Editorial: Duct and Cover

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OK, I have my duct tape, my plastic sheeting and my "Get Ready Now" brochure from the Department of Homeland Security, which tells me how to prepare for biological, chemical and nuclear threats in 11 amazingly short pages. So why don't I feel safer? Too bad Tom Ridge's multimillion-dollar calming campaign wasn't timed better and launched to coincide with the orange -- "High" -- terrorism alert that sent thousands of people scurrying to Home Depot and Lowe's for survival supplies earlier this month.

Does any of this sound reminiscent of those duck-and-cover exercises from the 1950s and '60s, when schools made students dive under their desks or line up in hallways, heads between their knees, in hopes of being saved in the event of a nuclear blast? In 10 years, we'll be having the same cynical thoughts about Ridge's duct tape and plastic sheeting comments. Like one paragraph from the "Get Ready" brochure will do anything to prepare me if I'm caught in a nuclear blast: "If there is a flash or fireball, take cover immediately, below ground if possible, though any shield or shelter will help protect you from the immediate effects of the blasts and the pressure wave. ... [T]he farther away you are from the blast and the fallout, the lower your exposure." The ready.gov Web site also mentions taking potassium iodide, those magical pills that will protect us from radiation poisoning.

No slight meant to The Martin Agency, which put together the pro bono campaign for the Ad Council, but a little bit of duct tape isn't going to save anyone. I saw the aftermath of a nuclear explosion in "The Sum of All Fears." I'm keeping up with Jack Bauer's every move as he chases a nuclear bomb on Fox's "24." In full disclosure, however, I must tell you of the bomb shelter in my father's basement in the Middle-of-Nowhere-Kansas -- no, my family didn't build it -- though it's nowhere near as elaborate as the one that Jack's stupid daughter, Kim, is currently trapped in. Still, it's a great storage room.

For catalogers, there's much better advice in the Direct Marketing Association's latest white paper outlining several war scenarios, risks and a checklist on how to react. Among the suggestions: in-catalog sales pages, package inserts and blow-ins, merchandising plans and reminder postcards or e-mail. Actually doing something instead of worrying sounds so much better.

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