A Concrete Plan for Civil Defense
Colorado Civil Defense Agency
Ready Mixed Concrete Company
"Here is a concrete plan for civil defense! Think about it! This plan could include you, your business, or your equipment!" As an enthusiastic narrator delivers these opening lines, a mushroom cloud erupts across the screen. The plan which he speaks of is very specific. In the aftermath of an enemy atomic attack, cities must utilize cement mixer trucks to bring water from outside sources to bomb-damaged areas. During the 1950's it was not at all uncommon for industries to link themselves to national civil defense preparedness efforts. Indeed, microfilm producers, long-haul trucking associations, paint dealers, two-way radio companies and even boat engine manufacturers all sponsored films promoting their product or service as vital to American survival. Frank P. Spratlen, Jr., president of The Ready Mixed Concrete Company, likely had a similar strategy in mind when he teamed with The Colorado Civil Defense Agency to release A Concrete Plan for Civil Defense in 1954. (1) Founded in 1936, The Ready Mixed Concrete Company pioneered the use of various truck mounted cement mixers. Their mobility allowed the business to quickly expand throughout the Denver Area. (2) The viewer is shown how mixer trucks help in three ways, by carrying water to fight fires, by carrying water for drinking and by carrying rescue personnel to disaster sites. Although the narrator speaks as though he is addressing an audience consisting solely of cement company owners, the film is clearly designed to show city government officials and civil leaders how cement plants and their fleet of trucks and crews are the perfect auxiliary to local civil defense programs.
Cement plants, situated along the outskirts of nearly every major city, are more likely to survive an enemy atomic attack unscathed. Additionally, most contain either their own water sources or pumping equipment which can be rigged up to trucks. According to the film, this makes them ideal locations to coordinate firefighting efforts if a city's center is destroyed. If water is not immediately available at the plant, local creeks and ponds can be drained to fill mixer trucks. Firefighters are shown pumping water directly from a mixer to extinguish a flaming car. By dumping mixers full of water into makeshift pools close to disaster sites, cement workers in civil defense armbands create "drafting pits". This technique allows firefighters access to a close and continual source of water. For more technical fires, truck drivers trained as volunteer firemen add foam to their mixers to battle chemical and electrical fires. Beyond firefighting usages, water would be needed for drinking and A Concrete Plan for Civil Defense explains how cement trucks will solve this problem. Although they are cleaned at the end of each working day, the narrator insists chemical disinfectants must be applied to any water hauled by mixer trucks. Their mobility allows them to drive to rural wells, uncontaminated by debris or radioactive fallout, and deliver clean water to evacuees and populations with disrupted utilities. This is acted out on screen as drivers fill Lyster Bags (canvass bags suspended by a tripod) for relieved suburban families.
The crews operating the trucks are just a valuable as the water they transport. Drivers trained in first-aid can provide much needed manpower during a conventional emergency or a post-attack period. The tools the men carry for routine jobs prove essential in rescue work. Back at the cement plant, skilled dispatchers direct resources via radio. The camera pans alongside a line of off-duty cement workers enlisting to serve with local civil defense organizations. Like so many other films produced at the state level, A Concrete Plan for Civil Defense does not appear to have been distributed nationally by The Federal Civil Defense Administration. This makes its official fate difficult to determine. The Colorado Civil Defense Agency would go on to release at least one other film, Food For Thought. A 1956 production, Food For Thought examines how housewives can continue to provide meals for their families after downtown Denver is destroyed by an atomic bomb. Scenes from A Concrete Plan for Civil Defense are incorporated when that film's narrator explains the different ways water will make its way to suburban communities if the main pipes are destroyed. Contemporary newspaper articles suggest both films were often screened together, but references to them all but vanish by the early 1960's.