In the case of a bomb falling on the United States, the actual bomb will cause a huge number of deaths. However, for those who are not in its immediate radius, the aftermath of the bomb will be dangerous as well. If you’re one of the lucky people who make it through, knowing how to protect yourself from nuclear fallout will be the difference between life and death.
What is Nuclear Fallout?
After a nuclear bomb is detonated, radioactive material will be released into the upper atmosphere. This material which is comprised of dust and ash will then fall from the sky. Since this material is radioactive, it will cause damage to the area and can travel for miles through natural wind patterns.
Exposure to fallout will cause you to suffer from radiation syndrome or cellular damage. Depending on the dosage, you may have symptoms of nausea, vomiting, neurological symptoms, or even death. In the long term, you risk of developing cancer is much greater.
While dangerous in the aftermath of a bomb, fallout radiation does not exist forever. It decays at a fast rate and even contaminated areas will become safe. Your best strategy for survival in this scenario is to limit exposure to fallout, find a place to hide in the immediate aftermath, and create an escape plan.
Studies have shown that anyone who is within a few miles of the bomb will either die instantly or quickly afterwards. The area between one and three miles from the bomb’s center is known as the light damage zone. In this area, people will experience third-degree burns. At a distance of seven miles, most people will have only first degree burns. The fallout hazard area is unknown but will be at least 10-20 miles from the bomb.
Once you’ve survived the blast and you know that a bomb has fallen in your area, you’ll have to immediately leave or seek shelter. In the aftermath of the bomb, you have 10-15 minutes to get to safety. The general rule here is to seek the greatest distance between you and the fallout particles. An underground area such as a basement is going to be the best option. Additionally, more dense materials between you and the fallout particles mean less exposure. Concrete walls, bricks, and even the earth surrounding the basement will help shield you.
Time also plays a factor in your safety plan. Radioactive fallout has the greatest risk in the first two weeks. After this, the radiation levels will have fallen to 1% of their initial level.
After you’ve gotten to a safe place, then you’ll have to wash off any radioactive particles that may be on our skin. Neglecting this can cause burns on your skin. Everyone who has been outside should remove at least the outer layers of clothing. Put the clothing in a bag and place it as far away as possible. If running water is available, take a quick shower with soap. If not, use wet wipes or anything you have available.
Once you’re in a shelter, you’ll need to stay in that area for a few days up to a month depending on the radiation levels in your area. Although the aftermath of radiation is not completely known, you may be instructed on when its safe to leave by emergency personnel.
The following supplies are some of the basics that you should have on hand:
- Drinking water. Bottled water is best but you can also get water from taps that come from deep wells or covered reservoirs. If you have no other option, use a clean earth filter which will help to remove radioactive particles.
- Emergency radio. You’ll want to listen for updates and get the all-clear signal. Not all electronics will work due to the EMP effects of a blast so use a hand-crank emergency radio or a radio that’s been protected in a lined metal box.
- Potassium Iodide Tablets. If you or someone with you begins to experience nausea and fatigue than you can take some steps to alleviate radiation sickness. Potassium Iodide is a tablet that can be given safely. If the exposure is mild, this will help. If the person does not show recovery, you’ll need to consider getting help from a professional if possible.
- Shelf-Stable foods. Any packaged foods that are stored in the basement will likely be safe. Avoid eating foods that may have been exposured to the radiation.
- Basic hygiene and sanitation supplies. Stock adequate amounts for your family and be liberal with your estimates.
- Survey meter. This is a meter that will measure the rate of exposure or the intensity of radiation at a specific location. You can also have a dosimeter which is a small device that can be worn to measure exposure to radiation. If you’re not sure if the outside is safe, you’ll want to have these tools handy.
- Wind-Up clock. Since you’ll need to measure time in order to determine how long you’ve been in the shelter, have a clock that doesn’t require electricity from an outside source in order to run. Also be sure to track how many days you’ve been in the shelter in order to determine if you’re past the window of danger.
Since most of the radiation will be gone by two weeks after a blast, you can consider venturing outside at that time. If you haven’t received any communication by this point, you’re on your own. If you have gotten directions on safety and evacuating, you’ll want to follow those as able.
After you’ve left the shelter, you’ll likely want to move farther away from the radiation area. Since the radiation can affect food and water supply for years after, you should evacuate to a new area until it’s safe to return home. Use these steps to create a plan for a nuclear fallout. With a plan in place, you have the greatest chance of survival in the case of a nuclear bomb.