A nuclear blast is any massive explosion from a nuclear device or weapon that results in intense heat and blinding light, followed by prevalent radioactivity across the ground, water, and air for miles.
Such a blast will destroy anything and everything within its vicinity. Radiation will leave the surrounding areas uninhabitable for years to come.
Since the Cold War ended, fears of a nuclear war ever happening in the United States have diminished. Instead, threats such as an EMP attack or an economic collapse seem to be higher concerns among preppers in general.
But while we may want to believe that the threat of a nuclear attack happening is over, the reality is we can never be too certain, especially with countries such as Iran and North Korea and their constant threats.
In fact, it’s possible that the threat of a nuclear attack is greater than we think.
Besides, a nuclear attack is not the only way a blast could occur. A majority of states (32 to be exact), have a nuclear power plant in them, and the remaining 18 states are just across the border.
Examples of cities that are in the proximity of nuclear power plants include San Onofre in California, Columbia in Washington, Miami in Florida, Chicago in Illinois, and Boston in Massachusetts.
Considering that a nuclear attack is possible in every corner of the United States, this means that the entire country is vulnerable to a nuclear fallout.
In this article, we will go over the steps you need to take to survive a nuclear blast, and then talk about how you can prepare for the resulting fallout that will arguably be even more devastating than the blast itself.
Your Immediate Action Guide for Responding to Nuclear Fallout
The nightmare has now come to pass. In your region, a nuclear bomb has been detonated.
You’ve survived the initial blast and flash effect, but now it’s time to act because you’ll only have ten minutes to half an hour before the fatal fallout reaches earth.
You may be able to get to an adequate shelter ahead of time if you are lucky enough to live where there is a nearby refuge, or you may be overtaken by the initial arrival of the fallout.
If you are unlucky you will have to move to shelter across ground already covered with fallout. The power of the warhead that detonated as well as prevailing winds and other weather factors, all have an impact on how much time you’ll have to get to shelter in relative safety.
TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE! Move as quickly as you can to the nearest and best shelter. Once there, follow these steps to reduce the hazard posed by radioactive fallout.
Make sure you decontaminate in a room that is separate from the habitation quarters to avoid tracking in deadly fallout.
REMEDIAL Action for Exposure to Fallout
If you know have been exposed to radiation or have concerns that you might have, follow the steps below:
- Work Quickly. Use all means at your disposal to accomplish this decontamination process as soon and thoroughly as possible. Do not waste time, and work methodically to avoid re-exposure to fallout.
- Remove all clothing and equipment that has been exposed to radiation. These objects should not be brought into your shelter until they can be decontaminated effectively. Under the circumstances, it may be impossible to do so, and the contaminated items should be regarded as utterly lost.
- After arrival, take your pets to the designated decontamination room and clean them. Brush your pet’s coat gently to remove any fallout particles, then wash him or her with soap and water if possible.
- Shower by any means with soap or shampoo to remove as many nuclear fallout particles as possible. Rinse thoroughly. The goal is to wash away the radioactive particles so that they don’t enter your shelter with you. Using hand sanitizer is not a viable substitute for soap since it provides no radiation protection. Baby wipes, wet wipes or a wet sponge and washcloth may be used in place of soap and water if necessary.
- If you use conditioner or lotions for any purpose: they will bind radioactive particles to your skin and hair, resulting in further radiation exposure.
PROTECT Against Additional Fallout
After you’ve been decontaminated and gone inside your shelter, it’s time to take measures to further fortify it against fallout.
You must work to seal up your shelter against the flow of air from outside which might bring dangerous fallout with it. Speed is a factor, and all steps must be taken to prevent fallout from coming inside, no matter how small.
Complete the following steps as quickly as you can:
- Stay away from surfaces that radiation will be able to easily penetrate, such as roofs, walls, and so on. Brick or concrete structures are preferred, a basement is best. Keep in mind that you do not have to touch fallout to be harmed by it: you only have to be close enough to the source of radiation.
- Close or shut all vents, louvers, chimney flues and dampers fully.
- Even if the electricity is off, shut down and disable any and all air conditioning or HVAC equipment manually. An unanticipated reactivation might inundate your shelter interior area with radioactive particles.
- Seal all crevices and openings against air flow. To seal all cracks, crevices, windowsills, door jambs, and any other area where air may enter your shelter, use anything you have on hand. Duct tape and thick plastic sheeting are both effective for this purpose, but if you don’t have any of that you might use rolled-up cloth or other sheet goods crammed into spaces to stop air flow. Do not repurpose discarded clothing for this purpose!
- Check your work then check it again: There’s no such thing as a small or insignificant precaution against fallout intrusion.
