Civil Defense Perspectives November 2011, Vol. 28 No. 1
On Dec. 7, 2011, Pearl Harbor Day, Stephen Jones arrived at his destination in Oceanside, Calif., having traveled 3,550 miles by bicycle from Martha’s Vineyard since Sep 23. Along the way, he stopped at about 160 fire stations, police departments, or emergency management offices in 17 states to provide life-saving nuclear preparedness information to first responders. In these days of electronic information overload, the most memorable, attention-getting message could be the one delivered face to face by a man on a bicycle.To interested officers, Jones demonstrated RadStickers, using radioactive sources from smoke detectors. Physicians for Civil Defense, which provided nominal financial support to help pay expenses, will donate enough RadStickers to supply all personnel in departments who request them, as soon as funding is available. Some departments do have some expensive electronic instruments, but have no funding to maintain them or to train personnel in their use. The information on the 60-second training card may be the sum total of preparedness for a nuclear detonation in most parts of the U.S. Lack of even that could cost millions of unnecessary casualties.
A Conversation with Stephen Jones
Q: Tell us about the dragon’s head and tail on your bike. (See photo from Martha’s Vineyard Times, www.mvtimes.com/marthas-vineyard/article.php?id=7786.)
A: The dragon represents the figurehead on the Skidbladnir, the mythical ship of the Norse god Freyr.
Q: What do you carry with you?
A: I probably carry about 35 pounds. My “office” is a little box with civil defense information and RadStickers. The old technology, the Geiger counter, is too heavy to carry, and I sent it home. I have a sleeping bag, a hammock, a tarp tent, warm clothes, a camera, a compass, a little food, vitamins, some water. I buy a road map in each state and discard it when I leave.
Q: What about maintaining the bicycle?
A: I get a couple of flat tires a day. I have a patch kit, a couple of spare tubes, and a floor pump. For tools, I have a screwdriver and a channel lock wrench and pliers. I also found a hunting knife along the road.
Q: Where do you sleep?
A: Often in a motel. If there are woods, I can string a hammock between two trees. I have slept in a culvert or under a bridge.
Q: How are you received?
A: The reception I get is what has kept me going. Not everyone is glad to see me, but many officers are extremely grateful for the information.
Q: Do you just stop in when you pass a fire station?
A: Right. If no one is there, I may leave materials. Sometimes I have been able to conveniently visit as many as 10 places in a day. In less densely populated areas, I ask around until I find out where some first responders might be. One firefighter took me around to four other stations, and one firefighter asked for materials to distribute at other stations where he works.
Q: How do you approach them?
A: I say, “Hi, my name’s Stephen Jones, and I’m a volunteer with Physicians for Civil Defense. We’re handing out these radiation monitors that were created by the Department of Defense to protect police and firefighters against radiological and nuclear terrorism. They were created in response to 911. We’re giving them out free; they’re not for sale.” Then I show them how the sensors work, by turning colors. I have some with easily peeled-off fronts to test with radiation from a smoke detector.
Q: What dose can you demonstrate?
A: With a $4 Wal-Mart smoke detector you can get a dose of 50 rads in a minute’s exposure. That’s alpha radiation. Then I have a regular RadSticker that’s had a smoke detector source taped to it all summer, and it is quite black. It’s important for responders to have confidence that it works, as their lives may depend on it. A report of government testing is not enough for them: one fire chief told me, “I don’t believe what the government says.”
Q: Do they have the attitude that there’s no use preparing because nothing can be done?
A: That’s very rare.
Q: What level of knowledge do you see?
A: There are a few who are well prepared; maybe 1 in 50. But the vast majority are quite open about having nothing in terms of equipment or training.
First We Need Leadership
Jones is now working in southern California, which he believes to be the highest risk area of the country for nuclear terrorism because of the Pacific ports. In presentations to emergency managers, he emphasizes that the biggest problem in civil defense is not lack of information or technology, but lack of leadership. He encourages these officials to lead, not simply manage.
While it is not as exciting or attractive as technology, information will save more lives, and first responders understand this. That’s why Jones now leads with the 60-second card (http://www.ddponline.org/storage/card.pdf), emphasizing its stand-alone utility, its ease of distribution, and the fact that it is literally flash-training for police and firefighters. He leaves six cards that can be laid out on an 8.5 by 11 sheet for ease of copying.
For those who are interested in more, Jones proceeds with the Kearny Fallout Meter, Nuclear War Survival Skills, and then the NukAlert. Most people have no clue about how to use an electronic radiation meter, but the concept of the KFM is instantly understandable. If the leaves are moving, there is significant radiation; otherwise, there isn’t.
Wide dissemination of nation-saving SIRAD technology is highly desirable, but will probably not happen without congressional leadership to fund large-scale manufacturing and distribution. The technology was initially developed with taxpayer funding, but the federal government has done nothing to promote it.
Jones believes all first responders could be supplied with the 60-second card within a few weeks. If information does not get out soon, it could be too late.
Deeper and Deeper into Denial
“The strategic situation in the Middle East is worse than the Cuban Missile Crisis, I think,” writes Stephen Jones. “Yet people could not be more asleep. It is normal to go deeper into denial the closer you get to what you are denying.”
