Chapter 2 – Overview

As stated in Chapter 1, defining zones can be a useful approach to planning and executing a response, including predicting casualties and medical needs, determining where to locate staging areas, determining incident management requirements, assessing potential worker hazards, determining how to access affected areas, and prioritizing mission objectives especially for medical triage. The zones in this recommended approach are based on visual indicators of physical damage and on radiation levels that will need to be determined in the field. The basic zones were described in Chapter 1 and their use is elaborated here.

While not a focus of this document, establishing communications after a nuclear explosion is expected to be difficult due to local damage to communications infrastructure, and potentially damaging electromagnetic pulse (EMP). Communications among responders will be critical to effective response operations, and local planners are encouraged to consider emergency communications systems that may be utilized in the wake of a catastrophic incident. The ability to communicate directly to the public is also essential, and may be critical to saving lives after a nuclear explosion.

While presented generically here, response planning must be done on a city-specific basis using city-specific impact assessments. The priority of saving lives is emphasized together with protecting emergency response workers. In each case, the guiding principle when performing a response is to ensure that the overall benefits (primarily lives saved) outweigh the risks (primarily risks to response worker life and health). The guiding principle for planning a response action is to optimize the response by maximizing the total benefits expected and minimizing the total risk (radiation and non-radiation risks) to the responder. Thus, the risk-benefit balance must address not just a single mission under consideration, but the need for responders to continue response missions for days to come as the response progresses.

The goal of a zoned approach to nuclear detonation response is to save lives while also managing risks to emergency response worker life and health.