator Lab.  My office is in the mid-town, and I drive all over the city throughout the day.

When I got to work this morning, I checked the local news.  Imagine my interest when the first article I read told of the radioactive contamination that was found on the clothing of a shipyard worker who had been working on the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier.  The second article let me know that yesterday Surry had an electrical system malfunction that shut down one of its nuclear reactors.  I already knew that the quarterly test of the radiological emergency alert sirens in town was planned for today.  At least nothing had gone wrong at the nuclear accelerator labs (that "they" told us about).  Fortunately, neither of these events caused a radiological release and nobody was at risk.  But it raises the question of "what if?"

A terrorist dirty bomb in the heart of the city.  A truck carrying nuclear materials has a wreck on the interstate that breaches the transport containers.  An accident at the power station causes a radioactive cloud to travel fall over the city.  Any number of similar situations could happen.  Is it likely?  Not really.  There are multiple safeguards in place.  But it is not outside the realm of a realistic chance of it taking place.  So the question is, how can I go about my daily life, preparing for something like this, but continuing to thrive if it doesn't happen?

In Desert Storm, I wore Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gear.  This was a charcoal lined oversuit and rubber overboots with rubber overgloves and a M17 gas mask and hood on my side at all times for about 5 straight days.  I can't do that waiting for something to happen.  It would clash with my necktie and sport coat, I'd start to stink, and people would think I was a nutjob and I'd get fired.  On top of that, the oversuit is really for chemical agent exposure and would not protect me from radiation.  I'd need a rubber suit.  I guess I could get an old school Civil Defense-era Geiger counter, but it's kind of tough to tote around a big yellow box all day, and again, there is the nutjob factor.  But, there are some important things I can do that will help me stay safe.

Emergency Alert System
In my office, I have a weather alert and EAS radio that will let me know when a radiological emergency is publicized.  The key there is "publicized."  There will be a time lag from when an emergency happens and when it is announced.  That can be life-threatening in certain circumstances.  So I need other options.

NukAlert is a small, discreet key fob that functions as a 24/7 radiation monitor and alarm.  Essentially a 21st century Geiger counter.  It has a 10 year battery life, and the manufacturer offers a very reasonably-priced battery replacement/unit reconditioning.  It is $160 for one, or $145 each for two or more.  I can have one of these with me at all times without anyone else knowing about it.  If the alarm on it goes off, then I know I need to leave the area immediately and tune in to emergency broadcasts.  From my previous postings, you know I hate debt and function on a budget.  This is not budgeted, so i need to plan for it in the very near future.  Hmmm.  A birthday is coming up soon, perhaps a loved one will buy this for me...  I'm just sayin'.  Anyway, once I have this, if it goes off, that means I've been exposed to some level of radiation.  What then?

Potassium Iodide (KI)
Potassium Iodide will prevent your thyroid gland from absorbing radioactive iodine and can reduce the risk of thyroid cancers and other diseases that might otherwise be caused by exposure to radioactive iodine that could be dispersed in a severe nuclear accident.  These pills are taken one a day until you are able to leave the contaminated environment.  Although they have FDA-mandated expiration dates, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, they do not lose any potency or effectiveness past that date.  They are very stable.  So why not make this very inexpensive long-term investment and keep a pack of them in my truck as a part of my Every Day Carry (EDC)?

I encourage you to shop around for the best price on these, but if you use the links above for either one, please let them know you learned of them from this blog.

With these relatively inexpensive preparations, I can be ready for a nuclear accident or attack and be able to safely and quickly get out of town.  I am fortunate to live far enough away from Newport News that my home will be safe.  For those who live in that city or anywhere else that has nuclear or radiological risks, a wise preparation over and above these might include having a fall-back location such as a relative's house or vacation home.  But that leads into discussions about Bug Out Locations (BOL) and Bug Out Bags (BOB) and how to evacuate.  And those discussions will have to wait for another post.

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