Civil Defense: Our children

Wednesday, February 07, 1951

This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

Third in series.

Dr. Edwin R. van Kleek, Assistant Commissioner of Education of the State of New York, and coordinator for civil defense for all schools and colleges in New York. He answers questions from New Yorkers about the atomic threat.

Q: How do I teach my six year old son about the atomic bomb without frightening him to death?
A: You have to train your child about many dangers, as long as you are calm and have a good knowledge of civil defense planning you with impart knowledge without fear on your child.

Q: Is there a uniform plan for the safety of children in this state?
A. Every school in the state - public, private and parochial has been directed by the state's Civil Defense Commission to locate in each school building the area that would furnish the most shelter in the event of a bomb. Likewise, schools have been told to instruct pupils and in metro area drills have been carried out.

Q: What provision is being made to give teachers the information they need in case of an atomic attack?
A. Teachers have been carefully coached - the aim is to alert, not alarm! There is also a special protocol for a sneak attack - duck under a desk or table. If outside, seek shelter or drop to the ground and cover their face.

Q. With all the drills in the schools, I'm afraid my child will become upset emotionally, is there any way to avoid this?
A. Psychologists have worked out detailed suggestions about how to avoid upsetting children while preparing them. Children have reacted superbly. They are already used to fire drills, and this is just another form of preparation to prevent hysteria. Reassurance from parents and teachers is crucial.

Q. My child attends school in an old building. Is it safe?
A. Any shelter is better than no shelter!

Following van Kleek's talk, the show shifts to New York City civil defense issues. John C. Cox, Administrator of the Civil Defense Program for the Board of Education, City of New York. He answers similar questions to van Kleek, but these are particular to New York City schools. Including issues related to bomb blast induced tidal waves, and the use of mandatory children's identification cards.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 71789
Municipal archives id: LT1874


John C. Cox and Edwin R. van Kleek

Hosted by:

Bill Leonard


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About Plan For Survival

"Maybe you, maybe me.  Death and destruction ... Panic in the streets ..." Not a program for pre-bedtime listening, these recordings examine the impossibility of sufficiently preparing for nuclear winter.

With surprisingly calm moderators, the Plan for Survival series (1950-1951) goes beyond the usual "duck and cover" advisement and into the details of an A-bomb attack, fallout shelters, the Soviet threat, first aid, radiation sickness, and food and water supplies following a nuclear attack. Guests include civilians recounting their survival experiences in wartime, like the missile blitzes in England.

The show was transcribed for the Civil Defense Network, which "linked virtually every radio station in New York State and operates entirely by air. It can function even if regular radio lines are destroyed." Bill Leonard hosts with expert panelists, and most programs consist of a balance of speculation and civil information for New York State in general and New York City in particular.  Intended to be a public service announcement for a new nuclear age, the record of these programs now serves to add perspective to 21st century fears —from suffocating due to sinus congestion to bags left in the subway. It's clear -- death comes from above.


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