It is not a coincidence that a crop of new and re-released books have hit bookshelves that deal with tips for surviving a staggering array of emergencies, be they biological, chemical, nuclear, or worse. Not surprisingly, these somber tomes are selling well, causing publishers to have a growing belief that theres a market for advice of this sort, especially as talk of a potential war in Iraq looms closer every day.
Some have called it self-help in an age of anxiety, but speculation also exists as to whether these guides educate and thus help reduce paranoia, or reinforce it. For their part, authors like Angelo Acquista, Senator Bill Frist, and Dick Couch all claim that their books are intended to combat fear, not feed on or exploit it. Acquista has stated that “The weapon of terrorism is fear. Knowledge should never frighten people.“ Couch, a retried Navy SEAL and former CIA operative who, as a novelist, tries to think like a terrorist, has declared that his works strive to be a middle ground between “the two extreme ends of the spectrum: morbid fear that a terrorist attack with weapons of mass destruction might happen at any time and the devil-may-care attitude that if you dont worry about it, nothing bad will happen, or it could happen - but not to me.“
The following is a description - not a review - of a quartet of some of the more highly regarded works of emergency literature that currently exist.
The Survival Guide: What to do in a Biological, Chemical or Nuclear Emergency by Angelo Acquista, M.D.
Acquista has been the medical director of the New York City Mayors Office of Emergency Management since 1999, and since the attacks of September 11, 2001, he has served on Mayor Giulianis task force on bioterrorism.
Here, he promises “straightforward language and with easy-to-understand instructions“ as he lays out a step-by-step guide to protecting ones self and their family in large-scale emergencies. The book contains expert information about the most likely biological, chemical, and nuclear threats, and explains the basic steps to take before, during, and after a terrorist attack or other emergency situation. Among its features are a standardized chapter format with quick tips and information; complete explanations of different biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons; early identification pointers including symptoms, emergency response, testing and diagnosis, treatment, and precautions and preparation; special sections on care for children, pregnant women, and pets; and resource sections with contact numbers and information, instructions on what to do in the event of an attack, and more.
The US Armed Forces Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Survival Manual by Dick Couch (Compiler)
John Boswell Couch, Captain USN (RET.),is a former Navy SEAL captain and CIA Maritime Operations officer who has written four novels, including “SEAL Team One,“ “Pressure Point,“ “Silent Descent,“ and “Rising Wind,“ and a nonfiction book on the training of Navy Seals entitled “The Warrior Elite.“
Described as “An essential guide to the best and most practical survival information available from the American Armed Forces,“ this book has been edited for civilian use by the same packager who brought us “The U.S. Armed Forces Survival Manual,“ which sold more than 600,000 copies in the 1980s. The premise here is that experts agree that the next terrorist attack on our soil will not come in the same form as September 11, making the possibility of nuclear, chemical or biological attack increasingly likely, and that readers need to be prepared for that likelihood.
For example, readers are given information on how to gain knowledge of an impending chemical attack using a simple warning system; protect against biological threats such as anthrax with a series of inoculations; guard against fallout from a terrorist nuke; achieve basic protection during chemical or biological attacks with a simple mask; and administer first aid after nuclear, chemical or biological attacks with a simple first aid kit.
When Every Moment Counts: What You Need to Know About Bioterrorism from the Senate‘s Only Doctor by Bill Frist
Frist, a Republican senator from Tennessee, is the Senates only medical doctor, and has brought his experiences as a heart and lung surgeon to use as a ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Public Health. When anthrax began showing up in the mail in fall 2001, after the events of 9-11, he became one of the most sought-after and frequently-seen guests on news shows of all sorts.
Because Bioterrerism has become one of the most pressing and disturbing issues of the day, Frist has compiled a volume intent on delivering answers to reassure Americans about what they can do to protect themselves.
He uses a question and answer format with photographs of varying symptoms, and a full index that provides current information on biological agents like anthrax and smallpox, dangers posed by chemical weapons, the vulnerabilities of our food and water supplies, details on everything from choosing a filtration mask and putting together a disaster supply kit to preparing children for emergencies without giving them nightmares. The book has been hailed for its pragmatic and generally optimistic tone. A similar-sounding title is Dr. Philip Tierno‘s Protect Yourself Against Bioterrorism (Pocket, 2002).
Gas Masks and Civil Defense: A Practical Guide to Biological, Chemical and Radiological Protection by Richard L. Urie
Urie is a certified industrial hygienist and certified safety professional with a masters degree in environmental science from the University of Colorado. With 25 years in the health, safety and environmental fields, he has extensive expertise in public health risk assessments, toxicological evaluations, decontamination and decommissioning of laboratories, and physical and chemical agent exposure assessments.
“A practical and comprehensive guide,“ his book explains the basics of how gas masks work, what they protect from and what they don‘t, how the units can fail, and standard use and care. There is a quick reference guide to the types of biological, chemical and radiological threats known to exist, and what protections are needed for each, as well as a “bonus“ chapter on other civil defense measures.
Urie is clearly an industry expert on several facets of emergency management, but the focus here is very much on giving the layperson an unbiased reference for understanding what a gas mask actually is and how to use it effectively, if one is planning to do so.