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PrepTalks: Brooke Buddemeier “Saving Lives After a Nuclear Detonation.”

PrepTalks: Brooke Buddemeier “Saving Lives After a Nuclear Detonation.”


[PrepTalks Theme Playing] So I’m here to talk about a nuclear
detonation. It’s kind of a big topic I know, but I want
to set the stage first by saying, about a decade ago we had a
workshop at the National Academies and there was a responder from Chicago,
Joe Newton, who was there and he said, “I don’t
know what perfect looks like. If we do everything right after a nuclear
detonation, we got no idea what that looks like.” And it’s no wonder if you
went online you could find preparedness guidance that would say, “You should
shelter,” and other preparedness guidance say, “You should evacuate.” So if we can’t
answer the basic question of should you run or should you hide when you see a
mushroom cloud, how can we possibly prepare? Now I had the good fortune of
working with state and local emergency management agencies across the US and I
took away a few observations in doing that. The first is nobody really has a
plan for the aftermath of a nuclear detonation. In particular what we were
looking at originally was this low yield ground level nuclear terrorism event. And
in fact there’s a lot of uncertainty about what the response needs even are
and what the role of federal, state, and local agencies is? I get two basic
reactions one is it doesn’t matter we’re all dead anyway, right? The other one is
nuclear detonation that’s a Fed thing, right? Wait for the guys in green to show
up and save the day. Well, unfortunately both of those
reactions lead to an apathy in planning that could get hundreds of thousands of
people killed or injured. Why? The critical decisions, the most important
life-saving decisions are those made in the first few minutes and hours of the
event. Those are not going to be coming from Washington DC. Those are going to be things that the state and local communities need to do and they need to
be prepared to do them. So let’s walk through a scenario. Since we are in
Washington DC I thought I’d take 1600 K Street just down the street from here
and we’re going to simulate what a ten kiloton nuclear detonation might do to
this city. So the first thing to understand is that a ten kiloton nuclear
detonation gives off a bright flash of light. The equivalent of a thousand suns
if you are standing a mile away. Ten kilotons is about the same as five
thousand Oklahoma City truck bombs all going off at once. We’re going to use
real weather from noon on February 14 2009, Happy Valentine’s Day, and we’re
going to use casualty numbers based on work day population in DC. Now we’ve done all this modeling and analysis using some advanced techniques. After that
workshop we really got the scientific community together all the federal
agencies who had some understanding of what a nuclear detonation might mean and
we came together to try and solve this problem. So the information you’re about
to see provides some background. The first thing to understand is a ten
kiloton nuclear detonation is probably going to destroy just about everything
out to half a mile. That’s considered the severe damage zone. The next zone is the
moderate damage zone this goes from half a mile to a mile, still a lot of
destruction but more survivors than fatalities. This is actually a focus of
our emergency response, because the people in that moderate damage zone are
going to need help. To give you an idea what it might be like if you were a mile
away from a ten kiloton, I put together a little animation, so this would be the
outer edge of that moderate damage zone. The first thing that’s going to happen
is you’re going to get that bright flash of light followed quickly by a thump.
That thump is a shock wave being transmitted through the earth which
moves faster than the air blast which will come several seconds later, blowing
the glass into buildings causing injury, but also bringing the facades of
building down. So from an event like this in a built-up urban area you can have
tens of feet of rubble and debris in the streets just from all that material
falling. So as an emergency manager if you’re planning on evacuating people or
bringing resources in, you need to understand what that condition is going
to be like and how it’s going to impact your response. So the third blast damage zone I want to talk about is the light damage zone. Light
damage zone is defined by a couple different areas. The first thing to
understand is that even at three miles away glass is being broken with enough
force to cause injury to somebody standing behind that window. That bright
flash of light causes something called flash blindness it’s not permanent maybe
only 15 seconds or a minute. If you’re standing on a street corner it’s not a
big deal, but you and everybody around you driving down the freeway at 60 miles
an hour suddenly blind, you can imagine what that’s going to do to our
thoroughfares. Flash blindness during the day can go out ten miles or more.
