LANSING, MICH. - Decades after schoolchildren stopped practicing hiding under their desks and years after many fallout shelters were dug up, talk of nuclear war is again on the lips of politicians and pundits.
With President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un comparing the size and power of their nuclear buttons, the possibility of nuclear war is worrying world leaders more than it has in years. But many Americans who grew up after the end of the Cold War have likely never been told how to prepare for a nuclear strike.
The answer is similar to any other sort of disaster: "Get inside, stay inside, and stay tuned," said Capt. Chris Kelenske, the Michigan State Police's deputy state director of emergency management and homeland security.
Unlike American land in or along the Pacific, Michigan would likely have more time to warn residents if a nuke was on the way, Kelenske said. Warnings would pop up on phones, emergency sirens would blare, and local first responders would use other mass-communication systems they may have in place, Kelenske and spokesmen for the Lansing Police and Fire departments said this week.
Once warned, residents should find shelter — preferably in a concrete structure such as a commercial building or even an enclosed parking garage — and then stay there, Kelenske said. Don't try to look at the detonation. Follow-up warnings and directions would follow, especially through AM/FM radio because nuclear detonations can wipe out cell phones and other communication channels. A certified all-hazards radio can be bought on Amazon for about $30.
"These are survivable events, but you have to take shelter," Kelenske said.
While kids don't practice air-raid drills at school anymore, school procedures for a tornado drill — finding a safe place away from windows — would help if a nuke were on the way. Similarly, any planning and preparation residents make at home for a natural disaster would help them if a nuke were aimed at Lansing.
"Everybody should be prepared for all hazards," Kelenske said.
While there are maps of fallout shelters floating around online, they're not official and are likely unhelpful.
Lansing hasn't had designated fallout shelters since the 1980s, once officials realized the shelters would be useless against the more powerful modern weapons, Lansing Police Department spokesman Robert Merritt and Lansing Emergency Management Chief Michael Tobin said in a joint statement.
Michigan's response to a nuclear attack is spelled out in its 342-page Emergency Management Plan that covers everything from floods to infrastructure failures to riots. The State Police plan for satellites falling out of the sky and meteor strikes, Kelenske said.
The 15 pages covering a nuclear bomb list 24 potential targets in Michigan. Most are in the Detroit region, though a potential target can be found in most every corner of the state, including Lansing, Battle Creek, Berrien County and two locations in the Upper Peninsula.
With Trump and Kim regularly trading trans-Pacific verbal barbs, state officials are reviewing those plans and making sure they're updated.
"Clearly, when you have a threat on the horizon, we are going to take a look at it, look at our plans, make sure everything is still up to date," Kelenske said.
Still, "we have to keep this in perspective," he said. Residents should worry about — and prepare for — the floods, blizzards, thunderstorms, extreme temperatures and other natural disasters they're far more likely to encounter.
In Lansing, emergency responders are trained in how to respond to nuclear bombs, biological and chemical attacks, and more.
However, "emergency management has not had to plan for a large scale nuclear event for many years," Merritt and Tobin said in their statement. "It is not being ignored, in Michigan, it is just a very low possibility at this time."
If a nuke's on the way …
1.) Get inside: If you are warned that a nuclear attack is imminent, find shelter, preferably a concrete structure such as a commercial building.
2.) Stay inside: Keep away from windows. Don't try to look at the blast or venture outside.
3.) Stay tuned: Further warnings and instructions will follow, most likely on AM/FM radio because nuclear detonations can wipe out cell phones and other communication devices.
For more information, see Michigan's Emergency Management Plan online at michigan.gov/documents/msp/MEMP_portfolio_for_web_383520_7.pdf
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