Tuesday, October 23, 2007

About 67.6% Dead

I spent today at an all-day series of seminars connected with whatever it is I do -- if you're guessing something along the lines of media engineering, here's a nice gold star! Hang onto it, you'll want comforting later and that's about the best I can do. I am usually happy-silly but even I get whacked in the face by reality every once in awhile.

There is -- always -- something about the EAS system at these gatherings and for all my extreme leeriness of Big Gummint, EAS, warts and all, is a low-cost, workable system. The basic structure is a multiply-interconnected "tree" and it's pretty hard to break. The "Amber Alert" is one of the cheapest, most effective and least-intrusive of the citizen snitch programs and has proven itself remarkably resistant to abuse; and storm warnings are promulgated about as rapidly as possible, either via the National Weather Service tripping EAS alerts, or stations working directly from NWS releases trying to be even faster than EAS. --In the event of an actual emergency, good effing luck: all the system can do is tell you stuff and if you're not ready to react properly to bulletins like, for instance, "The radioactive cloud is over Little Rock, heading North-Northwest at approximately 25 mph," then you're gonna die.

Seriously -- if things really go to pot, the future belongs to that LDS family down the street and the crazy survivalist guy a block over who has a basement shelter stocked with food and water, if it belongs to anyone at all. It would belong to me except I'm either going to be hard at work engineering media, or pitching in at the Red Cross (etc.), a decision I came to a long time ago. I haven't much family and I'd rather go out helping those who do rather than slink away to save my own lonely hide. (So that's why the Objectivists won't have me over for Christmas! Dang!)

One of the speakers was, for want of a better term, a Homeland inSecurity wonk. He seemed like a pretty good guy; like most workin' bureaucrats, he's no strutting brownshirt, just a man trying to do a difficult job. I have serious qualms about some aspects of the job but darned few about the man.

And that, at long last, brings us to today's topic: the National Strategic Stockpile. Do you know what that is? It's big ol' piles of useful meds, prepacked for rapid deployment and stationed so a supply is never more than 12 hours away from any major population center. What's in the boxes now is mostly antibiotics that can hack known forms of what we'll call "weaponized enthrax," plus items to deal with a few other known bio-threats. Sounds pretty good, right?

You bet it is -- for the lucky 324,000 who are first in line, assuming what is politely known as "civil unrest" doesn't break up the calm and orderly distribution. That's how many doses are in one standard package, period. We can hope there's another 324K doses on the way, and if the agent happens to be enthrax, the highest probability is there's a 48-hour treatement window, plenty of time...again assuming people don't become a tad, shall we say, over-excited.

Quick sidebar: I consider this to be a very low-probability event. If you don't think every crop-duster in the States has already been vetted six ways from Sunday (and has become more than a bit watchful him or herself), or that any ijit fool enough to overfly a crowded city, especially during a big event (auto race, rally, whatever) won't get waved off and receive a fighter escort if they don't comply forthwithly, you've been asleep. Restricting airspace during big events was SOP even before 11 Sept. All it takes is one klutz with engine trouble to mess up nice Pan-Am Games.

But fine, let's say it happens; Badguy duJour has a really good day and dusts my population center during something like, oh, a 500-mile automobile race. There's a good chance over a million people will be exposed (or think they have been). 1,000,000. If everything works out really well, 324,000 of them will get treatment likely to save their lives, and perhaps only as many as 15% will die. If people become vexed at the situation, that first 324,000 could well be the only ones to get dosed -- politicians and public-safety workers first.

That leaves over two-thirds on their own. Maybe dead.

That's your government, lookin' out for you, 'cos they care. Sure makes me feel good about where my taxes go!

My advice? Same as it's been for years: avoid targets (I live in one but I'm not all that clever, as described above). Avoid target-rich events. If Bad Stuff happens, move with alacrity away from the area and seek treatment elsewhere. (This last would be a bad idea if you have been exposed to something infectious. Your call). Riots are the biggest danger once the initial exposure is past.

In the discussions at the seminar, the notion of civil unrest in this connection never came up. It's not our job. The speaker did suggest we needed to "avoid producing panic" but offered no suggestion as to how to do it.

I guess not panicking is up to you. Okay?


comatus said...

Well that is an insightful analysis (and I mean that just as nasty as it sounds). You've really put your finger on the wonk thing: the HSA types are not glaringly stupid, just overly (overtly) directed, and willing to take that. Five years back there was a campaign to recruit local talent, that looked like the WWII Civil Defense committees. I got all excited and thought the Boy Scouts et al.were about to come into their own. Silly me: they chose the same old bottom-tier politicos you're used to seeing at United Way fundraisers (which is where the Boy Scouts are now, dammit).

The up side of conspiracy theory is that one can believe, just as we have secret silent black mini-helos spying on the peace march, there's a Crichtonesque cave full of epidemiologists in the desert who really know the score. Well there ain't, and you're it.

It appears there was a nationwide full-court press of homeland meetings over the last couple of days. Some would be cynical and say they whipped that up to distract attention from how they don't really have much to offer for San Diego. I'd disagree and say if they could gin up conferences that fast it speaks well of their administrative moxie. Counts for something.

As a Red Cross traindriver, you will get vaccinated in the first group (see, I'm paying attention). Tell that to Objectivists and you'll be right back on the Randmas guest list.

Anonymous said...

Just doin’ my bit for TEOTWAWKI:

Bug-out kits for me and the boys
Lots of first aid supplies
Lots of food in cans and glass jars
Three cases of MREs (yuck!)
Lots of water (Aquatainers at W-mart)
Lots of flashlights that use AA batteries
Lots of rechargeable AA batteries
Lots of solar chargers for AA batteries
Three dozen N90 flu masks
Geiger counter (cold war surplus)
Potassium Iodide pills (three months supply for three people)
Water filter and purification pills
Firestarters of all kinds
Miles of duct tape and acres of plastic sheeting
Lots of little GMRS walkie-talkies that use AA batteries
100-watt ham radio transceiver (SSB-AM-FM-CW) and all-band antenna
High-capacity battery for above
Solar-charger for above
Small gasoline generator (pure sine wave)


Anonymous said...

Yeah turk--let's all meet at Mom's Cafe!

Oh, Roberta, you can relax on Memorial Day. They'll gas the 400. There's fewer of us at the real race every year. You can almost park.

Roberta X said...

My line of work doesn't allow relaxing for the 500 or the 400. If Something Awful happened either day, we'd just cover it and keep on moving; those are extremely busy days!