On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland, sparking international unrest and leading to a world war that resulted in over 60 million deaths. While that was only 3 percent of the world’s population in 1940, a global war of that caliber would almost certainly end modern civilization if it were to happen today.
But in the case that a World War 3 were to be tipped off, or perhaps if a Zombie apocalypse swept the globe, the United States stands ready with a strategic national stockpile, according to NPR.
The strategic national stockpiles
In various parts of the United States, giant warehouses the size of two super Walmarts are situated that contain all the supplies Americans would need to survive a fallout.
Nell Greenfieldboyce was the first reporter to have ever visited one of these locations and although she signed a confidentiality agreement to keep hush, she was able to report on a few of the things she witnessed on her visit.
One of the first and most important things to understand is that just about everything is a secret when it comes to the United States strategic stockpiles. It's a matter of national security. Greg Burel, director of the Strategic National Stockpile, said:
"If everybody knows exactly what we have, then you know exactly what you can do to us that we can't fix. And we just don't want that to happen."
Greenfieldboyce did report that within these stockpiles exist millions of doses of vaccines, antivirals, chemical agent antidotes, wound care supplies, antibiotics and more.
She described the facilities themselves, saying they have a giant freezer packed with products and an entire caged off section for medicines like painkillers that could be addictive. There are rows upon rows of ventilators in case people needed support to breathe and over 130 empty shipping containers ready for a mass product distribution.
George Korch, senior adviser to the assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services said:
"A lot of under-the-hood, background work goes into identifying what the size, the scope, the special needs are, and what medical countermeasures exist or need to be made. That then drives the rest of the process for research, development, procurement, stockpiling, et cetera."
A single inventory is estimated to be worth over $7 billion, a budget which has grown dramatically since these stockpiles began in 1999, when they only had a budget of $50 million. Some think that these types of stockpiles are a waste of resources and money, but Burel defends the collection by saying:
"We have the capability, if something bad happens, that we can intervene in a positive way, but then we don't ever want to have to do that. So it's kind of a strange place. But we would be foolish not to prepare for those events that we could predict might happen."
The truth is that if an epidemic were to strike, thousands if not millions of people would need help and although some of the stocked supplies may go forever untouched, the popular idiom reads: it is better to be safe than sorry.