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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 26, No. 11. 1963.

No Job Satisfaction For Gotz: Civil Defence Pamphlet A Dangerous Waste

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No Job Satisfaction For Gotz: Civil Defence Pamphlet A Dangerous Waste

The Ministry of Civil Defence pamphlet "Householders Handbook for Emergencies" is a trivial affair. It appears to be more a justification for the existence of the Ministry than a serious attempt to provide much needed information.

The main fault of the pamphlet is drastic, possibly dangerous oversimplification.

"You can't have too much water on hand. It will put out almost any sort of fire." Electrically caused fires are then excluded, but no mention of electrically maintained or chemical or oil fires is made.

The procedure for dealing with electric shock, in particular for removing the victim from electric contact, is apparently taken from a pre-war manual. We are to use "dry clothing, or paper or use a dry stick." Surely, our homes today are full of plastic broom handles, plastic bags, plastic cooking utensils, rubber gloves. Why not use them?

The booklet suffers from more than oversimplification. It is also self-contradictory. Compare "During the first few hours following a disaster, until outside help can come, the rule is self help." with Treatment for poisoning. "Obtain medical aid urgently . . ." And if we can't get it, what do we do? Die?

It might also be said that some of the suggestions are ludicrous. "Use a suitable container with a tight-fitting lid for body wastes, and dispose of the contents in a deep pit . . ." Where, we might ask, do we find these deep pits? Will the Ministry issue us with regulation steam shovels?

In addition, the booklet is misleading. It points out that bombs may be burst above, below or at the surface of the earth or sea. It then describes the effects of a ten megaton bomb, groundburst only.

This is highly unrealistic. If a bomb is groundburst, we get the maximum blast effect it can provide, plus a good deal of local fall-out. If it is airburst, we get a smaller blast and less local fall-out, and maximum fire-ball effect (if it exploded at the optimum height).

The result of this is that as an anti-population weapon, an airburst bomb is more "efficient" than a groundburst bomb. The latter is only "economic" against hardened military targets. Since there are none of these in New Zealand, it is unlikely that any attack would consist of groundburst bombs. The booklet is quite unrealistic in assuming that it would.

The most important information a Civil Defence bulletin could give, information that we cannot get from any other source, is absent.

"Know your local alarm signal." says the booklet, but it does not know itself.

This booklet is a complete waste of public money. If, in addition, it induces a sense of security, then it is worse than useless, it is dangerous. Fire -fighting, first aid, civil defence under nuclear attack, none of these things are as simple as the book makes out.

D. P. W.