- Stay put: The radiation fallout begins to degrade immediately after it is produced, but it will stay dangerous for some time afterward and until it decays into a low-energy state.
RESPOND to Ongoing Threat of Fallout
The area affected by fallout could be rendered extremely dangerous for 72 hours or longer after the initial event.
While you wait for help or before attempting self rescue, you may be forced to endure a wait of two weeks or longer.
After decontaminating yourself and securing your shelter against fallout, do the following:
- Gather what supplies you can from inside your shelter. It’s critical to have a highly portable survival kit as it may be your only source of food, water, and medical supplies in the aftermath of a nuclear detonation. Try to find a flashlight and portable radio.
- Listen to emergency broadcasts. The blast from a nuclear weapon is almost certain to damage all extant infrastructure, and the EMP effect will likely disable anything electronic that survives the explosion. Try your television, cell phones, email, and emergency radio. Keep trying until you are able to access up to date information.
- If you are sick or injured, listen for instructions on how and where to get medical attention when authorities tell you it is safe to exit. If you are isolated, try to contact emergency services for instructions. If you are at a public shelter, immediately notify the staff at that facility so they can summon higher level care.
- Do not use any supplies that were outside when the fallout arrived. It is critical not to take any risks with goods that may have been contaminated by the radiation. It is insufficient to clean only the outer packaging of any item because such radiation can make the contents dangerously radioactive. Be aware that even packaged or other items that appear completely clean might be irradiated.
Sources of Nuclear Fallout
As a general rule, unless you work in an industry that prepares and manufacturers nuclear fuel, you will only be exposed to nuclear fallout in one of three situations: detonation of a nuclear warhead, detonation of a “dirty” bomb or during a nuclear power plant accident.
We will assess and discuss preparing for all of these events in the course of this article as each presents unique hazards and procedures.
But when it comes to dealing with them we will be focusing our attention on dealing with fallout, a universal threat posed by each.
The detonation of a nuclear warhead is the stereotypical generator of nuclear fallout, also known as “black soot”.
Any nuclear device from the smallest tactical weapon to the most monstrous strategic hydrogen bomb is unbelievably powerful, with yield measured in kilotons or megatons, each standing for an equivalent amount of TNT detonated in the thousands or millions of tons.
Nuclear warheads cause damage and death through their blast, flash, ionizing radiation and lastly their fallout.
It is the awe-inspiring and cataclysmic blast of a nuclear weapon that has so captured the popular imagination and filled it with dread, but it is the nuclear fallout that is likely to get you in the end. Fallout is any material matter that has been turned radioactive due to a nuclear warhead’s emissive properties.
Comprised of dirt, building materials and all other matter that has been turned into fine dust particles and ash, it is lifted high into the atmosphere by the explosion and can be carried for dozens, hundreds or even thousands of miles by winds and high altitude are current.
Nuclear fallout is a serious hazard once it settles back to Earth, poisoning land and sea alike, and exposing everything it settles on or is absorbed into to deadly amounts of radiation.
Perhaps most insidiously, the fine matter that is nuclear fallout is easily tracked everywhere in the form of dust or mud, exposing previously clean and safe areas to the silent killer that is radiation.
Dirty bombs are not a true nuclear weapon, but are instead conventional explosives designed to scatter and sow a large amount of dangerously radioactive material across a wide area.
They have long been thought to be one of the most prevalent radioactive threats accessible to terrorists, since all that is needed is a quantity of highly radioactive material and a powerful but bog-common conventional explosive to spread it.
A dirty bomb detonated in the middle of an urban area or even an agricultural center could wound dozens or hundreds, and expose thousands more to radiation, especially first-responders. It could also affect with plants and animals with dangerous amount of radioactivity.
In essence, they are a device that is a combination of traditional physical and fallout-specific threat , though they have a comparatively puny blast radius compared to a genuine nuclear warhead.
While a dirty bomb might not seem as apocalyptic as a true nuclear warhead they nonetheless present on insidious threat with regards to fallout, being capable of spreading a large quantity of high-intensity “hot” fissile material far and wide to cause more casualties in the ensuing aftermath.
Nuclear Power Plant Accidents
Nuclear power plant accidents are another common source of fallout, with the fuel used to power these incredible installations being dangerously radioactive in both its enriched and spent forms.
Various accidents can result in uncontrolled releases of these materials into the outside world or even up into the atmosphere where it can drift dangerously akin to any other form of fallout on this list.
There are over 100 operational nuclear power plants in the United States alone, and about 3 million people live within 10 miles of an operational plant, with many tens of millions more potentially being in the area of influence in case of a catastrophic accident.
Nuclear power plant accidents are certainly not as flashy, thankfully, as a nuclear warhead, but the consequences can be severe enough.
