Generalized Advice for Dealing with the Inconvenient Truth of a Potential Nuclear Event
By Jason Wagner
This article is a basic crash course in nuclear survival. I plan on writing many more specialized articles on this topic in the future, so be sure to check back often. Note that this articles advice largely applies to nuke variants, such as the Thermonuclear Devices, which are more commonly known as Hydrogen Bombs, or H Bombs.
Perfect World: In the best of all worlds, you’d have a NORAD grade fallout shelter, with state of the art ventilation systems, 30 years’ worth of food and all of those wonderful things. Unfortunately, the best of all worlds is rarely rooted in reality.
Stationary Shelter: Shelter is extremely important because if you can survive the initial two blasts without life-threatening injuries or a bad case of radiation sickness, your odds of survival are actually quite good. So, for most Americans the basement is probably your homes’ most secure point, and as such, you’ll need to seal it off with duct tape and plastic sheeting. The problem here is that basements can be especially hard to adequately seal, so if you deem your basement too poor a candidate for sealing, then your next best bet would be to seal off the most secure part of your house, taking into account the square footage, of course. Duct tape of the 10mil variety, and sheeting of at least 4mil is highly advisable. Some examples that are absolutely critical to seal off include: Drafts in windows or otherwise, the bottoms of doors, vents, including dryer vents. Remember to start sealing the room only once you believe the fallout to be here or imminently on its way, otherwise you’ll asphyxiate. Note: So long as the blast doesn’t bring down the walls, dwelling in the upstairs so long as it’s been sealed is possible.
How long will the air last? To calculate how much time you’ll have in an air tight room, figuring for humans who are just sitting around, and thus breathing at a normal and unexhausted rate, 10 square feet will allow 5 hours of habitable conditions.
The In-between: While not exactly a military-grade nuclear blast shelter, investing in a lead or concrete-lined safe room, especially if it’s in your basement, makes excellent sense.
The Near-ideal arrangement: The best the average person could hope for, on their private property is a well-built underground shelter. If you can afford the costs of such a daring project, then you’ve got something that spikes your odds of survival in a near-epic way.
Make-shift protection: If you’re out in the open and you’ve got nowhere to hide, then the best thing you can do for your own self-preservation is to jump into the deepest foxhole you can find. Your hidey-hole will protect you from fragments, some of the blast’s heat and of course, the shockwaves.
Radiation – The Bark vs the Bite: Hollywood and video game developers would surely make you believe that radiation can last hundreds of years, which is at the very best only slightly true. When it comes to the vast majority of radiation, including gamma radiation, it diminished to near-completely safe levels within two weeks, while also being brought down significantly within the first eight hours. Indeed, radiation, fallout, and all of that fun stuff really isn’t quite as dreadful as you probably expected…with that being said, I don’t want to be that person that told you to hail the sky as the fallout pelts you – the point here is if you don’t seek protection before the radiation dies down, depending on where you are from the epicenter, you’re putting your life in the Reaper’s hands.
Note: While, as an all-encompassing blanket, radiation does indeed die down quickly, pockets of it can last for thousands of years.
Personal Protection: There’s nothing that’ll really protect you in a high radiation zone. Your only real protection is 5 inches of solid lead. If you absolutely must be in contaminated area, wear an appropriate gas mask and you’ll also need to be clad in head-to-toe nuclear protective clothing. If you have neither and you still need to head out, for whatever reason, then at the very least keep a wet towel over your mouth and button up in thick clothing, leaving little-to-no exposed skin.
Signs of Radiation Poisoning:
Vomiting, which at more severe levels can be bloody
Diarrhea, which again at higher levels of poisoning can be laced with blood
Severe lack of balance
Poor wound healing
Decreased resistance to infections
Note: Some of the symptoms only occur at higher levels of poisoning:
Potassium Iodine Tablets: Absolute essentials for a nuclear event. Take these BEFORE exposure. These will only protect you from new radiation; they will NOT cleanse you of any current radiation poisoning.
The Epicenter: Unless you’re under the personal protection of God, you’re extremely unlikely to survive at ground zero of the detonation. Survival depends on your distance from the explosion, the farther the way, the better.
The Eyes: Never, ever look at the blast itself. This could cause temporary blindness, or the worst case scenario – scorching of your retinas, resulting in a permanent loss of vision.
Strangers: A single nuclear explosion in the whole of America is extremely unlikely to unravel society…unfortunately; the same cannot be said of many, many nuclear weapons going off at once. In the case of this dreadful scenario, the United States could very well collapse into anarchy. Enough of that macro stuff for the moment, even if it’s a lone incident, you can never trust that highwayman won’t take advantage of the situation to loot, kill, rape and all-around have a good time. So, If you find someone in need of help, first, be careful that they aren’t a threat, and second, use the utmost care when determining whether or not they’re ‘clean’ of external radiation. Until someone has been thoroughly washed, you have to assume they’re covered with fallout, and if they’re covered with radioactive particles, they are a threat to you and your family through contact, and in an enclosed space. In addition, you need to make the hard call whether or not you can spare the resources to help the person.
Rural Attractions: I’m not saying you should go live in a cave in the middle of the Teutoberg Forest or anything like that, but the more out of the way you are, the further away from civilization, the safer you are, especially if there’s a mass, Dead Hand-esque exchange of nuclear fire. Also, be sure to remember that just because your little slice of heaven wasn’t hit doesn’t mean that the wind doesn’t carry radiation with it. Even after only slightly spiked radiation levels for weeks, one day the jet stream could bring dangerous doses with it, so try not to dither outside and prep a room for quick sealing.
Fallout: I recommend using some caution when it comes to the radiation charts, for the number one variable when it comes to fallout dispersal is the wind carrying it. As Earth is a gravity world, fallout, like water, seeks its lowest area: practically speaking, this means that the lowest areas, such as areas of low elevation or chasms run a higher risk of dangerous contamination.
Geiger Counters: Even if you wait years before venturing outside, it’s still important to have a Geiger counter on hand. From what I’ve heard, quality doesn’t vary that much, but as with anything in life it probably benefits you to get the best one you can reasonably afford.
The Internet: Interestingly enough, there’s a chance that your internet may still work, as the internet’s infrastructure was designed to operate under post-nuclear conditions. You’ve got to remember that it was only recently that the internet went from being a tool of the military to a commodity of the civilians, just as GPS was originally designed for the internet.
Evacuations: Unless your better judgment tells you otherwise, heed the warnings and advice of the government. In the absence of such advice, or if isn’t really applicable to you: If you were to live in say Manhattan, and a nuclear alert was issued, and you had good reason to believe that the weapon would impact the area, unless you can get access to a world-class nuclear blast shelter, your best bet would be to get out ASAP. If there’s no time left, getting in your car and trying to drive off would be tantamount to suicide.