Role of the Department of Public Works

Wednesday, May 09, 1951

A nuclear weapons test on Bikini Atoll A nuclear weapons test on Bikini Atoll (Courtesy of the National Nuclear Security Administration/Wikipedia Commons)

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

Opens with clip of President Harry S. Truman on the Soviet Union's test of an atomic bomb in 1949.

Bill Leonard and Bertrand D. Jallamy, of the New York State Department of Public Works, discuss the work of that department in preparing for an attack. Topics include traffic and emergency highways, protective clothing for civilian rescue teams, receiving orders in the event of an attack.

In the second segment, Leonard talks to Frederick H. Zurmuhlen, Commissioner of Public Works for New York City, about the work of the Department of Public Woks in the event of an attack, specifically how apartment dwellers should react to an attack, what to do in the case of water main breakage, opportunities for those in the building trade to volunteer with Public Works, loaning equipment to Public Works.

Suggestions like carrying a police whistle are advised in the event you are trapped in a bombed out building.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 71848

Hosted by:

Bill Leonard


Bertrand D. Jallamy and Frederick H. Zurmuhlen


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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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