Public Works division and Civil Defense

Monday, April 23, 1951

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

Commissioner Arthur Wallander discusses civil defense with Commissioner of Public Works, Frederick Zurmuhlen.

Zurmuhlen reports that the Public Works emergency division is well organized, they have enlisted 50,000 volunteer personnel and the siren installation project is almost complete. Other projects are under way, and plans to avoid sabotage have been put in place.

One of the biggest challenges faced by the Public Works office following an attack is the debris that will block streets and broken mains restricting access to utilities. Likewise, building stability is of concern. Furthermore, Zurmuhlen discusses a master list that is kept up to date that catalogs all heavy moving equipment, such as motor vehicles, truck cranes, bull dozers, as well as tools such as shovels, picks, and crow bars. The cataloged list is maintained using an IBM computer. He also speaks of the many individuals trained to respond to a disaster.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 71588
Municipal archives id: LT1820


Arthur W. Wallander and Frederick H. Zurmuhlen


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About Report on Civil Defense

From public welfare to firefighting to water safety, this program updates the public about disaster preparedness.

From 1950 to 1952, Arthur J. Wallander, Civil Defense Director for New York City, interviewed the heads of city departments about the steps their departments had taken to meet the needs of the city's civil defense system.

These programs provide an interesting vantage point on beliefs and fears about what many assumed were imminent attacks.  While providing exhaustive details about the municipal systems, they also ask the implicit question, what is your plan in the case of nuclear attack? 


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