The situation is similar with hurricanes (see July 2011 issue). Every year that a hurricane is a “near miss,” Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Long Island go into deeper denial. These regions are potential death traps because bridges and roads cannot handle a normal hurricane evacuation. Long Island could experience tens of thousands of drownings, as its preparedness exists on paper only. In downtown Providence, Rhode Island, there is a high-water mark of 17 ft on one of the buildings. In a category 3 hurricane, 29 Long Island towns would be completely submerged.
In the 10 years since 9/11, America has gone into a deeper sleep than before, Jones states. “Since the 2007 financial collapse, we are more like zombies, not afraid of dying because we have already died.”
“The work we are doing is not academic, or reform,” Jones writes. “It is intervention, in an attempt to alter an otherwise disastrous outcome.” In 2009, Jones visited every congressional office with civil defense information (see January 2010 issue). Having now seen the poverty and blight of rural America from a bicycle, he compares the lavish livings of congressmen and Washington, D.C., bureaucrats to the excesses of the French aristocracy in 1789. Like the court of Louis XVI, Congress is totally out of touch with the Americans it purports to represent.
Jones has concluded that it is now futile to work with policymakers. We must instead work directly with those who respond to disaster. “In spite of the somnambulism of the country, our front-line responders are awake. Police and firefighters always welcome the 60-second training cards.”
During the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong moved tons of materiel through the jungle by freight bicycle. Kirk Paradise provides detailed instructions on how to rig bicycles to serve as a “wheeled porter” system in the Journal of Civil Defense, Issue 2, 2011. (Subscribe at www.tacda.org.) Jones says bicycles with big tires work best. Remove the pedals and the seat, and place a pole through the seat tube. You push the bicycle with the pole, and use the handlebars for steering. You could carry up to 500 lbs this way, in contrast to the 35 lbs you might be able to carry in a backpack. The bicycle would serve when roads are blocked or damaged, or fuel unavailable. Paradise suggests preparing a conversion kit for each bicycle and storing it with the load-carrying pole and your 72-hour kit and other gear. He reports being able to make the conversion within 6 minutes.
Totally Vulnerable to EMP
As the U.S. becomes ever more dependent on the electric grid and on electronics for both civilian and military functions, it becomes more vulnerable to attack by an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) or radiofrequency (RF) weapons. Telecommunications, banking, financial, and navigation systems could be “fried” by a turn of a switch, according to a Dept. of Defense and a communications system engineer, who spoke on condition of anonymity (F. Michael Maloof, G2 Bulletin 9/9/11).
Previously, concern centered on an attack by the Soviet Union or China. The Chinese currently claim to be developing an EMP bomb for their DF-21 “carrier killer” missiles. Iran and North Korea are both producing missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead for explosion high in the atmosphere, destroying electronic systems over a wide area. A solar storm could have the same effect. Local effects could be produced by an RF weapon mounted on a pickup truck. This could be constructed from technology available at Radio Shack. One application might be to disable vehicles on bridges into Washington, D.C., or Manhattan, creating massive congestion and chaos.
The U.S. has neglected to devote the attention and resources needed to address the problem, and is now further hampered by the fact that engineers with needed expertise have retired. Moreover, there is no way to test protective measures now that the U.S. allows no nuclear detonations of any kind.
Last year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed, by unanimous consent, an act similar to the SHIELD Act, which would have required utilities to protect large transformers against EMP, but the bill died in the Senate (GCOR, October 2011).
According to a report by Bob Ferguson to the American Legislative Exchange Council on Dec 2, 2011, a special commission to Congress estimated that two-thirds to 90% of the U.S. population would be dead a year after an EMP attack shut down the electric power grid.
At any opportunity, you might ask candidates for political office (national, state, and local) what they plan to do about this.
Totally Reliable Mercenaries
According to financial analyst Richard Maybury, the U.S. soldier of the century is a mercenary, presumably Iraqi or Afghani (see January 2011 issue), and there is concern about loyalty. “No robot has ever committed treason,” he notes.
Robots or drones have other advantages too: low cost and low risk to personnel. Defense Secretary Robert Gates specifically exempted drones from future budget cuts.
The latest technology with the potential to change the nature of warfare is the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that can monitor enemy activity, intercept and disrupt communications, and launch missiles on the command of operators thousands of miles away.
Newly developed drones can actually be weapons themselves—miniature guided missiles. One example is the “Switchblade” (see www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/10/tiny-kamikaze-drone/).
Others want them too, and Iran is likely doing some reverse engineering on “an intruding RQ-170 American drone” downed in eastern Iran with “minimal damage.” The RQ-170 Sentinel is an unarmed stealth surveillance aircraft (MailOnline 12/5/11).
Some claim that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s cyber-warfare unit hacked the drone’s flight controls.
Using U.S. Predator drones for intelligence, the Turkish air force allegedly killed 35 civilians, mistaking them for rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Many of the civilians might have been smuggling diesel fuel (CBSNews.com 12/31/11).
Police drones will soon start appearing in American skies, predicts Jim Powell (GCOR Nov/Dec 2011). And private citizens have them too (http://www.diydrones.com/).