New York City is removing the thousands of nuclear fallout shelter signs posted around the city as they are a vestige of a Cold War era system that has not been maintained in decades.
Former President John F. Kennedy ordered the creation of the shelter system in major metropolises across the country in 1961 as tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union continued to escalate. As North Korea persists in expanding its nuclear capabilities, city officials and disaster preparedness experts argue the signs must be taken down since, in the event of an attack, they might direct civilians to ineffective shelters.
“I love seeing the signs, but, as a disaster planner, they have to come down,”Jeff Schlegelmilch deputy director of Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness told Reuters. “At best, they are ignored, at worst, they’re misleading and are going to cost people’s lives.”
City officials say that in many cases people heeding the signs, which still number in the thousands, would be directed to locked buildings or to storage rooms that haven’t been stocked with supplies in decades.
The city has begun to remove the signs from public school buildings, but Reuters reports the effort appears disorganized as one Brooklyn school had the sign removed while at another school, blocks away, the sign remains.
City officials declined to say whether the removal effort had been sanctioned by the federal government. The signs were installed by the Office of Civil Defense, which was absorbed by FEMA in the 1970s.
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