OSU prepares for emergencies


Bailey Hill, Multimedia Contributor

Oregon State University is equipped with systems in place for potential nuclear attacks.

Oregon State University has an all-hazards-based Emergency Operations Plan (EOP), according to Michael Bamberger, the emergency preparedness manager for Oregon State University.

“The plan organizes the existing capability of OSU departments into a response structure that can meet any OSU emergency,” Bamberger said via email.

In order to lead these responses, Oregon State University has trained an Incident Management Team that can mobilize to conduct operations in response.

“We focused on developing a universal response plan and capability rather than specific scenarios. This ensures OSU can respond to known hazards as well as unpredicted hazards,” Bamberger said via email.

The all-hazards approach is flexible enough to include a nuclear attack. OSU Emergency Management works with other agencies to assess any risk that may threaten OSU, refines any existing plans and develops unique plans if necessary, according to Bamberger.

“For any incident, two actions can protect a person: Evacuate away from the incident or take cover while the incident passes by. A person needs to select the appropriate response to the current situation they are facing,” Bamberger said via email.

According to Associate Professor Christopher McKnight Nichols, who directs the OSU Center for the Humanities and specializes in American history, the current situation with the United States and other countries, like Russia and North Korea, compares favorably with the Cold War in that a full nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union would have very likely have fulfilled the doctrine of “MAD,” or Mutually Assured Destruction.

“This concept evokes the strategic rationale that helped to keep the Cold War cold,” Nichols said. “Because both American and Russian leaders knew a nuclear war would probably destroy both of their nations, they did not see any incentives to actually wage such a conflict.” 

Today, the United States and Russia have a very strained relationship. Antagonism and mistrust are major concerns, and includes Russia’s involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the invasion of the Ukraine and activities in Syria. However problematic the tensions in this diplomatic relationship are, they do not represent an imminent nuclear threat like that of the Cold War, according to Nichols.

“Given global interdependence in commerce and finance, in international and regional organizations and in cultural and intellectual exchanges, the world seems less primed for a major power war than at any time in recent U.S. history,” Nichols said.

According to Nichols, the most significant and current nuclear threat to the United States comes from North Korea. This is due to the nation’s demonstrated ability to develop and launch intercontinental ballistic missiles and the fact that they have successfully tested atomic weapons and routinely flouted international laws against nuclear proliferation.

“Because the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, and his regime also regularly threatens the U.S.—and in light of the fact that North Korea is such an isolated nation with tens of thousands of U.S. troops stationed close by in allied South Korea—North Korea and the Korean Peninsula is the main nuclear threat hotspot that worries U.S. policymakers, diplomats and military planners and observers around the world,” Nichols said.

Closer to the Corvallis community, observers like Steve Clark are hoping for peace.

“Like everyone in the world, we observe with interest the dialogue between North Korea and U.S. leaders, and hope that rhetoric will not escalate and that peace remains a priority,” Clark said in an email.

According to Dr. Linda Richards, an instructor in the School of History, Philosophy and Religion, while peace is a priority for activists, the consequences of modern-day warfare are much more severe than used to be. Richards noted that more people in the global community have their hands in foreign relations, and more people around the world have an influence on nuclear warfare. The U.S. economy, in particular, is heavily dependent on exports of weaponry and security systems, which is highly influential on nuclear warfare.

“Because the stakes are high, more of us are participating,” Richards said.

If the reality of a nuclear attack in Oregon becomes more realistic, emergency planning will increase for the state and the county. OSU collaborates with local emergency management agencies and is part of the combined planning process.

“Some of the planning we are currently involved with are earthquake planning, shelter planning and, recently, the eclipse planning,” Bamberger said.

Should an emergency arise, OSU would communicate emergency information through the OSU Alert System, according to Bamberger. Students can update their current contact information through the online OSU Alert portal.

“When emergency communication is necessary, we send a message directly to the cell phone or other registered communication device in the system. We encourage people to enter their texting phone number to receive instant message alerting,” Bamberger said.

While communities like Corvallis may be prepared in the event of nuclear attacks, activists around the world are working on the prevention of such tragedies. Other changes from the Cold War era include the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by the United Nations, according to Richards.

“One of the first goals of the United Nations was to ban nuclear weapons, and they just have,” Richards said.

Things such as nuclear-free zones are part of what give activists hope. According to Richards, two-thirds of the world’s landmass is on a nuclear weapons free zone. Additionally, 50 percent of the world’s population lives in a Mayor for Peace city, with Corvallis being one of those cities. Mayor for Peace cities are cities around the world with a mission of raising awareness internationally regarding the need to abolish nuclear weapons, according to the Mayors for Peace website.

Richards believes that the world has built a structure for war, but that we as a people need to focus on building a capacity and structure for peace in the world. When conflicts arise, we are more likely to take to the military than we are to peace tactics.

“War is easy, but peace is still in pieces,” Richards said.

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