The video advises citizens to stay indoors and wash off any radioactive dust or ash. It opens on a computer-generated street, devoid of life. Damaged skyscrapers can be seen in the background.
Looking into the camera, a spokesperson says: “So there’s been a nuclear attack. Don’t ask me how or why. Just know that the big one has hit. So, what do we do?”
It turns out that not many New Yorkers are prepared to answer that question, according to the results of a global strategy group survey taken last year.
Only 12% of those polled said they were prepared in the event of a radiological incident, such as a dirty bomb, while 77% indicated they were not prepared.
According to a NewsNation/Decision Desk HQ survey from March, more than 80% of respondents said they had at least some level of concern about a nuclear attack in the next decade.
That response stood out among other natural disasters and emergency events, such as power outages, hurricanes and active-shooter situations.
The responses also inspired NYC Emergency Management to create the PSA with some simple, well-established best practices in the event of a nuclear attack.
The PSA offers only three short bits of advice:
- “Step One: Get inside. Fast.”
- “Step Two: Stay inside.”
- “Step Three: Stay tuned.”
The PSA is designed to limit unnecessary casualties and assist first responders.
But now many New Yorkers are left asking, “Why now?”
Christina Farrell, the city’s emergency management deputy commissioner, said the video isn’t tied to any specific threats. She said it’s about raising awareness of something to which most people haven’t given much thought.
New York’s PSA is believed to be just the second modern effort to prepare the American public for a nuclear disaster.
The first was in Ventura County, California, and was spearheaded by Dr. Robert Levin, the county’s public health officer.
The county published an 18-page nuclear safety guide with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Federal Emergency Management Agency, and held a press conference and four town hall meetings.
It also released three educational videos, offering instructions on “what if terrorists set off a nuclear explosion?”
Dr. Levin says Ventura County’s nuclear safety guide was met with resistance from government officials.
“They immediately get a little bit tense,” he said. “And even though there may be a concern or a threat, no matter how distant, they feel like you’re going to panic everyone by doing this. People are going to ask, What do you know that we don’t know?”
Levin has been lobbying to designate a time each year for nuclear preparedness, arguing we prepare for almost every other disaster and simple advice could save tens or hundreds of thousands of lives.
“People forget. As much as ‘get inside, stay inside, and stay tuned’ is memorable and easy, people don’t hear it,” he said. “Any place can do this and should do this, because this is a reality of our world.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.