Duck and cover

From Academic Kids

This article is about duck and cover, the personal protection tactic. For the educational film, see Duck and Cover (film).

Duck and cover was a method of personal protection against the effects of a nuclear detonation which the United States government taught to the generations of United States school children from the late 1940s in to the 1980s. This was supposed to protect them in the event of an unexpected nuclear attack, which they were told could come at any time without warning. Immediately after they saw a flash they had to stop what they were doing, get on the ground under some cover such as a table, or at least next to a wall and assume fetal position, lying with face down and covering their head with their hands.

Critics have said that this training would be of little if any help in the event of thermonuclear war, and had little effect other than promoting a state of unease and paranoia. Template:Spoken Wikipedia



The United States monopoly on nuclear weapons was broken in 1949 when the Soviet Union exploded its first nuclear device, and many in the government and public perceived that the United States was more vulnerable than it ever had been before. Duck and cover exercises had quickly become a part of Civil Defense drills that every American citizen, from kids to the elderly, practiced so as to be ready in the event of nuclear war. In 1950, during the first big Civil Defense push of the Cold War, the movie Duck and Cover was produced for showing in schools.

Missing image
A Duck & Cover movie poster


The advice to "duck and cover" holds good in many situations where structural destablization or debris may be expected such as during earthquakes or tornados. At a sufficient distance from a nuclear explosion, the shock wave would produce similar results and ducking and covering would perhaps prove adequate. However within a certain radius (depending on its height and yield), ducking and covering would do little to protect against the intense heat and radiation following a nuclear explosion.

The exercises of Civil Defense are now seen as having less practical use than political or cultural use: to keep the danger of nuclear war high on the public mind, while also assuring the American people that something could be done to defend against nuclear attack. The duck and cover exercises remain a unique part of the American Red Scare culture, as neither Soviet people or Western Europeans during the Cold War, nor citizens of North Korea today had anything even remotely similar (though all did have other sorts of civil defense education).

Elementary school children on military installations during the Cuban Missile Crisis confused fire drills with "duck and cover" drills and hid under desks and bathrooms instead of exiting school buildings.

Some critics have drawn comparisons with the "Duct Tape Alert" issued by the Department of Homeland Security in the early 2000s, advising citizens to prepare to seal a room of their house with duct tape (including, ironically, the ventilation shafts and windows, which can lead to carbon dioxide poisoning and suffocation) to protect from terrorist attacks.

See also

External link

  • Prelinger Archive ( has Duck and Cover! available for download or streaming.
  • Flash about duck and cover (

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