Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow: The North Carolina Civil Defense Agency and Fallout Shelters, 1961-1963

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Title: Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow: The North Carolina Civil Defense Agency and Fallout Shelters, 1961-1963
Author: Blazich, Frank Arthur Jr.
Advisors: Dr. Nancy Mitchell, Committee Chair
Dr. James Crisp, Committee Member
Dr. Joseph Caddell, Committee Member
Abstract: From 1961 to 1963, the administration of President John F. Kennedy attempted to create a vast network of public and private fallout shelters across the United States. The North Carolina Civil Defense Agency (NCCD) during this period focused instead on emergency preparedness. Fallout shelters were a façade, providing funding that allowed the NCCD to quietly focus its efforts on emergency preparedness. While the state managed to provide fallout shelters for only eight percent of the population, this failure was not as damning as most scholars have assumed. In fact, the state agency used available federal funding to prepare the state for natural disasters and isolated, minor emergencies. State civil defense officials implemented improvements in communication networks, emergency rescue squads, and the professionalizing of fire and police departments state-wide. Citizens did not criticize the civil defense agency in North Carolina; following the Cuban Missile Crisis, there was no public backlash against the state agency. The crisis, on the contrary, validated the state’s approach to civil defense. By focusing on emergency preparedness instead of investing in fallout shelters, local civil defense agencies were able to operate in accordance with the specific demographic, geographic, and financial needs of the county residents. Most people assume that the fading yellow and black “Fallout Shelter†signs are the only residue of the civil defense program in North Carolina. In fact, the professional development of the state’s rescue squads, police and fire departments harkens back to the efforts of civil defense offices in the early 1960s.
Date: 2008-11-17
Degree: MA
Discipline: History

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