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1998-05-02 13:16:45


U.S. Civil Defense: R.I.P.



The U.S. civil defense program disappeared from public view around 1996. The Federal Emergency Management Agency was in charge of the program, but the program is gone.

This is from the JOURNAL OF CIVIL DEFENSE (Spring, 1997).

* * * * * * *

Does our nation still support civil defense -- including protection from enemy attack?

As the last issue of the Journal of Civil Defense explained, the answer is “Yes, our nation still supports civil defense.” At least in theory.

National Security Directive (NSD) 66 states our government will “respond to emergencies of all kinds including attack.” This NSD also states that under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s direction, the program will include: “Information to promote a clear understanding by the public of the civil defense program, all threats which may affect their localities and actions they should take to minimize their effects.” But does our government back these words with actions? This time, the answer is “It’s hard to tell.”

Here’s why I feel this way. I recently searched FEMA’s Internet web site under the general topic of Preparing for a Disaster and readily found helpful information on every major form of disaster, with the singular exception of nuclear attack (there was no mention of it in this area).

I spent perhaps another half hour looking for information on things such as “fallout shelters” and “blast shelters” but found nothing. I found references to “nuclear attack” and “civil defense” in other areas of FEMA’s web site, yet could not find information on: (1) what attack threats I could expect in my locality and (2) how to minimize my risks to a possible attack (as required by NSD 66).

The FEMA web page recommends you call your local office of emergency services for more information. When I did this, our county planner said there was no specific plan to tell citizens what attack risks they face and how to minimize them. Did the county have a list of fallout shelters in the area or an evacuation plan? Nope. He said if an attack occurred, various county organizations would provide assistance as best they could.


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