As President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un debate whose nuclear button is bigger, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wants to help Americans prepare for nuclear war. The CDC will host a briefing later this month to discuss how federal, state, and local-level public health programs have prepared for a possible nuclear detonation, according to an announcement on the agency's website.
"While a nuclear detonation is unlikely, it would have devastating results and there would be limited time to take critical protection steps," a posting announcing the Public Health Response to a Nuclear Detonation briefing reads. "Despite the fear surrounding such an event, planning and preparation can lessen deaths and illness."
While federal, state, and local-level agencies will likely lead an immediate emergency response efforts in the case of a nuclear bomb, the CDC argues "public health will play a key role in responding." Though the briefing announcement did not include specifics on the kind of guidelines to help people prepare for a nuclear war, the CDC's website contains instructions about what to do in the event of a nuclear blast or a nuclear terrorist attack, as well as a video presentation on Radiological and Nuclear Disaster Preparedness.
The briefing comes as tensions between the United States and North Korea continue to rise. Most recently, President Trump took to social media to brag that his "Nuclear Button" was "much bigger and more powerful" than any North Korea's leader might possess. "And my Button works," Trump declared in a tweet.
President Trump's boasting was a response to Kim's warning that the United States was "within range" of the communist nation's nuclear weapons. "A nuclear button is always on my desk," Kim had said in his annual New Year's address. The North Korean leader went on to say the country would "focus on mass-producing nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles for operational deployment" in 2018, but claimed they would only be used "if our society is threatened."
While tensions between the United States and North Korea have continued to mount over the past year, the two leaders' most recent exchange have left some experts concerned. In a recent interview, for example, Mike Mullen, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, expressed concern the United States was now closer to a nuclear war than it had ever been. "We're actually closer, in my view, to a nuclear war with North Korea and in that region than we have ever been," Mullen said Sunday in an interview on ABC's This Week.
The CDC's deputy director and chief medical officer will present the briefing along with two radiation safety experts at the CDC's Atlanta headquarters on Jan. 16 from 1-2 p.m. ET. According to the CDC, the list of topics covered in the briefing will include "Preparing for the Unthinkable," "Roadmap to Radiation Preparedness," "Using Data and Decision Aids to Drive Response Efforts," and "Public Health Resources to Meet Critical Components of Preparedness."
The briefing will also cover how federal, state, and local-level public health programs are prepared to respond in the event of a nuclear bomb. Participants are invited to "learn how planning and preparation efforts for a nuclear detonation are similar and different from other emergency response planning efforts."
The briefing is being hosted as part of the CDC's Public Health Grand Rounds, a monthly series aimed at fostering discussion on major pubic health issues. Yet according to Politico, previous Public Health Grand Rounds briefings have centered on more commonplace public health concerns such as the importance of childhood vaccinations.
Members of the public who wish to attend the event in person must submit a request to the Grand Rounds Team and possess a state-issued photo ID in order to obtain security clearance. Non-citizens must submit their request for attendance 20 days prior to the session. It was not immediately clear if the event would be live-streamed for those unable to attend in person.