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Facts Make the Difference


Office of Civil Defense


The title music of this film is drowned out by the roar of a four engine enemy jet bomber streaking over a city.  On her front lawn checking her mail, a suburban housewife notices the jet and panics.  In the background, a ragtime piano score begins to play and the pitch grows higher as the scene grows more tense.  A hydrogen bomb (complete with an exaggerated atomic symbol) tumbles from the aircraft but, just before impact, a costumed superhero leaps in front of the housewife and catches it.  The absurdity of this introduction is quickly diffused by an authoritative narrator who explains this is a fictional solution to a very real

threat and all decisions must by based in firm reality.  This applies to everyday decisions like crossing the street and checking the weather to very consequential decisions like fighting fires, leading troops in battle and making a medical diagnosis.  Recognizing that the horrors of an enemy attack with nuclear weapons would require very hard decisions to be made under difficult circumstances, The Office of Civil Defense created Facts Make the Difference in 1966 to train volunteers to properly collect, process and, ultimately, act upon, useful data.

A three step process is introduced which instructs the viewer to collect, process and disseminate facts.  It is stressed that each step must be completed before effective action can be taken.  In a dramatic sequence, a fire dispatcher takes a call from a frantic woman who reports her children are trapped in a burning house.  In her hysteria, she hangs up before giving her location.  The dispatcher processes the situation as a pressing emergency and can disseminate it to proper authorities (firemen) but the collection stage is incomplete and he is unable to help.  The collection of data can be general, such as a phone call or a bit of gossip picked up on the street.  It can also be technical, reported by specialized

workers such as policemen or radiological monitors and fallout shelter managers.  A well-organized civil defense system should have staff in place trained to collect information from all available sources after an enemy attack.  Trained observers ask who, what, why, when and where as they filter data in order to anticipate problems. 

On its own, collected data does little good unless it can be placed in the right hands.  The second step, processing of information, urges officials to get gathered facts to experts who can analyze it.  Police, radiological monitors and others with the specialized training discussed earlier, can apply raw facts to the larger picture of an emergency situation and determine a plan of action.  The ideal data analyst will have personal knowledge of facts, of the area where the emergency is taking place, and will also be in a position of leadership or authority to give orders and control the actions of those who can help.  This final step, disseminating the information to

proper parties, can be as broad as sounding air raid sirens to warn entire towns of an impending attack (depicted on screen by a mother and daughter hiding in a shelter), to as specific as a fallout shelter manager making decisions based on radio reports of radiation.  Proper collection, analysis and dissemination of information in chaotic situations was deemed vital by The Office of Civil Defense and in the year following the release Facts Make the Difference, the agency would produce three more films covering the same topic.  Manual Damage Assessment examines how to collect data from unconventional sources in the event traditional communications fail.  Display of Operation Data examines effective ways to present incoming information in emergency operating centers.  And, covering all aspects of the decision making process, Decision Making in Civil Defense compares how military leaders in times of battle and how civilian leaders during tremendous natural disasters, in particular hurricanes, prioritized their resources to help with life-saving decisions.


Facts Make the Difference may be viewed, in its entirety, HERE.

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