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Japanese Schools Are Teaching Kids What to do During a Nuclear Attack

Duck and Cover drills are back in the classroom.

Yesterday, North Korea fired another ballistic missile over Japan. The event has increased global tensions in what is already a tripwire-tight situation — and has spurred Japan to take more proactive measures in the event of a possible attack. One way in which they’re doing this? By having students learn proper procedure to stay safe in the event of a nuclear explosion, the same way students did back in the Cold War era.

Since March, Japanese schools have been prepping students for nuclear attacks by conducting nuclear war evacuation drill, which teaches children how to maximize their chances of staying alive if a nuclear weapon goes off. The drill is reminiscent of the famous duck and cover drills taught to American students during the middle of the 20th century, where students were instructed to hide under their desks in the case of a nuclear bomb. They acted as an immediate countermeasure to an imminent explosion — and trained kids to not run towards breakable windows.

Japan’s nuclear war evacuation drills follow the same basic structure.

  • The drill begins when air raid sirens give warning of a coming attack.
  • Students must stop what they are doing
  • Students then run to the closest designated safe areas.
  • Once there, the students will crouch on the floor, put their arms over their heads, and wait until the threat is over.

Japanese residents have questioned teaching this to kids, as they believe there is almost no way that it would protect kids in the event of an actual nuclear explosion. Many believe duck and cover is based on an outdated understanding of nuclear weapons, but there is some dispute over how effective the tactic actually is. While hiding under a desk or finding shelter is unlikely to protect someone who is too close to the blast,  duck and cover could, some believe, protect someone from radiation poisoning or burning.

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Regardless of their safety, some have noted that these drills just force kids to live in a constant state of fear about something they have no control over. Hopefully, the effectiveness of these drills in a real-life attack is never actually put to the test.