In the past several decades alone there have been more than enough accidents in these facilities across the globe to demonstrate just how bad they can be. We will look at a few of the most well known just below.
Nuclear Power Plants and Risk of Fallout
While the attitude about nuclear power is not quite as optimistic as it was in the 1960’s, it is still a prevalent and popular option for meeting the electricity requirements of a power-hungry populace.
With over 100 operational nuclear power plants online in the U.S. at press time, and more being designed and constructed, a significant fraction of the population depends upon nuclear power plants to power their homes and businesses.
Perhaps more germane to this article, an equally significant fraction of the population is potentially within the sphere of influence of a nuclear power plant accident.
The majority of the nuclear power plants in the U.S. are located east of the Mississippi River with only a handful to the west of it and all of them are in the continental United States, none being in Alaska or Hawaii.
It is in your best interest to review the United States nuclear power map and get familiar with where these nuclear power plants are and how close you come to them both for work and play.
This is a thinking man’s game: while you might live well away from a nuclear power plant, you should seek to understand the typical air currents and jet stream in your region to determine if you might be affected by fallout in case of an accident at any plants in your region.
A nuclear power plant accident is statistically the most likely source of exposure to radioactive fallout today.
Nuclear Accidents in History
The popular image of a nuclear power plant accident is that of the mushroom cloud that is endemic to the detonation of a nuclear warhead rising over the site where the plant once stood, accompanied by an eerie green glow, and complete with a mammoth crater.
While this makes for interesting fiction or a funny if grim punchline to an environmental responsibility joke, this is not what happens in a nuclear power plant accident.
What happens instead is that through mechanical failure, human error or a combination of both a set of dangerous circumstances arise which results in the accidental release of radioactive material into the environment outside the plant.
How much, how bad and how far it goes is dependent upon the type of accident. This could take the form of radioactive material being released in contaminated water before being absorbed into other sources, radioactive vapor being released as exhaust or steam, or even the scattering the actual physical material itself and the unlikely but still possible event of a steam explosion.
Nuclear Accidents in History
Fortunately, we can learn from past such events despite how bad they are. Probably the worst nuclear disaster is the one that happened at Chernobyl in 1986. After the initial explosion, the reactors released immense amounts of radiation into the surrounding region and much of Europe for nine days straight.
Responders were finally able to stop it, But at great cost; although only firefighters and plant workers died during the initial blast and immediately in the aftermath, the number of people who got sick is much larger and a huge swath of countryside remains closed as an exclusion zone.
There isn’t a consensus regarding this, but everyone pretty much agrees that the initial meltdown killed around 30 people.
Back in the US, the most infamous and well-known nuclear power accident to call our own was the 1979 meltdown that occurred at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant in Pennsylvania.
A meltdown, again contrary to the popular image of a nuclear warhead detonation, implies only that a nuclear fuel source itself literally melts from a loss of essential cooling during operation.
I say simply, but the consequences are disastrous as this typically results in a chain reaction that allows nuclear material to make its way into the outside world.
Anyway, regarding the Three Mile Island incident itself this was the typical result of a series of mechanical failures, incorrect deductions and plain old-fashioned human error that led to cooling loss of the primary fuel and a small meltdown.
In the end, what radioactive material that did escape into the outside air affected some 2 million people and though the issue remains as contentious today as it certainly was back then.
It was ultimately determined officially that the impact on the surrounding region and the citizens living there was minimal, with most having been only exposed to as much radiation as one would get in a typical hospital level X ray.
Another major nuclear disaster was the one that happened at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan in 2011.
The thing that sets this one apart from Chernobyl is that large amounts of contaminated water were released into the ocean, affecting marine wildlife.
The Health Effects of Nuclear Radiation
Nuclear detonations and other sources of radiation including dirty bombs and nuclear fuel for nuclear power plants radioactive hazards in various forms.
Regarding a nuclear detonation and subsequent fallout, we are dealing with primarily alpha particles, beta particles, gamma ray radiation and neutrons. Each of these can harm or kill you in a different way.
Alpha particles are harmful if they enter your body somehow, typically through inhalation or ingestion; think from the consumption of contaminated food or water, or breathing in affected dust.
Beta particles are capable of penetrating living tissue on their own, causing direct damage to your molecules that make up your body, including your DNA. If that happens, reproductive problems and cancer are likely.
Gamma rays are not just the stuff of comic books and sci-fi B-movie reels as these are long range, high-energy and nearly instant forms of radiation that penetrate very deeply and cause further cellular damage.
But the type of radiation we are most concerned about with nuclear fallout is neutron radiation, which is capable of rendering any matter that it interacts with also radioactive, and specifically the dust, ash and other detritus that slowly falls back to Earth in the aftermath of a nuclear blast or nuclear accident.