That’s the beltway. So if you’re planning on moving resources around, keep in mind
roads are probably going to be blocked. At night flash blindness can go much
further. All this went into trying to find that light damage zone. That light
damage zone goes from one mile to three miles. Most people in that zone are not
going to be injured and the types of injuries that we might expect in that
zone are probably going to be lacerations from flying glass or
may be some minor crush injury from things falling on you. These pictures
were taken a mile and a half away from a solid rocket fuel booster facility that
blew up in Henderson, Nevada. It was about the equivalent of a one kiloton explosion.
And at a mile and a half away it still had enough shock to pop that roof of
that warehouse in and below that glass across that office building. Alright, so
we’ve had our three zones our severe damage zone, our moderate damage zone, and our light damage zone. So these are the prompt effects the blast waves that are going to come out from a ten kiloton. The next thing we need to worry about is fallout. Now fallout is formed when the fireball from the explosion which is so hot it
actually shoots up at over a hundred miles per hour. That fireball sucks up
dirt and debris with it, thousands of tons of dirt and debris and it mixes
with all the radioactive material that was generated during the nuclear
explosion to create fallout. This fallout cloud will rise over the first
few minutes after the event, stabilize maybe at five miles into the atmosphere.
Now to sort of visualize what that cloud is doing with time we’ve sort of
exported our models into this display. So you can see those sort of purple
ping-pong balls those to represent what the cloud is doing. The color changes on
the ground represents what happened after those fallout particles get back
to the ground and their radiation levels that they give off. So I’m going to show
you what’s happening over the first few hours of this event. You can see the
clock in the upper right hand corner. Two hours the bottom part of the cloud
has swept over BWI. You notice it only took an hour for the top part of the
cloud to get out over the Atlantic? That’s because at five miles the winds
are going a lot faster than on the ground and often in a different
direction. So if you go like this and okay which way is the cloud gonna go. You
probably are going to guess wrong and your chances outrunning that cloud
aren’t that great to begin with. Now I’m going to keep the clock going forward
three hours, four hours. You can see there’s actually a wind shift in the
afternoon and some of that material started coming back down. Six hours in
you can see the expanse of the contaminated area. Twelve hours now you’re gonna see something strange happen. It’s actually shrinking and the reasons it’s
shrinking is we define these zones by the radiation levels. And that’s the
silver lining of our fallout cloud radiation decays, actually fairly rapidly.
Radiation from the fallout gives off half of its energy in the first hour, 80%
in the first day. What you’re concerned about is not breathing fallout, it’s the
salt and sand sized particles that come down to the ground land and give off
this penetrating gamma radiation. Avoiding that gamma radiation is what
you’re trying to do when you protect yourself from fallout. Which is why where
you go after an event like this is really important. You want to go to a
spot that gets you as far away from the fallout that’s on the roof or on the ground and has as much mass between you and the fallout as
possible. Now you can think of the numbers on the screen like SPF of
sunscreen the bigger the number the better the protection. Getting into if you happen to be in a suburban neighborhood getting to the
middle of your house would be great, if you got a basement even better. Even a
half basement is fine. Getting into a basement can give you adequate
protection. And if you’re in an urban area like this where most are brick buildings, cement buildings, three or four story buildings, you’ve got great protection
options. I also say that this building, I encourage you when you walk
out to look up at, it there’s a big brick building there’s a stairway going down stairs so we know there’s a basement. You could easily get
protection factors of a hundred or more in the core in the middle of this
building or in the basement. Alright so given the availability of
sheltering we asked the question, “How many lives can be saved through
sheltering?” Well in order to answer that question I sort of need a control group
