September 2006 (vol. 22, #6)
1601 N Tucson Blvd #9, Tucson AZ 85716
c 2006 Physicians for Civil Defense

Civil Defense Revival?

The CBS series Jericho is forcing Americans to imagine mushroom clouds over many American cities. Perhaps they will contemplate how this could really happen: a religion with a billion adherents worldwide has powerful leaders who openly advocate killing as many infidels as possible–and promise an American Hiroshima. Then there are the secular ambitions of tyrants in North Korea, China, South America, and Russia.

In Jericho, as in real American towns, civil defense has long been neglected. Nobody knows anything about it except a mysterious black man, who claims that St. Louis “got up to speed after 9/11.” The library has no helpful books. Somehow, a box of Geiger counters from the '50s or '60s evaded the federal order to dispose of them. The two public shelters with dusty Cold-War era signs are not provisioned, and can at best accommodate a small fraction of the town's population.

At least everyone is scurrying indoors, and some thought to go to an abandoned salt mine, potentially an excellent fallout shelter. But as of the end of the second episode, they are burying themselves alive with duct tape and plastic, or by detonating an explosion to seal off the mine's air supply.

The show's consultants are apparently ignorant of simple facts that everyone should know: One needs to filter the fallout particles from the air, not block the intake, and to pile up mass to improve the protection factor. It is painful to watch.

In this country, all civil defense education for the public has been eliminated for two generations. A person reading this newsletter may be the only resource for accurate information in his area: thus it is your responsibility to review the basics.

Civil defense activist Steve Jones has helped put together a “press kit,” which is also a self-education kit.

Watch the old CD videos, available online. Mr. Jones's selections include: Operation Cue; The House in the Middle (about fire prevention); Survival Under Atomic Attack; About Fallout; Atom Bomb; and Duck and Cover. Search by title on Google, or at To go directly to a film, type in your browser, followed by, respectively, Operatio1964, Houseint1954, Survival1951, AboutFal1963, AtomBomb1946, or DuckandC1951. Operation Cue and About Fallout are included in the 8 civil defense DVDs offered by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (PO Box 1279, Cave Junction OR 97523, $149, see

How “duck and cover” saves lives is explained at Government sites with KFM instructions and much added technical information, are: , and .

For an 8-page guide on “What to Do If a Nuclear Attack Is Imminent,” go to For a brief history of civil defense and a summary of the most crucial life-saving information, see “Homeland Security for Physicians” by Jane Orient, M.D., J Am Phys Surg, fall 2006 ( These links and other information, including “ An Approach to Evacuation Preparedness” by Eric Palmer, are now posted on, under “Education and Press Kit.”


Radiologic Monitoring
Cresson Kearny warned that persons in a shelter without a dependable radiation meter face a “nightmare of uncertainties.” Which part of the shelter offers the best protection? When is it safe to leave the shelter for a short time? The U.S. government offers no guidance on which instruments measure adequately high dose rates or are sufficiently accurate.

Beware of instruments that have broad, vague dose ranges (low, medium, high); emphasize “dirty bomb” scenarios; leave sensitive circuitry open to the environment to permit battery replacement; claim a directional response; or have useless, battery-draining bells and whistles (see

Note that the 10-year battery life expected for the NukAlert is seriously shortened if stored at high temperatures (as the 140 F in an Arizona garage). With this caveat, the NukAlert remains the best available instrument for its intended use. Nothing beats it for simplicity and mobility.

The most robust and reliable instrument is still the Kearny fallout meter (KFM)–and it's the only instrument that could be made available in sufficient quantity in a time of crisis. Enclosed with this newsletter, or available on request, is a business card with the essential dimensions for making a KFM, plus the table for reading it. If you already understand how to make a KFM, this card will enable you to make one almost anywhere. The thickness of a soda-pop can is the equivalent of the 8-ply aluminum foil leaves.

Expedient Shelter
The shelter built from a sturdy table and household objects, shown in the 8-minute core-shelter video on the PCD website, has a protection factor of 4. In a frame house with a PF of 2, shelter occupants would receive 1/8 the outside radiation level–or 1/160 the level if in a basement that has a PF of 40. The core shelter has two openings, and directional fanning is used for ventilation. Place strips of fabric over cracks around windows and doors of the house, securing the strips with duct tape, to filter out fallout particles.

If regular and cellular telephones fail, a network of inex-pensive ($20) Family Radio Service (FRS) walkie-talkies could help fill in. The rapidly evolving National SOS Radio Network could augment 50-100 million FRS radios with 700,000 ham operators. (Learn more at The DC Emergency Radio Services (DCERN, uses channel 1, subchannel 0, for emergency communications. These radios should be part of your home emergency kit.

Facing a decentralized threat, under a government that has abdicated its civil defense responsibility, our survival depends on family and community preparedness and networking.



The U.S. federal government is abandoning the idea of a 72-hour kit, and is asking people to have enough food and water to last two weeks–“in case an influenza pandemic shuts down essential services.” Los Angeles and Florida officials are advising a one-week supply (Daily Herald 9/3/06).

“Bomb shelters are making a comeback,” writes Dan Dorfman. Sharon Packer of Utah Shelter Systems reports as many telephone calls as just after 9/11. Brian Duvaul of American Safe Homes of Umpqua, OR, which promotes a $10,000 prefabricated do-it-yourself concrete shelter kit, expects sales to reach $1 million (NY Sun 7/26/06).

