Why Ontario should be thinking – and planning – for the unthinkable – 3rd September 2017

The tensions between The USA and North Korea is ratcheting up daily – even hourly – as both Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un continue to exchange ever more bellicose rhetoric.

Trump talked about ‘fire and fury’ and Pyongyang retorted that they will launch four missiles into waters off the US territory of Guam in the Pacific Ocean, adding that: “Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him“.

The US administration responded by stressing the overwhelming power of the US Military.

And so it goes on… day by day… hour by hour.

But how serious is this latest round of threats? Is the world really creeping closer to a nuclear holocaust? Some dismiss the threat of all-out war as scaremongering, and others maintain that an outbreak of war on the peninsula is inevitable.

A conventional war between the north and the south may well escalate into a nuclear conflict, especially when Kim realizes that it may be his only option against the South’s (and America’s) superior fire power.

By any standards, the risk is every bit as high as it was during the years of the cold war between the Soviet regime and the West, and many respected commentators now consider the risks to be even greater.

The world has to come to terms with this highly unstable and reckless leadership in North Korea. Kim is a man who has a total disregard for diplomatic norms and has zero concern for the safety of his own people. By any standards of rational judgment, he is surely capable of anything – including the launch of a nuclear warhead aimed at the US mainland.

Furthermore, the somewhat irrational and irresponsible bombast coming from the Whitehouse is not exactly helping matters.

Kim Jong-un has the nuclear devices, he has the long-range missiles, and we are now informed that he has the technical ability to fit the devices into his missiles.

All that remains is his proverbial finger on the trigger.

There is little doubt that western countries – particularly Canada – should ignore these danger signals at their peril.

The fact remains that any warhead launched by North Korea targeting the US mainland will almost certainly take a flight path over the Arctic Circle and across Canadian airspace.

A missile aimed at the east coast of The USA, to a city such as New York or Boston, would fly directly over Ontario. The likelihood of such a missile falling short of its intended target and actually falling on Ontario is extremely high.

What should Ontario be doing about this?

As a matter of urgency, the Ontario government must thoroughly review its legislation and upgrade its preparedness for a nuclear device being detonated within its territory.

In particular, the province should review its emergency management programs and ensure that they will take full account of this horrifying threat to its citizens.

While recognizing that there is already a well-documented preparedness program in the event of an accident at one of their nuclear power generating stations, at Pickering, Darlington, and Bruce, there is no such program in place to cover the aftermath of a hostile nuclear detonation.  

The potential dangers and exposures from an ‘off-target’ nuclear device blowing up in Canadian territory far exceed the known dangers from a Chernobyl-type melt down. Terrible though the consequences of a power station accident may be, such a hazard will be more or less confined to radiation exposure, whereas a nuclear bomb presents an even more lethal and more challenging set of circumstances.

What exactly is the likely impact of a nuclear attack – intentional or otherwise?

There is no getting away from it, the aftermath of say, a 10 kiloton nuclear bomb exploding anywhere on the Ontario mainland will be massive. Below is a summary of the prime consequences.

  • There will be a significant number of fatalities and serious injuries.
  • There will be substantial infrastructure damage caused by the heat and blast from the explosion.
  • There will be serious radiological hazards – the area most at risk being a rough circle of approximately one mile around the explosion site. There will also be danger from radioactive fallout matter that will ‘rain’ in the wake of the detonation. This will settle in an elliptical pattern, roughly in the direction that the wind is blowing.
  • There will be severe disruption to telecommunications and power distribution caused by an electromagnetic pulse created from the explosion.
  • There will be substantial secondary damage by fires that are created by intense heat. These fires will destroy and severely damage  buildings, power and phone lines, gas lines, water mains, roads, bridges, tunnels, and so on. The bigger the bomb, the greater the risk from the heat, which will lead to even more fires.
  • Another major danger will be from the winds coming from the blast that will travel up to 600 mph. These winds will cause many buildings in its path to collapse.

The actual size of the area affected will depend upon the size of the explosion, the nature of the landscape, the number of buildings or geological structures and the altitude of the blast.

