“Preparing for the unexpected and impossible”
Some may ask, given the wide and growing number of natural and man-made crises that we are preparing for and responding to, why the Red Cross Red Crescent is devoting time and resources to preparing for nuclear emergencies, events that are historically rare.
The Fukushima crisis was a painful reminder of how devastating nuclear accidents can be, and of how ill-equipped we, as a global community, are to respond.
It would be easy, even comforting, to write off this experience as unique, and unlikely to ever happen again.
However our experience in disaster management – experience that goes back to the founding of our Federation in 1919– has taught us to appreciate the inevitability of accidents and emergencies, and the importance of planning and preparing for the unexpected and the impossible.
The frequency of ‘high impact, low probability’ or so called “Black Swan” events in recent years has signalled the emergence of a new ‘normal’. Apparent one-off large scale emergencies such as Hurricane Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the Japanese earthquake and tsunami were all mega-disasters requiring rapid responses at a global level, testing our preparedness for extraordinary emergencies.
The International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement has a history of responding to nuclear and radiological emergencies. We can draw on the lessons we have learned from our response to the accidents at the Three Mile Island Nuclear power plant in the United States of America, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, and the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. We can draw from the experiences of our volunteers and staff who worked alongside affected communities, even as they faced challenges to their own safety and health. In order to deliver the most urgent humanitarian relief, and in order to accompany communities on the road to recovery, very specific knowledge and equipment is required.
These guidelines draw on these lessons. We hope they will help National Societies to think through the various scenarios they may have to deal with should they face a nuclear or radiological emergency. With this publication and other knowledge and training tools available within the Movement, the next step is to strengthen our expertise and incorporate nuclear and radiological emergency preparedness into our domestic and regional plans.
Elhadj As Sy Secretary General