A new poll from the Associated Press shows that a stunningly large portion of Americans are completely out of touch with the US government’s ability to manage a crisis on the scale of the Japanese nuclear disaster:
The Associated Press-GfK poll comes as Japan continues to struggle with a nuclear crisis caused by a March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant has leaked radiation into the environment and radioactive water gushed into the Pacific Ocean. Japan was rattled by a strong aftershock and tsunami warning Thursday, but officials reported no immediate sign of new problems.
The poll finds that about a fourth of those surveyed were highly confident that the U.S. government is prepared to handle a nuclear emergency, while almost three-fourths were only somewhat or not confident.
But many people doubt such an emergency will happen in this country.
About three in 10 think such an emergency is extremely or very likely, compared with seven in 10 who think it is only somewhat or not likely. Among people who think a disaster is highly likely, almost eight in 10 lack confidence the government would be ready.
Even among those think it’s not too likely or not at all likely to happen, almost two-thirds still lacked confidence the government would be ready.
Inquiring minds are asking what the 25% of Americans who are highly confident that the US government could deal with such a disaster were doing in the days leading up to and after Hurricane Katrina, the massive flooding in the southeast in 2010, and the BP oil spill.
- New Orleans: It took the federal government three days to get water to the Superdome. The entire city devolved into lawlessness within hours.
- Southeast Floods: When floods sweeping through Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee destroyed property and left tens of thousands of Americans homeless in 2009, the federal government didn’t show up. This disaster was barely a blip on the mainstream media’s radar.
- The Gulf: The BP oil spill, by all official accounts, was a non-disaster. Though it was one of the largest oil spills in history, the government and BP completely denied the scale of the disaster. Instead of advising residents of the potential dangers of oil and chemical dispersants like Corexit in their seafood, the media touted the secretive government controlled response as a success. Hundreds, if not thousands, of coastal area residents are experiencing adverse and potentially deadly health effects even today. The long-term ramifications for the ecological environment are not yet known.
- New York: In the days following the September 11th attacks, the Environmental Protection Agency advised emergency responders and cleanup crews that the air was completely safe to breathe. While the government still denies it did anything seriously wrong, independent studies like one involving the Office of Medical Affairs at the New York City Fire Department indicate that the health effects are extremely serious. Of the 5000 emergency personnel involved in the study, 1000 members of the group are on permanent respiratory disability. Over 100,000 people who helped with the September 11th aftermath were eligible for Ground Zero worker’s compensation benefits, indicating that there was, in fact, a clear and present danger to people even though the government denied any such health effects when they were sending people into the area.
- Fukushima: Within days of the nuclear disaster in Japan the US Surgeon General advised Americans to stock up on Potassium Iodide in the event of nuclear radiation crossing the Pacific and contaminating the west coast. Since then, even though millions of Americans are concerned, confused and frightened, government agencies responsible for alerting the public to potential dangers, including Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the EPA, and the Office of the President have either remained completely silent or have downplayed any potential danger. All the while, no accurate radiation readings, analysis or public discussion has taken place. Like New York and the Gulf Coast, there are, apparently, no negative health effects of radiation. In fact, the potential radiation contaminating rainwater, seawater, milk, and food is so safe, that the US and EU have bilaterally agreed to raise the safety limits on these radiation levels.
To be clear, the US government, like Japan’s government, is totally unprepared to effectively manage a widespread regional or national crisis. They have a hard enough time dealing with city-wide crises, as evidenced above.
FEMA admits that it is unable to handle a serious emergency, especially at the onset of such an unforeseen event:
Following a disaster, community members may be on their own for a period of time because of the size of the area affected, lost communications, and impassable roads.
It could be days or weeks depending on the severity of the event.
The 25% of people who are highly confident that the US government is prepared for a nuclear or other disaster are likely completely unprepared. Having this kind of blind confidence in a system that has proven time and again that it will fail under the pressure of an emergency because of the sheer number of people affected and the bureaucracies involved in emergency response is nothing short of lunacy.
And for the 70% of people who believe that such a disaster is not likely in the US, you’re simply not thinking rationally. A nuclear disaster has already happened on US soil. So, too, has a massive earthquake that literally wiped out an entire city in the early 20th century. Today, more than ever, we must consider the real possibility of man-made disasters. The fact of the matter is that corporations take short-cuts – it’s all about profits. This is one of the reasons why Fukushima has reached the level of severity it has, and it is clearly the reason why the BP oil rig sank. When there’s big money involved, the decision makers who are beholden to shareholders don’t really care what the effects of an environmental disaster may be. Nor, do they care about the fall out from a massive economic collapse so long as their pockets have been lined.
As a technologically advanced nation, we’ve become complacent about our ability to cope with far-from-equilibrium events. We see panicked people on television who have lost family members in an earthquake, Tsunami or other disaster, and we assume it can’t happen here. In reality however, crises don’t happen just on television. They happen to real people, all over the world, and they happen quite regularly.
Taking responsibility for oneself and family is absolutely critical in today’s day and age. The slightest glitch in the system could lead to serious implications for entire regions of the world, adversely affecting millions of people instantly. And when that glitch happens, you can be assured that those 25% who believe the government is prepared, or the 70% who don’t believe such a disaster is likely on US soil, will be the first ones knocking on your door if they know you’ve done your due diligence.