so if everybody in the scenario I just talked about, for a Washington DC
explosion, if everybody stood outside for the first 24 hours, not the recommended
strategy, but if everybody stood outside for the first 24 hours we would have
about two hundred and eighty thousand people that would get enough radiation exposure to make them sick or potentially kill them. But if those same people, all of the people
in DC, just ran into a poor shelter not that you can find a lot of poor shelters
in DC, takes a while to find a one or two story wood frame house, but if everybody
ran into one of those, we would still save a hundred and fifty thousand people
from significant exposure. If everybody just went into a poor shelter. And if you
went into what we consider an adequate shelter, which is a half basement of a
wood frame house or the worst shelter location in this building, if you went to
the top floor next to the roof or on the periphery of the building. You’d still
have a protection factor of ten we would save two hundred forty five thousand
people from significant exposure. And the people
that did get some kind of exposure tend to be in the sick but not dead category. Now I’ll say in DC it’s not hard to find protection factor 50 or more. If
everybody in DC we’re able to get in that protection factor of 50, there’s a
basement in this building the core of this building or more, we’d have no
fallout casualties, no fallout significant exposures. Fallout is a
preventable casualty. And it takes time for the fallout to get to us. Remember
that cloud? It’s got to get up, cool, all those particles come back down, even
if you’re close to the event you’ve got at least 15 minutes before the that
material starts accumulating. So you’ve got time. So how long? That’s the next
question I get. “Alright you sold me we’re gonna shelter. How long
do we have to hang out together ‘cuz that candy machine ain’t gonna supply us for
long?” Well remember that decay rate I talked about? So I’ve sort of circled in
that yellow dashed line the dangerous fallout zone from this event. At one hour
it’s about that size. The dangerous fallen zone is an area where you can
actually get enough exposure to make you sick or potentially kill you. Now as I
move the clock forward two hours, three hours, notice how quickly that’s
shrinking back. So you really just want to avoid being outside in the first few
hours of this event. After a couple days that dangerous fallout zone actually
disappears. Now there’s still contamination don’t get me wrong, your
meters be clicking like crazy, but the the radiation levels that cause that
acute injury really decay away in the first few hours and days of the event. So
out of all of this work and this science a bunch of great guidance was developed. The Planning Guidance for Response to a Nuclear Detonation, and communication guides, and health and safety guides have all been developed to help emergency
managers understand and prepare for an event like this. And hopefully we may
never have to, but if you need to, help you respond. I’ll simplify it though.
Comes down to really a couple simple things. Get inside. Get inside the
basement or the middle of the building same place you would go for a hurricane
or a tornado. Plan to stay there 12 to 24 hours. And stay tuned. AM/FM radio works
best, because outside of the area of impact radio towers will still be
working and those messages and that transmission can get into the places
that have been impacted. OK these days we get a lot of questions about, “Well what
about higher yields? What about missile delivered things?” Well,
let me give you a quick comparison. So in the middle I have the ten kiloton
that’s what I’ve been talking about, sort of our improvised nuclear device concept,
on the right is a hundred kiloton. Now yeah it’s it’s definitely bigger, but the
range of effect is only about twice as far. So these zones that I’ve been
talking about the the severe damage zone, which goes out half a mile, the moderate,
which goes from half a mile to a mile, it only doubles the range of those
effects. What about an air burst? Well we’ve got a couple of real-world
examples with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those were detonated between 1,500 and
2,000 feet and you’ll notice something when you look at these pictures yes
there’s that mushroom cloud, but the white cap which was created during the
explosion and has all the radioactive material created from the the fission
process, doesn’t quite connect with all the dirt and debris that was pulled up.
