Recent tensions with North Korea have some Bay Area residents asking what to do in the event of a nuclear attack, but official recommendations have changed since the Cold War.
Earlier this week, President Donald Trump warned that North Korea would face “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if it continues to threaten the U.S. In response, North Korea said it was considering bombing Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific Ocean.
“Check that off the list,” Jess Montejano, policy and communications director for San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell, tweeted Wednesday. “Got our first constituent call asking if there are any active nuclear bomb shelters in SF.”
There aren’t, though, according to the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management.
“There are no active fallout shelters in San Francisco,” department spokesperson Francis Zamora said. “Really the best practice these days is shelter in place.”
“Get to the nearest building to you, secure yourself in it and take protective action,” Zamora said. “Concrete buildings tend to be a lot more survivable.”
There are a number of documents circulating online referring to fallout shelters and nuclear attacks, including Civil Defense Corps plans for San Francisco itself.
“Your first indication of a nuclear attack, if no warning siren sounds, will be a very brilliant flash — the brightest you’ve ever seen,” according to It’s Your Life … The San Francisco Plan, published by the San Francisco Disaster Council and Corps. in 1956.
That flash will be followed shortly by a shockwave. For anyone caught indoors when that occurs, the guide says to dive under the nearest mattress, counter or heavy table and try to do it before the shock wave arrives.
If that’s not possible, people should lie face down on the floor along the wall, away from any doors and windows, which should be closed as soon as possible to protect against fallout.
If outside, people should lie face down and seek cover as soon as the shock wave passes. Anyone caught in a vehicle should pull over to the nearest curb, without blocking an intersection, close the windows and duck down low to the floor.
“It’s Your Life” contains instructions that are outdated for evacuating from The City, but they stress that evacuees should fill any vehicle leaving The City to capacity with people.
“That’s all Cold War-era stuff,” Zamora said.
San Francisco now takes an “all hazards approach” to dealing with potential disasters, including but not limited to nuclear, biological and chemical attacks. Other threats addressed include earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, flooding and winter storms.
“Whether it’s an earthquake or something man-made like a nuclear attack, the concepts all still apply,” Zamora said.
“We feel like this is an opportunity to raise peoples’ awareness around emergency preparedness,” Zamora said. “If you’re preparing for any emergency you’ve got your supplies, you’ve got your plan, you’re going to be all set for anything that comes your way.”
Suggested supplies include food, water, first aid, tools and hardware, as well as things for sanitation and hygiene. Special items like baby supplies, medication, eyeglasses or contact lenses and important identification should also be considered.
Readers can also sign up for AlertSF, San Francisco’s emergency alert system, by texting ALERTSF to 888777.
“If there’s some kind of life safety event happening in The City, you will get an alert from us,” Zamora said.