Low doses of any form of ionizing radiation, including the kind you receive from nuclear fallout, will make you sick or create insidious and hard to detect long-term impacts on your health and wellness.
Genetic damage and reproductive difficulties are most commonly associated low but significant doses of ionizing radiation. High doses will cause acute, horrific and debilitating sicknesses, organ tissue damage, loss of senses and death in a matter of weeks, days or hours.
Some of the calling cards of radiation sickness and acute radiation poisoning are nausea, vomiting, cancers of all kinds, thyroid issues and organ failure.
Dealing with Nuclear Fallout
Getting ready to deal with a nuclear fallout situation is accomplished in three phases, being the Advance Work phase, the Shelter Installation phase and the Survival Kit Preparation phase.
All of these are equally important and you must take care of each of them if you want you and your family to stand the best chance possible of surviving the ominous and deadly black soot of a nuclear incident.
The Advance Work phase consists of searching out and identifying any suitable shelters or cover locations in and around your home, your town and your place of work. The ideal shelter location from fallout is a place that is easily sealed and is very thick and dense.
The golden rule of surviving radiation is that mass serves to counter harmful radioactive rays. The denser the construction material and the thicker it is the better!
You literally want to put as much material between you and the radioactive threat as possible. Generally speaking almost anywhere you can locate a suitable shelter if you keep your eyes open.
In the Shelter Installation phase we will actually set to work improving our own home to help defend us against the threat of nuclear fallout or installing a purpose made fallout shelter if the location or type of home we have is not adequate to the task.
We will dig into the specifics of shelter Improvement and construction after this section.
Lastly, in the Survival Kit Preparation phase we will put together dedicated survival kits that will help us shelter-in-place and survive wherever we happen to be.
We will then situate these kits at home, in our vehicles, and potentially even at our workplaces so that no matter when a fallout event occurs, we will be ready to meet it head-on with all the tools and supplies we need.
Much of this kit is actually comprised of typical emergency preparedness items that you likely already have if you have been prepping for any other kind of disaster, and you might need to add only a few specific items to make your kit fallout ready!
Fallout Response Procedures
Radioactive fallout does not persist forever, and loses potency rapidly in the days and weeks following its arrival in the aftermath of a nuclear event, but it is at its most dangerous right after the event that spawned it occurs.
You must be prepared to remain inside and safe at your chosen shelter location when the event occurs for absolutely no less than 24 hours and preferably at least 72 hours, with longer being better.
You will start off by reacting to a nuclear fallout event in one of two ways depending upon how you get notified of the event.
If you are given an immediate emergency notice of an accident, a nuclear attack or some other event that has resulted in fallout conditions, you should seek shelter immediately according to what we laid out in this guide because you generally have only 10 to 30 minutes before the fallout arrives at your location.
The other way you will be notified is after the event has taken place, and potentially spread fallout or radioactive material far and wide. This means you were caught outside as the fallout arrives or potentially will need to move through a fallout affected area and the dangerous radiation it emits.
If that happens, all of your clothing, your hair and the rest of your body will be contaminated with fallout and soaking up radiation.
Once you arrive at your shelter you should strip and get clear of all of your clothing before moving inside so you track the minimum amount of radiation with you.
If you have to move through an area that you know or suspect is affected with fallout, try to do so as rapidly as possible as every moment you’re exposed the ionizing radiation will have consequences. In case you are moving through a very hot area, even brief exposure can have lethal results.
Once you have made it safely to your shelter, you will need to act fast. If you have been exposed to fallout, you need to shower or wash down as quickly as possible using shampoo or soap to decontaminate your body.
If you lack shampoo or soap and an ample source of water, use wet wipes or just a wet washcloth to clean your hair and all exposed skin. Do not try to salvage any clothing that was exposed.
Note that you should never use hair conditioner for any reason, as it is more likely to bind radioactive dust to your skin and hair.
Once this is done or you have reached your shelter location without moving through a radioactive area, you must move quickly to seal your shelter against the intrusion of dust and airborne particles.
Remember, nearly invisible dust could in fact be dangerously radioactive fallout. Turn off all air conditioning, furnaces and any other air handling systems. Close off chimney dampers, and tape up cracks and crevices around doors and windows.
There is no precaution too small to ensure that fallout does not make its way into your shelter!
Now that you have arrived safely at your shelter and sealed it to prevent the intrusion of fallout, you should make every attempt to get more information about the situation.
If cell phones are still operational, or you have access to a television and still have power, tune in to federal and regional disaster notification services.
Lacking either of these tools, you can make use of an emergency radio to get updates on pre-selected frequencies for the purpose.