The most dangerous radioactive fallout will occur close to the site of the explosion and will be almost certainly fatal. Even fallout deposited several miles from ‘ground zero’ will also be pretty lethal. Potentially, the fallout could travel for several hundred miles, but the effects will be less potent the further away it settles, and the potency will wane over the passage of time.

Whether we want to admit it or not, this truly frightening prospect has a real chance of happening in Canada if Kim Jong-un decides to do the unthinkable.

 The best way to survive a nuclear attack is to prepare for one!

There is no question that the Ottawa government needs to update its nuclear disaster preparedness protocols to include the potential dangers from a nuclear bomb blast. This should be carried out as a matter of extreme urgency and the details communicated to all stakeholders – including the general public – as soon as possible.

The key areas that the government should be looking at are:

  • A thorough review of the existing emergency preparedness and emergency response guidelines.
  • Practical advice on how the general public can prepare in advance for a nuclear emergency.
  • Instructions and advice on what the public should do if a nuclear explosion actually happens.
  • Schedule public meetings, workshops, and conferences with all stakeholders, including the general public, government agencies, professional organizations, scientists, and other experts.
  • Enact and publish revised rules, regulations, and guidance notes pertaining to a nuclear explosion.

Toronto’s preparedness initiatives should specifically encompass the following:

Psychological Preparations –The public must be made to understand the seriousness of the situation.

Warning and Communication of a potential attack – An Alert and Notification System (ANS) should be implemented. The general public must be informed of a potential attack at the earliest possible moment.

Evacuation – The experts must immediately determine the size of the area surrounding the explosion from which the public must be evacuated. ‘Rule of thumb’ is that anyone without cover and closer than one mile from the detonation site has about 10 to 15 minutes to get out of the deadly mile perimeter before the mushroom cloud containing radioactive ash falls to the ground. Ideally, everyone needs to evacuate more than 10 miles away from ‘ground zero’ to avoid the secondary spread of radioactive material that will blow out with the prevailing winds. These distances will ultimately depend on the size of the bomb.

Fallout Shelters – This is the most important advice of all!

Shelters must be built to predefined guidelines. They should contain provisions for ventilation and cooling and have protection against fires and carbon monoxide. They should be capable of providing food and water, lighting, cooking facilities, and sanitation, (including the disposal of human waste and dead bodies). They should have cell phones with internet connections, be equipped with first aid kits, prescriptions meds, have information on how to survive without doctors, and also how to improvise in making furniture and protective clothing.

Local communities can designate certain buildings in their area as fallout shelters, and families can also build their own shelters.

People in fallout shelters located within the fallout zone should stay there for at least 9 days.

What should the public do now? – Documented practical advice should be given on building emergency supply kits, drawing up a family emergency plans, finding out which public buildings in the area have been designated as fallout shelters, and make a list of likely shelters in the locality, such as basements, subways or tunnels.

What should the public do during and after a nuclear blast? – People will need to be thoroughly familiarized with what they should do if the worst actually happens.

A simple list should be provided, containing common sense advice, such as checking the radio or TV for any official information; to take cover as soon as possible – preferably below ground – and stay there for as long as possible; not to look at the explosion; to remove contaminated outer garments, which will contain about  90% of the radioactive material on their bodies, and what to do with them; to thoroughly wash their bodies with soap – especially the hair – and stay as far away as possible from damaged buildings.

Once the updated preparedness plans have been finalized, revised government publications need to be issued. These publications must include the “Legislation and Regulation – Emergency Management Doctrine for Ontario” document and The Ontario Ministry of “Community Safety & Correctional Services” website.

It may never happen, and we hope and pray that this is the case. But we live in times of enhanced terror threats from criminal gangs, ISIS and Al-Qaeda sponsored terrorists, and rogue nuclear regimes, such as Iran, and in particular, North Korea.

It behooves any government – especially one that is under the expected flight path of such fearsome weapons of destruction – to take prudent and urgent steps to increase the safety of their citizens.

Over to you, Ontario…