Guam is caught in the crosshairs of the escalating tensions between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. In response to Trump word-vomiting threats of nuclear destruction, Pyongyang has said it may rain down ballistic missiles off the coast of the American territory by mid-August. So what’s a remote Pacific island that’s also home to more than 160,000 civilians and 6,000 U.S. troops supposed to do? Plan for a nuclear attack, just in case.
Guam’s Homeland Security Office of Civil Defense has issued fact sheets instructing people how to prepare and, oh my god, respond to an actual nuclear attack in light of the latest standoff. Guam’s Governor, Eddie Calvo, assured people that “there is no threat to our island,” and there’s been no change in the threat level in response to North Korea’s threats. “Everyone should continue to live their lives,” Calvo also said — and so far Guamanians seem pretty relaxed.
But, if something changes, here are some of the handy tips offered to Guamanians — in case folks on the West Coast would also like to take a look. Apparently the best chance of survival from a missile attack involves “distance” (get far away from the “fallout particles”); “shielding” (concrete, good!); and “time” (wait for the radiation to lose its intensity). Preparation is key (time to stock up on emergency kits), but if you happen to be caught in the middle of an attack authorities suggest taking cover “as quickly as you can, under concrete structure or below ground, if possible.”
If unlucky enough to be stuck outside when the missiles arrive, the fact sheet warns, “do not look at the flash or fireball — it could blind you.” Authorities recommend taking cover behind anything and lying flat on the ground with your hands over your head. Once you find shelter — which, please, find that immediately — “get clean as soon as possible to remove radioactive material that may have settled on your body” and take any clothes and put them in a sealed plastic bag. If you can shower, do — but forget the loofah; no scrubbing or scratching allowed — or at least wipe yourself clean with a cloth. Then, hunker down for 24 hours, maybe longer, until authorities tell you what to do.
Now, North Korea is not threatening to fire off a nuke at Guam, but as Jonah Shepp explained in New York, a regular old ballistic-missile attack would “demonstrate that the island is within range of the Hwasong-12, which Pyongyang claims is capable of delivering a nuclear payload.” Combine that with a recent intelligence-agency assessment that North Korea can now equip a missile with a miniaturized nuclear warhead, and it probably doesn’t hurt to plan for the absolute, utter worst.