Survival Expo features gas masks and Geiger counters

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

KENNER, La. –  If the pumps fail again — or diplomacy fails in North Korea– Louisiana “preppers” will be ready.

At a “Survival Fair” at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner, vendors filled tables with many of the items you’d find at a gun show:  bullet-proof vests, ammunition, even silencers made out of cans of gun-cleaning solvent.

But times being what they are, Craig Douglas, a vendor from Michigan, was selling gas masks and radiation detectors.

With the sabre-rattling between the U.S. and North Korea, Douglas says sales are picking up.  In fact, he says he hasn’t seen such an interest in radioactive “roentgens” since the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster in Japan in  2011.

But of course American’s apocalyptic fear goes back to at least the 1950s and ’60s– the Cold War days when Russia was the enemy and the missiles were in Cuba.

Back then, school kids were taught to survive  an atomic bomb with “duck and cover” drills under their desks while their parents were stocking supplies in backyard bunkers.

These days, Douglas does a lot of explaining to customers about the difference between his two most popular Army surplus items from the Cold War era: a “dosimeter” and what’s commonly called a “Geiger counter.”

A Geiger counter will measure the amount of radiation in your surroundings at any given point in time.  If you were to step outside a nuclear fallout shelter and get a Geiger counter reading of “more than 500 roentgens.. you’d be dead in two days,” says Douglas.

A dosimeter will tell you how much radiation you’ve been exposed to– over time.  Douglas says it’s “like an odometer” for radiation, keeping track of the total amount you’ve gotten, so you’ll know when you’ve had too much. Limited time spent in a radioactive zone is survivable, Douglas says, as long as you’re not exposed to too much radiation in too short a time.

Needless to say that if you survive a nuclear strike, it would be best to have both kinds of detectors.  Customer Bertrand Griffin seemed intrigued. Would he buy a radiation detector?

No, he said, his interest was pure “nostalgia.”

Griffin said he used to work at the Hanford nuclear power plant in Richland, WA, and he says that if we’re in a nuclear war “we’re going to need something better than (knowing) whether we can read radiation.”

Griffin’s wife, Kotosha, was more interested in practical items like food and water.

And a t-shirt for sale at the “Survival Fair” made a point some people might miss:  The original doomsday “prepper” wasn’t worried about radioactive fallout.

Noah was ready for a flood.