Defense Civil Preparedness Agency
In late 1972, while experimenting with ways to present civil defense advice an increasingly disinterested public, the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency came to develop an informational campaign heralded as Your Chance to Live. Similar in many respects to the In Time of Emergency crusade just four years prior, Your Chance to Live consisted of pamphlets, recordings and a wide range of films. Spanning topics from earthquakes to power failures, the films of the series worked to mix common precautions with specialized knowledge for each presented situation. Today, a quick scan of any online video site often includes several incarnations of the most accessible film of the series, Your Chance to Live: Earthwatch. Featuring a number of natural disasters, including an earthquake, a flood, and a landslide, the film offers tips for surviving each scenario. While not specifically relating to nuclear defense, the underlying message of each film is the same, be prepared. That same year, a creative writer for the series used this idea of preparedness to create Your Chance to Live: Nuclear Disaster, one of the most unique and haunting civil defense productions ever to fall into obscurity.
The theme of preparedness which
dominates the Your Chance to Live films becomes twisted almost
immediately. As depicted in the opening sequence, Nuclear Disaster was
filmed in a decisively self-reflexive manner, with the production crew and
equipment continually visible. The clip above functions as a series of
outtakes involving extras who are to act as though they have been caught unaware
when a bomb drops on Washington D.C. Focusing on the interactions between
the director and a young girl, the two have a candid discussion about the
effects of an enemy attack and the damage which could occur. While admitting she is not scared,
the girl innocently remarks, a bomb is "a thing that goes up in the air
and comes down and kills people".
Following the film crew back to their studio, the camera catches a number of post-production actions including sound synchronization of a siren recording and the addition of voice-over narration. Judging by the footage and animation appearing on their editing screen, it appears that the crew is working on the 1969 film In Time of Emergency. While the director and sound editor provide offhand remarks about fallout shelters and supplies, no actual civil defense advice is ever provided. Even with the arrival of the film's primary narrator Peter Thomas, Nuclear Disaster merely continues to offer glimpses into the backstage world of government film production.