Crank powered radios are ideal for this purpose as I do not require batteries and can remain idle for years and be ready to go so long as you can supply a little muscle.
Be sure to learn as much as you can about the incident, your area and surrounding areas and follow the instructions of government authorities to the letter.
Once you are past the 10 to 30 minute window in the aftermath of the event you should assume that anything that is outside your shelter has been contaminated by fallout, including all sources of food and water.
You must remember that even though a package is sealed against germs this will do nothing to stop radiation which will penetrate the thin packaging and contaminate your food!
It is essential that you ration your known good food and water in order to ensure you can shelter in place for as long as you must.
In the aftermath of the event, there is probably a good chance that you will encounter other people who are desperately seeking shelter.
Before you choose to help them, understand that the chances are good they have been contaminated by fallout, perhaps dangerously so, and letting them in could spell certain death for you and the people in the shelter with you.
Be sure to assess the status and appearance of anyone who is trying to gain admittance; any signs of radiation poisoning like obvious burns to their skin, seizures, confusion, sleepiness or vomiting likely means they have received a large dose of radiation in a short period of time.
If you decide to take a chance and help them make sure you follow the decontamination procedures above including having them strip and discard all clothing and equipment that they brought with them.
No matter what you do, there will be a degree of uncertainty and continual risk as they might themselves be a source of radiation.
Building a Fallout Shelter
Invest your time and money into building a nuclear blast/fallout shelter that serves two purposes: resisting the initial blast pressure and heat, and then protection from the contamination and radiation that results from the fallout.
While it’s possible to build a blast and a fallout shelter separately, as they serve two different purposes, it’s better in most circumstances for convenience as well as to save time and money to combine the two into one.
Your shelter needs to be able to withstand both the blast and the radiation.
Since not even the strongest shelter will be able to protect you from a nuclear blast in its immediate vicinity, you need to keep a safe distance from any major city or a nuclear power plant if at all possible.
Your two main material options for building your shelter are concrete or steel. If you choose concrete, you should have at least two and a half feet of it on all sides, or at least one foot if you opt to use steel.
Anything less and your shelter may not be able to defend your family properly against the blast and the radiation.
Radiation from the fallout will be the most dangerous for weeks following the blast, but this will decrease as time passes by, giving you the opportunity to escape/bug out at some point.
It also becomes less powerful the more layers it passes through. For this reason, having a thick fallout shelter can help to protect you from the radiation. The thicker the walls the better.
There are several things that you will want to make sure your nuclear shelter has, including:
- It should be located near or at your home, so you can get to it quickly.
- It’s best not to have any windows in the shelter, as radiation can easily seep through glass. Furthermore, the intense heat emitted from the blast could melt through the windows as well.
- In addition to the steel or concrete for the outside walls, you’ll also want to insulate it for extra protection from the radiation. Sand or dirt will be your two best options for proper insulation.
- Reinforce the door as much as possible so it can withstand heat and radiation. Use extra insulation such as sandbags or dirt is highly recommend.
- Set up a bathroom complete with a toilet (even if it’s just a bucket if your budget is small) in a separate room within the shelter.
- Plan on spending a minimum of two weeks inside your fallout shelter following the blast, so stockpile accordingly. Who knows, you might even be stuck there for months on end, depending on how things unfold.
Building your fallout shelter is only the first part. The second part is stockpiling so you can live inside for weeks or even months. A good rule of thumb is to stockpile a minimum of two weeks of food and water.
Here are some tips to follow…
Stockpile a minimum of one gallon of water per person per day, preferably more (a half gallon for drinking and a half gallon for cleaning and personal hygiene). Store all water in airtight and clean water drums or containers.
Stockpile enough food to last your family for fourteen days. If you have any perishable or frozen foods, eat them first before they thaw or go bad.
The vast majority of your survival food should be food with a long shelf-life, such as white rice, beans, salt, sugar, honey, or Ramen noodles (with water).
In addition to the food itself, you’ll also need kitchen equipment such as plates, bowls, silverware, can openers, and napkins,.
Have communication equipment as well. Staying informed or learning about the whereabouts of those you know will be critical to you.
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Invest in a NOAA weather radio, which will alert you to emergency information from the authorities all day. Have plenty of spare batteries on hand.
Other communication devices to have on hand would be a CB radio, walkie-talkies, a whistle, and your cell phone (while it’s likely there won’t be cell service, have one on hand anyway).
Have extra thick clothes for everyone to fully protect your body from the radiation. This includes coats and jackets, hats, goggles, gloves, warm pants, socks, and boots.
Investing in gas masks and hazmat suits for all family members is a wise move. If you venture outside or if you decide it’s more or less safe to evacuate, all parts of your skin must be completely covered.
