Why Civil Defense Still Matters

Doctors for Disaster Preparedness is a small group of top scientists and doctors who publish a newsletter and hold an annual meeting at different defense and nuclear sites. At meetings speakers cover issues relating to civil defense, diseases, new chemical/technological discoveries, and global climate issues. Speakers offer varied viewpoints and the group is often bitterly criticized for its unorthodox challenges to the medical establishment. Their last program, described in more detail below, shows the variety of speakers and topics covered.

I have been attending meetings since the 1980s when I first wrote about nuclear war survival. Personally, I have always been interested in civil defense since studying in Germany in 1952, taking shortcuts to my classes through still bombed out city blocks. I was always amazed that “only” a million German civilians died from the bombing that flattened every single city. I even saw East Berlin, which was just rubble as far as the eye could see. Human beings are amazingly resilient. But the Germans also had built good bomb shelters.

After 9/11, Dr. Jane Orient, who runs the Doctors for Disaster Preparedness, explained how American city fire departments were being supplied with useless radiation detectors measuring Millirem instead of Rems. They were based on the EPA’s incoherent threat levels, which have been obsolete since the 1950s. The EPA has since modified its threat levels by a factor of hundreds. Dr. Orient then donated higher-scale measuring detectors to her local Phoenix fire department.

I attended the last meeting in Omaha, site of the Strategic Air Command, the military unit in charge of two-thirds of the Nuclear Triad. It had the usual complement of fascinating speakers and topics. Lectures at the meeting included “Freedom of Information Act in Climate Science,” “An Update on Emerging Diseases,” “Police, Fire and Civilian Emergency Medical Preparedness,” “Combatting Heart Disease—Statins and Supplements,” “A Geologic History of Climate—Why Correlated with CO2—or Not,” and “Offshore Drilling and Fracking.”


Jon Basil Utley with the standard B83 hydrogen bomb at the Oak Ridge laboratory in Tennessee, site of an earlier Doctors for Disaster Preparedness meeting.

Among the many interesting speakers, Dr. Mohan Doss spoke on “Rationality in Radiation Protection Standards.” He exhibited the many studies showing that low doses of radiation actually increased immune system resistance to cancer and human longevity in Taiwan, Hiroshima, and among persons living at high altitudes. The phenomenon is called hormesis. Cancer cells constantly occur in the body but are usually destroyed by healthy immune systems.

Dr. Steven Hatfill, professor at George Washington University, gave an “Update on Emerging Diseases.” He explained that most new diseases and viruses come from cross-species infections. He gave the example of Asian cities where millions of people are densely clustered together with domestic and food animals, birds, and fish. That’s why most new infections are called Asian flus. He said that many avian (bird) viruses often transmit easily to humans but do not then transmit from human to human. He warned that humans are vulnerable to pandemic flus such as the one in 1918, which killed tens of millions. Hatfill described new computer programs that are able to single out and distinguish viruses like never before. There is, he said, progress in fighting the Ebola virus. He explained that mosquitos are a main transmitter of diseases and described how they are territorial.

Dr. Donald Miller spoke about medicines for heart disease. He warned of the negative effects of statin drugs and how their makers’ advertising was often misleading. For example, an ad stating “Lipitor reduces the risk of heart attack by 36 percent.” In reality the “proven” risk reduction was from 3 percent of older, at-risk Americans to 2 percent, but with various side effects. Another example was how the EPA misleads and exaggerates risk with use of the false “linear no-threshold thesis.” This theory argues, for example, that if taking 100 aspirin would kill a man, out of 100 men each taking one aspirin, one would die. Equally it postulates that all sunlight is a carcinogen at any exposure rate for some people.

Dr. Fred Singer argued that human activity had little effect on climate change, that the “burden of proof is on the alarmists.” He argued that all the past computer models of global warming have proven incorrect, that warming did occur from 1910 until 1940, but very little since then. The DDP website carries information about global warming. Several speakers decried the fact that California is closing down nuclear energy plants because they can’t compete with the taxpayer subsidized solar and wind power. The EPA still uses its old 15 millirem limits for nuclear power plant maintenance and construction (and Superfund cleanup), which vastly increases their costs, even though it has modified the limits for civil defense from nuclear attack.

Other notable speakers included DDP vice president Arthur Robinson, Yuri Maltsev, Willie Soon, Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institute, who was also given an award, and many other scientists. Stephen Jones demonstrated his small, stick-on-radiation detectors and distributed them at the meeting. Videos of the lectures are being posted on YouTube, which also features speakers from past meetings.

At the meeting we had a side trip to the Strategic Air Command Museum, which exhibits all the major bombers built in America.

Recently I heard a retired four-star general state that nuclear war was becoming more likely now than during the Cold War. Personally in Washington, I read and hear much casual talk about starting wars with foreigners who “threaten” America or our allies’ interests, or for the need to “prove” American credibility as if we were still in the cold war. Most Americans are oblivious to these risks from Washington’s many “laptop bombardiers” repeatedly urging military confrontation with various foreign nations. We should all be prepared with basic civil defense survival knowledge at a minimum for an accidental launching of nuclear missiles, hundreds of which are still on virtual hair trigger alert.

Congress spends nearly a trillion dollars a year for the Pentagon’s mainly offensive weaponry, yet almost nothing for civil defense for American civilians. DDP is one of the very few organizations focused on explaining the threats and how best to defend ourselves without government resources. It offers a vast trove of information for the day when we will begin to take defense seriously or, worse, after launches happen.

Jon Basil Utley is publisher of  The American Conservative. ( This article was originally published in The American Conservative  )