As diplomatic tensions around the world increase day-by-day, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction continues its inexorable, lethal trend, it can seem like a pretty reasonable reaction to simply think: “we’re boned”. The Doomsday clock currently stands at two and a half minutes to midnight, Trident submarines patrol the ocean depths bearing their terrifying payloads, and North Korea seems hell-bent on obliterating the American West coast, turning it into 30,000 square miles of charcoal.
Despite, or perhaps because, of our underlying societal anxiety about the possibility of an atomic holocaust (a possibility that has been a part of our cultural milieu since Hiroshima and Nagasaki), the Western world retains a curious fascination with apocalyptic imagery and nuclear Armageddon.
In the event of a nuclear bomb, I for one hope that I’m immediately annihilated, because the prospects for those who do survive are pretty grim indeed. In the event of a nuclear strike in a major population centre, the blast radius would reduce most buildings into rubble and splinters.
The heat would cook anything above ground, and the bright flash of light would blind anyone who saw the explosion. Once you factor in the horrific cancers from the resultant fallout and the fact that and EMP wave would knock out all electricity nearby, and you’ve got a pretty nightmarish scenario on your hands.
But what you might not realise is that our governments are already prepared for the horrifying possibility of a nuclear war, and thus have created a number of emergency warning broadcasts for this very contingency: warning broadcasts that will no doubt leave you in a cold sweat when the end is nigh.
In the United Kingdom, the public was formerly informed about an imminent nuclear strike via a broadcasting system known as the Four Minute Warning; so-called because four minutes is the approximate length of time from the point where a Soviet missile strike could be launched from Russia against the UK.
Nowadays however, the warning system is quite different, as the Four-Minute Warning was discontinued in 1992, and has been replaced with a new emergency warning from the Home Office, broadcast via the BBC. Above, you can see what it would look like if regular programming was suddenly interrupted by one of these messages.
America relies upon the EAS – the emergency alert system, which replaced the EBS (emergency broadcast system) in 1997. This automated service warns viewers about the incoming danger, and urges them to seek shelter and remain indoors. In the United States, the Commercial Mobile Alert System is also available for smartphones and other tablet devices.
Pretty disturbing, right? The chilling sounds of the radio transmission, and the blank, robotic monotone of the announcer is so disturbing that I’m almost tempted to star mixing concrete and start laying the foundations of my bunker before the bombs start dropping. But despite the horror surrounding the prospect, there’s no denying that speculation about nuclear war is impossible to resist. If you’re a fascinated about the end of the world, then take a look at what the button to launch a nuclear attack really looks like.