The Cold War marked the high point of America’s civil defense system. Starting under President Harry Truman, the fear of a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union sparked emergency communication systems, air raid sirens, plans for cities to evacuate and hospitals to mobilize.
Bomb shelters were stocked with food and medicine, and mandatory drills showed people how to get to them. Millions of students practiced cowering under their desks.
Duck-and-cover is now mocked, but there remains much to admire in the civil defense approach. It grew out of a realization that the civilian population would be on its own during an attack and that individuals needed plans to follow and rehearsals would save lives.
Today, Islamic terrorism is the global menace, and with attacks proliferating, New York should consider a modified civil defense approach. While 9/11 led to many changes in the heroic police and fire departments, there still exists a looming gap between government preparedness and that of the general public.
To continue reading Michael Goodwin's column in the New York Post, click here.