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UFO update: in their new instruction manual, firefighters are briefed on the art and science of UFOs

It only makes sense that civilian emergency personnel from police to firefighters may be called to the scene of a close encounter, real or not. But despite their role on the front lines of virtually any emergency, our country's "first responders" have never been given any kind of back-ground on the UFO phenomenon, until now.

For a detailed briefing on the topic, all professional rescuers need do is refer to the new, second edition of the Fire Officer's Guide to Disaster Control (Fire Engineering Books and Videos). Used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in its National Fire Training Academy Open Learning Program, the book covers, in addition to more traditional fire fare, the ABCs of UFOs: In practical language, the manual examines potential problems like disruption of transportation and communication, possible psychological and physical impacts, and speculations about government secrecy. To fire up imaginations, the manual also presents a hypothetical alien encounter.

This radical primer was the brainstorm of the late Charles W. Bahme, a former Los Angeles Fire Department deputy chief, who researched UFOs for years. According to Bahme, his interest was ignited August 26, 1942 during the famous "L.A. Air Raid." As sirens and news bulletins announced an enemy invasion, Bahme, then a young Navy fireman, watched some 20 objects zoom and zigzag over-head. "They changed course at incredible speeds while gun crews along the coastline pumped more than 1,400 rounds at them," he said. Two hours later, all was quiet on the Western front. "Rumors that they were extraterrestrial craft, that one was shot down, were never confirmed," he said. "The official explanation--weather balloons--was never taken seriously."

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After serving as security coordinator for the Chief of Naval Operations, Bahme went on to write the original Handbook of Disaster Control in 1952, and the first Fire Officer's Guide to Disaster Control in 1978. Finally, in 1993, he teamed up with William M. Kramer, a district chief with the Cincinnati Fire Department, to write the current manual.

So, if confronted with something alien, what's a firefighter to do? Considering the federal law (14 CFR, Ch. V, Part 1211) giving NASA arbitrary discretion "to quarantine under armed guard any object, person, or other form of life extraterrestrially exposed," the primer suggests it would be "inadvisable to make personal contact" unless one is willing to submit to quarantine should the law be invoked.

That notwithstanding, the manual advises, "In the absence of overt acts indicating hostility, there may be no danger in approaching a UFO with a positive, solicitous attitude of wanting to be of service," which may be "telepathically sensed by those aboard." But, "Any display of weapons could be construed as unfriendly."

The guide's UFO section is primarily informational, says Kramer, "intended to get fire officers thinking. Nearly everyone has told me they were impressed that a mysterious subject was taken out of the closet, and many believe we are, somehow, eventually going to make contact with other forms of intelligent life."

In general, the UFO community approves. "While a few of the sources aren't the best," says Mark Rodeghier, scientific director of the Center for UFO Studies in Chicago, "nobody else has even tried to devise a plan for public officials before."

--A. J. S. Rayl

FREEZER WARS

The strange world of cryonics is in a state of upheaval. The shake-up occurred last fall at Alcor, the world's leader in freezing people at the time of death in hopes of future medical break-throughs and eventual revival. A group of about 30 former Alcor activists, unhappy with key financial and administrative decisions, decided to split and form their own rival organization dubbed CryoCare. The new group is being run by Brenda Peters in Chicago and Charles Platt in New York and has been financed in part by Saul Kent, whose mother's frozen head remains--legally, but against his wishes--in Alcor's care.

To avoid such arguments at CryoCare, says Platt, the science-fiction author who spent the last few years trying to help Alcor reach a larger audience, "we decided to split cryonics into separate functions. CryoCare, which is non-profit, will take the legal responsibility for patients under the anatomical gift act, but will employ outside providers to manage the money, freeze the person, and store patients for the long term."

CryoCare, says Platt, "is signing up Alcor refugees at a great rate," with 50 to 100 people now in the sign-up process. "That's significant given that the Alcor membership is around 400," he notes.

Despite the defections, Alcor remains upbeat about its own future. Last winter it moved from its old Riverside offices in earthquake-prone Southern California, to much larger and more stable quarters in Scottsdale, Arizona. Alcor's liquid nitrogen-cooled storage units reportedly made the 350-mile trip safely; these contain their 27 "patients-in-suspension," ten of whom are "whole body," the rest being "neuros," or head-only suspensions.

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