Schools in the Santa Clarita valley, California, are developing preparedness plans for nuclear attack, including advice to “duck and cover” (Daily News 9/9/06).

A DJ at KTRZ reported finding an Emergency Operations Manual at the station, with a list of shelter spaces in public buildings–last updated in 1989. Other media outlets may have similar books, although some government agencies have apparently “archived” such information in an inaccessible place.

Glenn Beck, a rising phenomenon in talk radio, called national attention to the NukAlert by ridiculing it on 200 radio stations nationwide. He has not responded to email about it.

The U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security has decided to provide $5 million to supply all 97,000 U.S. public schools with hazard-warning radios that are activated with a broadcast signal. Originally conceived as a means to deliver weather warnings, the system now covers all hazards, including terrorism and abducted children. Weather experts are to assist school officials in determining how best to use the radios, which will be distributed over the next few months. The National Weather Services operates some 950 short-range radio stations.


Water Storage

While the federal government urges people to store water, its guidelines on how to do so make it virtually impractical ( For example, it advises discarding the water every six months, even if hypochlorite has been added, and re-cleaning the containers.

Water does not have an expiration date. The best water in Tucson, from Artesian wells, is 10,000 years old. We have stored water for many years in the manner described in Nuclear War Survival Skills (NWSS) by Cresson Kearny, in empty bleach bottles, and have drunk it, straight from the bottle, about 10 years later. Use only bottles that contained bleach without additives such as fragrances. Kearny recommends adding about 16 drops 5.25% hypochlorite bleach per 1 gallon of water, and sealing closures with duct tape. Milk jugs are not suitable because they become brittle with time.

It is much better to have dirty water than no water. Bacteria can be killed by boiling or disinfectants; this treatment does not remove radioactive contamination, but this will not be a problem with covered containers. Kearny describes a number of expedient storage methods, including the use of two plastic trash bags in a cardboard box–which also can serve as shielding for your shelter. Read and re-read NWSS! Steve Jones suggests that a back-door way to start revival of the public shelter program is to encourage local officials to store water in public buildings–say in the event that “pandemic flu shuts down essential services.” Fifty-gallon water barrels are cheap, and if not completely filled they can withstand freezing and thawing without splitting.


KFMs and “School Meters”

Many different models were researched in the development of the KFM (see websites on p.1). Although the KFM as described in NWSS (and available as ready-to-use or as make-it-yourself kits) proved to be best, Steve Jones developed a variant that he calls the “school meter” or the “Lombardi radiation meter.” This device is lighter, cheaper, fragile, more sensitive, and more easily mass produced, though harder for unskilled individuals to make. “It's an expedient of an expedient,” Mr. Jones explains. The aluminum-foil leaves are one-ply, and the table for reading the meter is different. It can be charged with a piezoelectric barbecue starter, available in “dollar stores,” though for some reason not all such devices work. (Neither do all combinations of paper and plastic as KFM chargers.)

The school meter can be used to demonstrate radioactivity in the americium source in ion-chamber smoke detectors, or in house dust (from radon daughters). The KFM can be used for this purpose also, but you need to replace the plastic cover with a thinner one made from sandwich wrap, which only screens out about 75% of the alpha particles. Place a paper towel over the end of your vacuum cleaner hose and attach it with a rubber band. Run the vacuum for about half an hour. Put the paper towel against the lid of the KFM, weighting it down with a can lid. (Air stops alpha particles also). The measurement will not be quantitative, but you can compare relative radon levels in different parts of the house.

An innovation in the school meter is to place the scale at the bottom of the can, closer to the leaves. This makes the distance of the eye from the can much less important, and eliminates an error that some people are inclined to make (looking at the distance between the tops of the leaves rather than the bottoms). Because soda pop cans have round bottoms, the scale doesn't get covered up by the desiccant.

Another way to make desiccant is by grating a slab of plaster of Paris that you form in a cake pan. Mr. Jones finds this easier than working with gypsum wall board.

While mixing some silica gel with color indicator with the gypsum will tell you when reheating is needed, as noted in the May 2006 issue of the DDP Newsletter, the silica gel will be destroyed and turn black if heated to the temperature required by the gypsum (>400 F for more than 1 hr).

Silica gel is used for many purposes, such as drying seeds, and can be ordered in bulk on line for about $10/lb. You can dry it in the sun, as on the dashboard of a car.

At a science teacher's convention, a teacher once explained carefully why the KFM would not work. So Mr. Jones demonstrated with a smoke detector. Q.E.D.


When to Duck and Cover

These days, we must assume that a nuclear attack will occur without warning. Cheyenne Mountain is being closed, and terrorists won't be using ICBMs. Signs that may mean you have up to a few minutes to save your life: a bright flash; a power outage accompanied by a radio station and telephone outage; many cars stalling on the road; something in daylight that looks like a shooting star (a re-entry vehicle). Remember that the positive pressure wave will be followed by a negative one; don't get up too soon. After the blast waves pass, the first priority will probably be to put out fires; you can't seek shelter from radiation in a burning building. Prevention and fire-fighting are heavily emphasized in Soviet CD instructions (also part of the OISM civil defense DVD series, see p.1).