One intervention is to mount a public awareness campaign to teach civilians what to do in the event of a nuclear attack. Since radioactive plumes move downwind, a person can look up at the trees to see which way the wind is blowing and then flee perpendicular to the wind. Because the plumes are significantly longer than they are wide, moving as little as one to five miles perpendicular to the plume can mean the difference between life and death. People in areas upwind of the detonation site, on the other hand, are safest staying where they are.
"There are certain areas where people should flee," Dallas said. "But in most areas, it would be much safer for people to stay put."
Dallas said today's hospital burn units provide exemplary but time consuming care to burn victims, who typically arrive sporadically and in small numbers. A nuclear attack would bring a sudden surge of patients, but the medical system could dramatically minimize fatalities by training staff and equipping non-medical people to treat second-degree burn victims in much larger numbers. Dallas said the focus must be on cleaning the wounds to avoid fatal infections, administering painkillers and then moving on to the next patient. And all of this must occur in the field, since thousands of victims would not make it to a hospital.
"Under the current system and in these extraordinary conditions, they're going to be able to treat a hundred people well and not treat 99,900 people," Dallas said. "So we've got to change those gears."
On April 19, Dallas will address the United Nations for the second time in as many years. He will discuss options for r
Contact: Sam Fahmy
University of Georgia