Get Ready for Preparedness Month!

1941 Office of Emergency Management poster promoting defense of the United States within its borders, via Ohio Memory

It may sound a bit redundant, but this directive is fitting considering that September is National Preparedness Month! Sponsored by FEMA, National Preparedness Month encourages citizens to develop a plan of action in case of disaster–either natural or man-made–to ensure that communities and individuals are ready to “respond to, recover from, and rebuild from any major incident.”

This is only a test! The men pictured are not injured–they’re only participating in a simulated emergency exercise at the Civil Defense Emergency Operations Center in Dayton, 1968.


World War II Office of Civil Defense poster promoting emergency preparedness


This inspired us to take a look at the material we have on Ohio Memory related to disaster preparedness, much of which comes from Cold War-era civil defense materials. The federal civil defense program was authorized by Congressional law from 1951 until 1994, and consisted of four stages: mitigation, preparation, response and recovery. Today, these responsibilities fall under the umbrella of FEMA as part of the Department of Homeland Security. Though times have changed since these types of materials were common, they still offer a fascinating glimpse into a time in our history when the threat of nuclear annihilation seemed all too real, and citizens were encouraged to prepare for the worst.

We have a selection of photographs, posters, manuals and objects related to civil defense preparations, many of which still provide valid information for any of the disasters we might face today! Take a look at a how your car can be “four wheels to survival” in case of a nuclear attack, or learn the “Facts about Fallout” and how to create a viable shelter from the effects of radiation.


Another interesting item is the “Mighty Midget Disaster Emergency Survival Kit,” seen below. Sold with the guarantee “You can survive if you stay alive,” this kit was designed to get individuals through the first 24 hours after a nuclear attack, although it could also be used in case of flood, fire and storms. It contained, among other things, disposable plastic garments to protect from fallout, Hershey’s Tropical Chocolate to “rebuild [the] energy so vitally needed in emergencies,” and Halazone tablets for water purification. The kit was produced by D.E.S. Kit, Inc., a division of Newark-based C.W. Handel & Associates. These days, you can build your own kit using the resources available at

Survival kit designed and manufactured by the D.E.S. Corporation of Newark, Ohio, ca. 1960. Held in the collections of the Ohio Historical Society.

We invite you to explore some of these materials from Ohio’s past as you think about your own emergency planning this National Preparedness Month!

Thanks to Lily Birkhimer, Digital Projects Coordinator at the Ohio History Connection, for this week’s post!

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