Jewish World Review Sept. 21, 2001 / 4 Tishrei, 5762

Drs. Michael A.Glueck & Robert J. Cihak

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Consumer Reports

Civil defense again a civic duty -- "IT is not a question of if but of when." So concluded 200 physicians, PhD's, and a cast of the world's experts in terrorist, nuclear, biological, chemical and environmental disasters in Los Vegas, Nevada, just two short months ago at the Annual Meeting of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness (DDP)

Little did we know or expect their words to be demonstrated so viciously so soon.

Now that our initial disbelief, shock and numbness about the attacks are wearing off, we are creeping out from our TV-equipped bunkers and wondering what to do next to prepare and protect against threats unimagined only a few decades ago, as well as threats as old as mankind.

Before September 11, protecting ourselves and our families against violent thugs was common sense. Now, in the form of disaster preparedness, it is a civic duty.

Don't expect the local police, fire fighters, and Red Cross - or the federal government - to be there for you at all times. We must, as individuals, families, and neighborhoods, be prepared to deal privately with these threats. True homeland defense against enemies foreign or domestic is once again very personal for Americans.

Some few of us remember disaster preparedness (AKA, civil defense) of the 40s, 50s and 60s to protect against the threats envisioned at that time. More recently, we flirted with civil defense through Y2K disaster preparedness. But not surprisingly, we've almost lost our ability to think about defending ourselves at home.

Unlike Y2K precautions, storing a few gallons of water and turning off your computer won t cut it as true civil defense.

But now we're talking about a war-inflicted failure of our systems. It's important to know the basics of first aid. Learning how to handle acute, emergent problems, such as giving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), is best done with "hands-on" training and practice. Many local organizations, such as the Red Cross, the Boy Scouts, fire departments and schools offer first aid courses covering these basics.

Because normal channels of communication and medical care could be disrupted, keep a medical reference book on hand. Suggestions include "Take Care of Yourself" by Drs. D. M. Vickery and J. F. Fries, "The CareWise Guide" or "The Healthwise Handbook." All are readily available.

A medical kit, as outlined by Dr. Jane Orient at notes, could be essential, especially if you "take your own family's situation into consideration" as she advises. In particular, prescription medications could be difficult to replenish if normal supply channels are disrupted.

If you live in the city or have breathing difficulties, surgical masks or other devices to filter out dust could be lifesaving. Respirators and masks were on the top of the list of needed items in New York City. Plastic bags can be used as an emergency tool to provide some seal of chest wounds sucking air in. Put the plastic bag over the would so that air can escape the chest cavity but then flaps down over the wound to keep air from sucking back in. This can help keep the lung from completely collapsing.

Organize a disaster plan for your school, neighborhood and family. Rehearse it so that your children know how to reconnect if disaster strikes during the school day or a sporting event. Have safe meeting points and temporary havens figured out and understood by all members of the family. Talk to and drill kids as individuals and as groups on what to do. Have kids use the buddy system whenever possible. Update your e-mail addresses and group lists so as to be able to communicate with family, friends and fellow workers ASAP.

Learn from the nation s capitol mistakes of last week. Our colleague there tells us police were getting their information from the radio because there was no disaster plan in place, nor was the emergency broadcast system activated. Pressure your city and state NOW to develop and maintain workable disaster preparations. The government did away with bomb shelters and sold off civil defense equipment such as Geiger counters. Maybe it s time to bring them back.

For both immediate and longer term survival preparedness, Cresson Kearny's excellent outline of basic survival skills is available at in both an on-line version as well as hard copy editions.

In the past, the theme with variations has been to "do what the violent thug tells you" in the vain hope that this would be sweet music and calm the savage beast. This has always been a myth of various dimensions, with tragic consequences on 9/11 day.

Although personal defense instruments beyond bare hands and alert minds will likely remain illegal for airline passengers, the American Founders knew that homeland defense started with defense of the home.

We do find hope in the heroes of United Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania on September 11. Those courageous individuals apparently took out the terrorists with their wits and bare hands alone. Their actions are a clear demonstration that sheer will and resolve coupled with direct action may be our best weapons.

This column frequently rails against relying on the government for all solutions, instead urging readers to take responsibility and control of their own lives. While we hope that our military will be able to protect our shores, it's time for America to face facts. The centuries of total invulnerability, guarded by our oceans and unmenacing neighbors, are gone. We must all develop the same will and resolve of Flight 93 -- and passengers like Jeremy Glick -- and take action. It could save your life.

Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D., of Newport Beach, Calif., writes on medical, legal, disability and mental health reform. Robert J. Cihak, M.D., of Aberdeen, Wash., is president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. Both JWR contributors are Harvard trained diagnostic radiologists who write numerous commentaries and articles for newspapers, newsletters, magazines and journals nationally and internationally. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2001, Michael A. Glueck & Robert J. Cihak