Should any of your skin become exposed to radiation, wash it with clean water, and cover it up immediately.
Keep some potassium iodide as well. Potassium iodide can block any radioactive iodine from being absorbed by your skin.
Have plenty of personal hygiene and cleaning products on hand. Know where you will dispose of waste and have disinfectants and cleaning agents. To save space and resources, consider merging your food waste and human waste in the same room/garbage.
Make sure everybody has a place to lay their head on. A folding cot with a sleeping bag and pillow won’t take up much space and is easy to set up.
Have firearms, ammunition, and other weapons to defend yourself from others if need be. Be trained in the use of each of them and have your sidearm holstered on you at all times.
Have a bug out vehicle on standby so you can evacuate if you feel it’s the wiser option. You may even be able to evacuate before the nuclear blast hits if you are updated on what’s happening.
Your bug out vehicle should have all-wheel drive, it shoul be reliable, and have enough space to carry each member of your family and your supplies.
Surviving a Nuclear Blast
Obviously, if the blast goes off directly over you or in your general vicinity, your chances of survival are literally zero.
The heat from the blast will be capable of burning the skin from your flesh at a distance of 20 miles or more. For this reason, you need to put as much distance between yourself and the blast as possible.
A nuclear blast will likely come out of nowhere. Keep yourself up to date on world events (such as poor political relations with other nations or all out war), in addition to regularly tuning into emergency alerts from the authorities.
What does The Government Say We Should Do?
The advice is pretty basic, yet all so important.
- The first things you should do is get inside to put as many barriers between you and the blast as possible.
- The second thing is to remove all your clothes.
- And the third thing is to run to your fallout shelter.
Even some time after the blast, radiation will still be at dangerous levels, so stay tuned to find out the latest developments, and know if and when it is time to evacuate.
So long as your shelter is anywhere near a nuclear blast or just unfortunate enough to be downwind from the prevailing fallout cloud, you will not be able to stay in place forever.
No matter how well-stocked it is, how deeply dug, how airtight, and how fortified, eventually you will need to leave the soon-to-be glowing-in-the-dark area and attempt to get to a place that is unaffected by radiation. This is likely to entail some peril.
Consider that even weeks after the detonation you are likely to be moving through areas that are significantly hot with fallout or absorbed radiation and you may be exposed to life-threatening levels.
When the time comes, it is imperative that you cover all exposed skin and hair and equip yourself with some type of breathing apparatus to filter contaminated particles from the air.
Suits that actually block emitted radiation are rare, and highly specialized pieces of gear but even mundane protective suits and other equipment can keep airborne fallout from coming to rest on your skin.
You must consider carefully all options before attempting to evacuate especially on foot, and even if government orders or recommendations have been issued.
First and foremost, picking the exact time to leave your home is going to be critical to whether or not you will survive, or increase the odds of getting some nasty disease.
As you evacuate, use all the clothing and blankets you have to keep your skin fully covered from the radiation. If you have glasses or goggles, wear them to protect your eyes.
This will help you at least suspect if there is a chance a nuclear blast could occur.
Even if you have put plenty of distance between yourself and the blast, you still need to seek shelter as quickly as possible. As mentioned earlier, the heat can burn your skin up to twenty miles away.
Also, high wind speeds (over six hundred miles per hour) can easily carry you off your feet or cause flying debris to smash into you.
The best shelter to find in this scenario will be anywhere indoors. While it’s still possible for you to suffer burns, the building will still offer more protection than being outside.
Look for a ditch or bridge as a hiding place if you are unable to get indoors for any reason. If no bridge or ditch is near, dig into the ground as quickly as you can and cover yourself up with the dirt.
Hopefully, you’ll be near your blast/fallout shelter when the blast goes off, and your chances of survival will be greater. Should you be away from that shelter, however, the above tips could save your life.
Dedicated Fallout Shelters
The installation of a fallout shelter is always at the front of people’s thoughts when discussing this topic.
Fallout shelters definitely make sense, especially if they are built to a high standard and properly insulated by sand, dirt or concrete against radiation but they do have some limitations that you must be aware of.
First, and most obviously, a fallout shelter only works if you are able to access it when you need it.
Considering that most people spend at least a significant fraction of their lives at their job or office this is likely a span of time that you will not reliably be able to access your fallout shelter when you need it most. This is not to say you should not invest in one, only that you should keep that in mind.
Also, virtually no structure, including purpose-built public fallout shelters will survive the near-impact of a nuclear warhead.
The annihilating, apocalyptic power of these weapons is almost indescribable and even a shelter under several feet of earth is likely to be destroyed. If you live near a major city, military base, or other strategic targets you should not kid yourself about your chances.
