Emergency preparedness is a widely adopted concept that seeks to improve our capacity to respond to and recover from disasters. There are four key phases of emergency preparedness – ‘Planning & Mitigation, Preparedness, Response and Recovery’ – designed to be applied in a range of emergency situations.
Emergency management agencies across the world have adopted the model; however, the failure of many countries to effectively combat COVID-19 has exposed the shortcomings of their emergency preparedness. Many nuclear weapons states have been the worst affected by the pandemic, raising serious concerns about how they would be able to respond to nuclear warfare. If their emergency preparedness has been unable to deal with COVID-19, then surely their emergency management would be rendered insufficient in the event of nuclear war?
Medact’s 2017 report, ‘A Safer World- treating Britain’s harmful dependence on nuclear weapons’, details the health and humanitarian consequences of Nuclear War; 10 seconds would be all it takes to wipe out lives and turn cities into ashes, nuclear winter would lead to famine and climate crisis, and radiation hazards would create long term health issues for generations to come. Therefore, nuclear states that legitimise the threat of nuclear warfare and its consequences, must heed caution when considering how unprepared they have been to the COVID-19 pandemic and its deadly fallout.
Just as Hydroxychloroquine cannot treat COVID-19, Potassium iodide tablets cannot treat the effects of nuclear fallout. Because, as the International Committee of the Red Cross note – “although some countries have response capacities in place, there is presently no effective capacity at the international level to deliver appropriate humanitarian assistance to survivors if nuclear weapons were ever to be used.”
To prevent the harmful impacts of both pandemics and nuclear warfare, we need to strengthen the Planning and Mitigation phases of our global emergency control measures. Developing health systems that can Test, Trace, Isolate and Treat is the best way to mitigate future pandemics. Likewise, pushing for ratification of the Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and establishing a Global Alert and Response system about nuclear weapons, is the best way to mitigate the disaster of nuclear war.
Therefore, during this existential crisis, it’s crucial that nations and people around the world collaborate towards nuclear abolition, because Mitigation (Preventive cure) is the first step of Emergency Preparedness.