How would Greater Cincinnati respond to a missile attack?

Posted at 4:52 PM, Aug 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-11 19:23:29-04

COLD SPRING, Ky. -- With the current tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, some people in Greater Cincinnati are starting to ask about what would happen if missiles are launched at the area or if there's radioactive fallout.

What plans are in place?

First responders at the Central Campbell Fire District said they would follow the normal protocol for any emegrency like a tornado, flood or earthquake.

It's a far cry from the Civil Defense days during the Cold War, when shelters were set up all over the area. That included part of the subway tunnel under Central Parkway between Downtown and Over-the-Rhine.

Technology now allows for instant notification to the public from places like the Campbell County Emergency Operations Center. Emergency Management Director Bill Turner said that comprehensive planning has been in place for some time.

"The options are to make everybody's phone ring and give them a message," he said. "Probably the message would be more or less giving them directions on what to do, to stay calm and what actions they need to take and, of course, there's always the possibility of setting the warning sirens off."

There are four basic criteria that Hamilton County Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency uses to activate their sirens. The first three are weather-related, but the fourth is "a dangerous situation ... which requires citizens to seek shelter immediately."

Campbell County also has emergency sirens.

"If we want to set them off for bombs dropping, we probably need to talk to people about what to do if bombs do start dropping," Turner said. "I don't know if we're to the point of alarming the public or not."

Some people, like Dan O'Hara, are stocking up on food and provisions in case they need to hunker down in case of any disaster. He heads a local group called Cincinnati Preparedness Expo with one goal in mind. 

"We won't have to rely on others to take care of us," O'Hara said.

Turner said that's a good idea, to a point.

"What do you do when you come out, what's the longterm plan there?" Turner asked.

And while Cold War-era shelters like the now-defunct one in the subway tunnel are no longer kept ready for an nuclear emergency, experts say there are ways to seek shelter from the worst of the fallout in the event of a missile attack.

The Environmental Protection Agency suggests heading to a brick or concrete basement and waiitng there for the radiation to lose its intesity. After two weeks, fallout radiation declines to about 1 percent of its initial level, according to Guam Homeland Security.

Of course, it's more likely there will be a negotiated end to this war of words. The Associated Press reported Friday that "the Trump administration has been quietly engaged in back channel diplomacy with North Korea for several months." And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has indicted a willingness to negotiate with North Korea.

But planners have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.