Obviously, large cities will be the major targets of a nuclear attack, so in the event of deteriorating relations with other countries or all-out war, it may be wise to keep yourself and your family away from them.
However, so long as you live a little farther out or even in a rural area that might only be under threat from fallout an appropriate shelter can be a lifesaver.
The same goes for nuclear power plants since you can never be too sure that an accident won’t happen.
Though the destructive toll of a nuclear warhead detonation is impossible to impress upon most people in any sort of realistic fashion, it stands to reason there will be plenty of survivors outside of ground zero and the area immediately surrounding the epicenter of the blast.
These poor unfortunates will consist of walking wounded and incapacitated victims who are being tended to by other survivors.
Considering that these people are likely to be highly irradiated themselves, either through direct exposure or exposure to fallout, it is imperative you plan now for how you will deal with them.
There is no other way about it: Many survivors of such an event will be dangerously irradiated and can expose you and your group to dangerous even lethal levels of radiation either by tracking in fallout or by sharing space with you while they are emitting radiation.
Your desire to help these people could obviously spell disaster for any of you who made it into the shelter more or less unscathed.
What you decide to do is up to you and your group, but it is in your best interest to learn what radiation sickness or acute exposure looks like so you can make an informed decision.
Anyone who is suffering from pronounced radiation sickness has likely been exposed to a massive dose of radiation and is themselves probably dangerously radioactive.
Whatever the case, whatever the situation should you decide to help these unfortunate victims make sure you take all precautions for keeping yourself safe from radiation and force them to undergo decontamination procedures. As above all clothing and contaminated gear must be discarded before they enter the shelter.
Purifying Radioactive Water?
Radioactivity is a unique contaminant. It can’t be filtered out with most survival filters or purifiers and isn’t merely harmful in conventional sense.
If you drink or wash with radioactive water, it will get in you, and stay with you, harming you long after any incidental effects of drinking bad water alone.
Filtering or other survival additives will not reduce the radioactivity of the water and will allow radioactive particles to pass through, making things much worse for you if you should drink of it!
The same can be said for other specialized or ad-hoc techniques of purification, such as solar disinfection, distillation or boiling. Radiation will not be removed at all or entirely from any of these methods!
In fact, if the water evaporates it is entirely possible that radioactive isotopes will be carried with the steam, contaminating your new supply and concentrating what is left in the old. Not good! Chemical disinfection and other such traditional methods are likewise no good.
The presence of radioactivity in the environment after a nuclear blast or incident is dangerous because it lingers for such a long time. Fallout will remain on every surface and be carried along by runoff and groundwater flow.
If you should collect water from such a surface, or from a reservoir contaminated by the ashen sludge, say goodnight- you just drank concentrated radiation.
The aftereffects will pollute ponds and streams across a wide region, making no area safe. Rainfall will wash large amounts of radioactive dirt into and over every subterranean water supply.
Man-made reservoirs, tanks and everything else not completely sealed and covered will be completely undrinkable as a result of any contamination in quantity.
The good news is that there are several techniques to purify radioactive water and render it drinkable, or at the very least far safer. Improvised filtering solutions, as well as top-of-the-line modern water filters can remove radiation from groundwater.
Don’t give up, no matter how terrible things appear! Even in the midst of nuclear winter, you can create safe drinking water if you use the techniques described below.
But once I know, what can I do?
Like the saying goes, knowing is half the battle. Once that you know there is radiation contamination in the food, water, or air, what can you do about it? Well, if you have immediate need for drinking water and it is contaminated it will take about 50-55 hours before you will be able to drink it.
Below are several methods, both small and large scale, that have been tested and proven to remove radiation from drinking water supplies:
Charcoal Clay Settlement Method
- Fill a gallon container with the water
- Put a couple of cups of charcoal powder in it
- Shake or stir it for a bit then let it sit for two to three hours
- Strain through a cloth to remove the charcoal
- Repeat the process, but let it sit for 24 hours
- Strain it again
- Now pour a couple of cups of powdered clay into the container of water
- You need a three or four foot length of cord for this part, spin the container over your head (like a centrifuge) several rotations to force the clay to the bottom of the container
- Let sit for 24 hours
- Strain it again
- Finally, boil the water to kill any microbes or bacteria
- Let cool
- TEST AGAIN
- Drink if it checks out
Warning! We do NOT recommend you drink radiated water, ever. This article is for information purposes only.
Reverse Osmosis and Ion-Exchange Filtration Systems
Reverse osmosis (RO) is a technique in which water is forced through a very small membrane that can filter out most pollutants- radioactive isotopes among them! A simple hand-operated pump or a larger 12-volt powered device can do it.
