How Individuals Can Contribute To Homeland Security
The ad hoc Committee on Homeland Security is organizing and coordinating the role which the Health Physics Society can play in assisting our country in preparing for radiological incidents. To date, I have been somewhat overcome by a feeling of inertia in trying to appreciate how the efforts of a committee of a national organization can truly have a positive impact on a significant portion of the general public. True, we are a part of a society of radiation protection professionals; however, we are not a collection of committees or sub-specialties, but of individuals. And it is as individuals that we can accomplish the most good. Who are the persons that we would like to reach out to? Where are they and what do we have in common with them? Like members of the Health Physics Society, members of the general public have children attending public schools. They are members of homeowners associations. They belong to churches, synagogues, and other houses of worship. Their kids participate in little league sports. They are all around us; they are accessible to us. They are indistinguishable from us. Professional health physicists are able to make a non-technical presentation to these and other groups about the actions to take in the event of a radiological incident. In the event of an incident, this information would be invaluable to a concerned, largely radiophobic public. Advice such as get to the basement, breathe through a cloth or handkerchief, take a shower if contaminated, do not storm the local emergency room, etc. are easily understandable directions but probably not obvious; people need the instruction, simple though it may be. Furthermore, people need to know that professionals will be present who understand how to respond when and if they are needed. Local chapters can support the effort by providing a repository of material, including fact sheets, brochures, equipment for demonstrations, and audio/visual aids. But regardless of the level of support, it is up to the individual to volunteer his or her time to speak at meetings of the above named organizations.
This abstract was presented at the 36th Annual Midyear Meeting, "Radiation Safety Aspects of Homeland Security and Emergency Response", Consequence Management and Community Needs Session, 1/26/2003 - 1/29/2003, held in San Antonio, TX.