There’s an air gap there. And in fact the small fission products that were created
in the explosion actually stay up in the upper atmosphere. Which is why Hiroshima and Nagasaki had little or no fallout. So if a detonation occurs far enough off
the ground that you don’t get that mixing, you don’t get a lot of local
fallout. So we’ve got duck-and-cover 2.0, what does it mean for civil defense these days with all these various nuclear terrorism
threats, nation-state threats? Well if you have an imminent threat you know if
somebody’s launching something at us we’ll know about it and generally have
an opportunity to provide a warning. May not be long, ten minutes, twenty minutes
but the same place that you went to protect yourself from fallout is a great
place to go to protect yourself from the prompt effects from the blast. Getting
into the center of a building, getting into a basement of the building can
provide a lot of it protection just like hurricanes and tornadoes. Now duck and
cover, Burt the Turtle from the Cold War was really all about a no notice attack. You see a bright flash dive into the corner, cover your head. I don’t think we
need to go back there as a nation with that hyper vigilance and waiting for the
bomb. But if you are aware that there is a
potential threat of an attack and you see a bright flash, it’s probably not a
bad idea to duck down. Because what that helps with is avoiding
potential blast effects and maybe even some of the thermal effects. And fallout. So fallout is the same regardless of whether it’s a missile or detonated on
the ground, if the detonation occurs close enough to
the ground for that mixing of the fission products with the dirt and
debris you can generate fallout. The good news is it takes a while for that
fallout to rise up and come back down, and there’s a lot of places that you can
go that can protect yourself from the penetrating gamma radiation from that
fallout and really keep yourself safe keep your family safe. Get inside, stay inside, stay tuned still works. I don’t want to minimize it this
is definitely a catastrophic event. More than three-quarters of million people
would be within those blast zones I talked about, half a million within that
dangerous fallout zone, but there’s a lot of resources in this area to help save
lives. If we know what to do. If you go to the CDC website you can see what it means to get inside, what it means to stay inside, and what it
means to stay tuned. And guess what as emergency managers, guess where you fall
in? When that stay tuned pops up, they’re looking for you to provide a message and
that message needs to be informed by situational awareness. Where’s the best
places to go? How do you avoid the fallout? What places are safe, what places
aren’t? Are you ready? There’s a couple tools that DHS is developing to help you.
This is called the Rapid Hazard Assessment Tool, and instead of you know
these detailed models, this one is just a simple put down a pie wedge, bad stuffs
probably going to be going in this direction. The idea is eventually this might be in an EOC even without an internet
connection that will allow you to run these tools yourself and figure out
where the potential impacted areas might be. If you want to a plan, if you want to
prepare for an event like this, there’s a great tool called the City Planning
Resource that FEMA has put together. And across the US we’ve looked at all
major cities identified what the predominant weather patterns are of
concern, done a variety of yields to look at the response needs, and built reports,
and analysis, and GIS systems that allow you to put together a plan that’s
informed by good analysis and science. There’s things that can help. I hope you
think about, you know a little bit of preparedness, because just a little bit
of knowledge and a little bit of preparedness can save a lot of lives.
Thank you. [Applause] Let people in! Do not lock them out!
And actually decon is a lot easier than you might think. You know we actually did
a lot of tests in the Nevada desert and in our infinite wisdom they actually had
soldiers running around 30 minutes after the detonation in the fallout. Dry dusty
environment. The decon procedure? Broom. This is dirt and debris and so they
brush the soldiers off, they measured them, and verified that they were
clean. So this isn’t like a sticky residue that you’re not going to be able
to get off, fallout is easy to remove, and in fact when you look at the the the
old civil defense they say, “Take your head off!” You see the fallout coming off
of it, but yes, take your shoes off take your outer layer of clothing off and
that will remove most of the fallout. And the important thing to think about here is
that, remember that rapid decay? The fallout is most dangerous early, so getting it
off fast is more important than getting it off thoroughly. So don’t wait in line
for the shower. A great question and look I think we’ve
all been involved in exercises where there’s a toxic material release and it’s
like, “OK the response is over all right where’s EPA, I’ll hand it off.” You know
it’s really important to begin that recovery process, when the event occurs.
If you’re in emergency management please consider standing up that recovery focused
IMT almost immediately. They need to be thinking about things that will save
lives and sustain lives, while people are being rescued, because that recovery
slope is overlapping with the response slope. There are a number of great
documents that I would refer you to the the Nuc/Rad Incident Annex is out there,
as well as the the Federal planning guidance and all of these offer you
some suggestions on where to go to help the recovery process succeed. Just to put it into context a ten
kiloton was used for improvised device planning because that’s about the same
size as our first nuclear device Trinity, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, all sort of in that
factor of two range of a ten kiloton. I’ll remind you that our first nuclear
weapon, Trinity, was an implosion device highly technical it worked. Our second
nuclear device was Little Boy. It was an entirely different design it was a gun assembled device which we used in warfare for the first time and it worked. So answer is there is not an overwhelming technical challenge, what we tried to do is prevent people from getting the fuels that are
necessary which is the highly enriched uranium and plutonium. Which is why we
have such a strong non-proliferation effort out there. Also as for size, within
seven years of our first nuclear weapon we were firing them out of artillery
shells. [PrepTalks Theme Playing]

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