Ion-exchange filters work on the same principle as reverse osmosis units, except they are instead made of electrically charged resins that attract and bind with pollutants as the water goes by.
These filters aren’t as widespread as reverse osmosis systems, but they can be just as good or even more so than reverse osmosis types- if properly maintained!
Reverse osmosis filters and ion-exchange filters in particular are capable of removing upwards of 99% of radioactivity from drinking water, a remarkable success rate for any filtration system.
Some filters of this sort may miss certain radioactive gases present in the water, and as an extra safeguard the water produced by either type of filter system, reverse osmosis or ion-exchange- should be filtered again through an activated carbon filter before drinking, just in case.
Make sure you verify the performance specification of any filter before trusting it to remove radiation from drinking water supplies!
The most obvious disadvantage of these techniques is that they need electricity, somehow someway, in order to function.
They are also expensive as a rule, both to acquire and maintain (parts, filters, etc.) Like any filtration system, the filters in their systems will eventually clog or degrade, necessitating replacement, and then you’ll have the added hazard of dealing with a dangerously radioactive part- quite literally radioactive waste!
Nonetheless, if you have access to a constant supply of power, these may be ideal methods for rapidly and efficiently purifying large quantities of water with certainty and ease during a nuclear crisis.
When it comes to dealing with nuclear radiation, these may not be the most flexible choice, although if you have the personal infrastructure to make use of them they’ll certainly do the job.
DIY Clay Soil Filter
If all you have is scavenged and improvised materials, you still have methods for removing radiation from your water, Believe it! One such method, and one of the most proven, is clay soil filtration.
Simply find a large cylinder about a foot long and set it on clean sheet metal you’ve punched with small perforations. Balance the sheet metal (and cylinder) on rods or sticks over your collection vessel, then it is time to assemble the filter itself.
Fill the cylinder with the following sequence in this order, from bottom to top:
- Roughly 2-3 inches of tiny, washed pebbles
- Oversized “patch” of coarse, porous cloth like a towel or rag, this should come up both sides of can about 2″
- 5 to 8 inches of fine, high-clay soil taken from at least 6″ below ground to avoid contamination
- Another cloth on top, bandana, sheet, etc.
Then just add contaminated water into the filter. The water will flow through the layers of earth, which will filter it as it goes down. This procedure will remove much of the radioactivity and some other pollutants from the water.
Note that it will not filter out most bacteria or viruses! That means you should re-filter using another more conventional method if you have taken your water form any source that could host such germs.
The disadvantage of this technique is that it takes a long time to work, producing only about 2 quarts an hour, and must be replenished with new clay-soil and other components for safety after approximately 40-50 quarts of total water are processed.
Aside from this, it’s one of the finest, most reliable, and adaptable filtering techniques available for removing deadly radiation!
Clay Silt Bucket Settlement Method
This technique is incredibly basic and simple to execute, but it isn’t as effective as the clay earth filtering method and takes a bit more time.
All you need is a clean, sturdy container that can hold at least twice the volume of suspect water you wish to purify. I.e., if you have a liter of water to cleanse you’ll want a two liter container and so on.
Fill your container halfway with dirty water, then an equal quantity of high-clay content soil.
Use 1″ of clay soil for every 4″ depth of water in your container and then gently mash and stir until the clay has completely dissolved in the water. Don’t splash the water around! Take your time! If the clay soil won’t completely dissolve, it is too rich in clay.
After 6 hours, check the water. If the water is still hazy, allow it to settle for a few more hours.
When the water has cleared, carefully pour or siphon off the water that is near the top of the container, into another clean container, being careful not to disturb the bottom layer of silt- that is where pretty much all of the radiation will be now!
This technique is quite effective, especially when you have little energy or resources to assemble a filter as above, but it is not quite as good- some radiation will be present in the processed water, though it will be drastically reduced.
Repeat this process until all contaminated water has been dealt with.
Although this treatment removes a significant portion of the radioactivity from your water, it must be followed by another conventional method of purification to eliminate any bacteria- like the filter method using clay soil above, it won’t eliminate germs!
Surviving a nuclear blast and fallout will be difficult but not impossible. As long as you put enough distance between you and the blast and seek shelter, your chances of survival increase dramatically.
Even when fears of a nuclear attack have waned, you can never be too careful. It’s not crazy to invest in building an appropriate shelter if a nuclear fallout is what keeps you up at night, because that shelter may act as a safe room protect you from other disasters and emergencies as well.
As a final word of advice, if a nuclear blast ever happens, you must always be prepared for the possibility of more occurring. Good luck because you’ll need it…
Nick Oetken is a prepper, outdoor enthusiast but, most of all, he is our in-house firearms expert. Look out for his articles on guns to find out which ones you need for your survival.