California Is Already Preparing for a North Korean Nuclear Attack
With U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un trading insults and threatening war, California officials are taking the threat of nuclear exchange seriously.
Noting the heightened North Korean threat, the Los Angeles-area Joint Regional Intelligence Center issued a bulletin last month warning that a nuclear attack on Southern California would be “catastrophic” and urged officials in the region to shore up their nuclear attack response plans.
The report cites North Korea’s late July test of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could, in theory, reach the West Coast of the United States. “North Korea’s propaganda videos feature ruins of San Francisco and Washington,” the document says.
The 16-page “Nuclear Attack Response Considerations” bulletin is dated Aug. 16 and marked for “official use only.” It was circulated last month to Los Angeles-area local, state, and federal agency personnel and also throughout the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies across the country.
The idea behind the unclassified report was to share planning and guidance with as wide a distribution as possible, according to two officials involved in responding to a nuclear strike and who received the bulletin. Many agencies are involved in responding to an attack and are often staffed with personnel without access to classified information.
DHS did not respond to requests for comment.
Much of the information in the report is based on well-known facts about the effects of a nuclear blast, including the effects of radiation, the possibly of an electromagnetic pulse disabling communications, and the destructive effects of the initial blast on human life and infrastructure.
Citing figures from the Rand Corp., the report says a nuclear blast at the Long Beach Port could cause more than $1 trillion in damage, including loss of life and destruction of homes and infrastructure.
In a section on “radiation protection basics,” the report offers a primer on what to do during a nuclear attack. “Lie face down and place hands under the body to protect exposed skin,” it recommends. “Remain flat until the heat and shock waves have passed.”
There are also sections explaining the basic mechanisms of a nuclear blast as it occurs and discussion of specific things expected to happen in the event of a nuclear attack that should be considered and prepared for in advance.
It also warns of the difficulties government authorities would likely encounter in dealing with the aftermath of a blast. The public will need to evacuate, the report says, but with “limited understanding of radiation risks, they will experience high anxiety and may be non-compliant.”
Challenges with contamination spread by pets and through clothing are among the many public health and logistical coordination issues spelled out for potential emergency responders.
“The consequences of a nuclear attack in Southern California would be catastrophic,” the report says. “Nonetheless, government entities and first responders are expected to remain operational to preserve human life, maintain order, and aid in the recovery process.”
The report, which is largely directed at local, state, and federal agencies and first responders located in the Los Angeles region, notes that the federal government will likely be of limited help immediately after a nuclear blast.
“[T]here will be no significant federal assistance at the scene for 24-72 hours following the attack,” the bulletin says.