duck and drake

Duck and cover

Duck and Cover was a suggested method of personal protection against the effects of a nuclear detonation which the United States government taught to generations of United States school children from the late 1940s into the 1980s. This was supposed to protect them in the event of an unexpected nuclear attack which, they were told, could come at any time without warning. Immediately after they saw a flash they had to stop what they were doing and get on the ground under some cover—such as a table, or at least next to a wall—and assume the fetal position, lying face-down and covering their heads with their hands. Similar instructions were given in 1964 in the United Kingdom by Civil Defence Information Bulletin No. 5. and, in the 1980s, by the Protect and Survive series.

Critics have said that this training would be of little, if any, help in the event of thermonuclear war, and had little effect other than promoting a state of unease and paranoia.

Proponents argue, even today, thousands can be saved by employing this age-old tactic, without which people would instead run to windows to find the source of the big flash. During this time a shock wave would cause a glass implosion, shredding onlookers.

Similarly, "Drop, Cover and Hold On" is taught in areas prone to earthquakes. Schools in some tornado-prone areas of the United States also practice tornado drills that involve children squatting and covering the backs of their heads.


The United States' monopoly on nuclear weapons was broken in 1949 when the Soviet Union tested its first nuclear device, and many in the government and public perceived that the United States was more vulnerable than it ever had been before. Duck-and-cover exercises had quickly become a part of Civil Defense drills that every American citizen, from children to the elderly, practiced so as to be ready in the event of nuclear war. In 1950, during the first big Civil Defense push of the Cold War; the movie Duck and Cover was produced (by the Federal Civil Defense Administration) for school showings in 1951. At the time, it was believed the main dangers of a Hiroshima-type nuclear blast were from heat and blast damage: radioactive fallout itself was not clearly identified until 1954, after the Castle Bravo nuclear-weapon test in the Marshall Islands caused sickness and death in Japanese fishermen on the Lucky Dragon fishing vessel. '''


The advice to "duck and cover" holds well in many situations where structural destabilization or debris may be expected, such as during an earthquake or tornado. At a sufficient distance from a nuclear explosion, the shock wave would produce similar results and ducking and covering would perhaps prove adequate. It would protect the face (particularly the eyes) from the intense heat of a detonation. It would also offer some protection from flying glass (which in a city would be endemic) and other small but dangerous building debris. However, within a considerable radius (depending on its height and yield), ducking and covering would offer negligible protection against the intense heat, shock waves, and radiation following a nuclear explosion. People in this range would have little opportunity to duck and cover before being killed by the blast. The technique offers no protection against fallout; However, the technique assumes that after the initial blast, a person who ducks and covers will be able to move to a more sheltered area. It is a first response only.

In U.S. Army basic training in the 1970s, soldiers were taught to fall immediately down, covering face and hands and using their bodies to shield their weapons from the heat of the blast.

The exercises of civil defense are now seen as having less practical use than psychological use: to keep the danger of nuclear war high on the public mind, while also attempting to assure the American people that something could be done to defend against nuclear attack. The duck-and-cover exercises remain a unique part of the American Red Scare culture, as neither Soviet citizens nor Western Europeans during the Cold War, nor citizens of North Korea today, have practiced such exercises (though all did have other sorts of civil-defense education).

These messages, including children's songs, were created in the form of Public Service Announcements, which were created by government institutes and then distributed by radio stations to educate the young public in case of nuclear attack.

Ducking and covering does have certain applications in other, more natural disasters. In an earthquake, people are encouraged to "drop, cover, and hold on": to get underneath a piece of furniture, cover their heads (and eyes if possible) and hold onto the furniture. This advice also encourages people not to run out of a shaking building, because a large majority of earthquake injuries are due to broken bones from people falling and tripping during shaking. While it is unlikely that "drop, cover and hold on" will protect against a building collapse, buildings built in earthquake-prone areas in the United States are usually built to earthquake "Life Safety" codes, and a building collapse (even during an earthquake) is rare. "Drop, cover and hold on" may not be appropriate for all locations or building types, but many experts agree it is the appropriate emergency response to an earthquake in the United States.

In states prone to tornadoes, school children are urged to 'duck and cover' against a solid inner wall of a school, if time does not permit seeking better shelter—such as a storm cellar—during a tornado warning. The tactic is also very widely practiced in schools in states along the West Coast of the United States, where earthquakes are commonplace. Ducking and covering in either scenario would theoretically afford significant protection from falling or flying debris.

Duck and Cover in popular media

  • In the computer game Destroy All Humans!, a mission involving an atomic bomb is called 'Duck and Cover'.
  • The computer game Fallout made fun of the idea behind Duck and Cover. As the game has a large cult following, the idea of the uselessness of the duck-and-cover scheme got another boost in the 1990s.
  • In the computer game Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, Soviet Premier Romanov uses his pet box turtle, "Uncle Sam", to make fun of the duck-and-cover cartoons, using his fingers to represent "big Soviet missiles".
  • In the South Park episode "Volcano", residents are advised to duck and cover in order to survive a lava flow: this is demonstrated with an educational movie where the method results in the lava flowing over the person, leaving him unharmed. Needless to say, this didn't work as well when later attempted, leaving the "duckers" as charred skeletons (thus implying a similar result from a nuclear bomb).
  • In the West Wing episode "Duck and Cover", the possibility of a nuclear explosion in California is explored.
  • The movie The Iron Giant had a parody of a Duck and Cover educational video. Later, when a nuclear missile is launched at a town, the duck-and-cover strategy is suggested. It is rebuked with "there's no way to survive this, you idiot!"
  • The "Weird Al" Yankovic song "Christmas at Ground Zero" (song about nuclear annihilation on Christmas Day) contains the lyric "I'll duck and cover with my Yuletide lover underneath the mistletoe". The music video for this song also features a lot of footage borrowed from the Duck and Cover film.
  • Gaia Online now features it in their Gaia Cinemas.
  • Cartoon Network produced a short of Atom Ant (now shown in the channel Boomerang during commercials) that uses many parts of the original "Duck and Cover" video's soundtrack remixed into the music.
  • In the Quantum Leap episode "Nuclear Family," as Sam Beckett is trying to calm down a family during the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis Sam states that Duck and Cover would not save you from the destructive power of an atomic attack.
  • An episode of Boy Meets World sees Corey having a dream that he is in the 1950s, where the school teaches the duck-and-cover tactic. He greets the tactic with ridicule.
  • The second album by Santa Barbara based punk/ska band the Mad Caddies is entitled Duck and Cover.
  • Comedian Lewis Black brought up the "duck and cover" drills he and his fellow students went through in his autobiography Nothing's Sacred and explained the misinformation he got as his first reasons for not trusting authority.
  • Jay Rosenblatt uses a found footage of "duck and cover" in his three minute response to the September 11 attacks in his contribution to Underground Zero.
  • In the computer game Prey the picnic scene is on the TV in the bar.
  • In "Artemis Fowl: The Opal Conspiracy", before Julius Root's death, Opal Koboi mocks him with, " need to expand your vocabulary. Whatever next? Duck and cover?"
  • In a Season 1 episode of Lilo & Stitch: The Series, when Experiment 103 - Richter - gets loose, he heads underground and starts creating earthquakes. As a way of avoiding being injured during these earthquakes, Pleakley advises his Ohana to practice a technique he has learned, known as "Duck, Cover and Waaahh!" - which he does regularly through the episode.
  • In the computer game World in Conflict, a loading screen caption states, "When you see the flash, duck and cover."

See also


External links

Search another word or see duck and drakeon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature