In 1963, the British Home Office published a public information pamphlet titled Advising the Household on Protection against Nuclear Attack. During that time, the idea of a nuclear war was terrifying in the sense that folks could do little to prepare for it. Today, while the notion is still terrifying, we now have some insight on how to survive a nuclear war (should one ever occur).
In The Beginning
Back in 1961, JFK distributed almost 1.5 million signs to increase awareness of the nuclear shelter locations. Back then, America sat on the edge of their seats, half-expecting a nuclear strike from Russia at any moment.
But as the Cold War abated, awareness dropped, and the signs were eventually removed. Without proper maintenance, the shelters deteriorated – and dysfunctional shelters are as good as no shelters at all.
While the risk is no longer as present in the general public’s mind, the recent tensions between the US and North Korea – and, even more recently, with China – remind us that the atomic arsenals are still kept in a state of permanent readiness. Urgent necessity can lead to immediate use.
Where To Take Shelter?
As the Ready.gov website (of FEMA, Federal Emergency Management Agency) advises, you should “take cover as quickly as you can, below ground if possible, and stay there until instructed to do otherwise.”
The question, however, is where to find shelter – especially with the original Cold War era nuclear bunkers considered obsolete.
Ideally, your shelter should still be underground. For example, a basement, garage, or subway tunnel, as far below the surface as possible, with thick walls and ceilings. Unfortunately, even these are unlikely to survive a direct hit.
You can use the Nukemap application to determine a safe location. The app simulates a nuclear denotation, in any specified area of the world, and shows the fallout area.
It’s the fallout that forms the main risk for those “lucky” enough to be outside the fateful lethal areas. At ground level, the radioactive fallout will spread incredibly fast, which means speed is of the essence – and a thick-walled building makes for a suitable alternative to basements if need be.
Of course, you still want to avoid windows at all costs. Preferably, you need to be in the building’s center; fairly high up but not too close to the roof. And never, ever take refuge in a car – vehicle structures offer zero protection.
If you can, prepare your own underground shelter stocked with survival gear and necessities. It should take roughly 12 to 24 hours before radioactive levels settle enough to be relatively safe.
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Having An Emergency Plan
Even though having a thick-walled basement or easy and immediate access to a tall building are good safety nets to have, they shouldn’t be your first line of defense. Even FEMA recognizes the high value of being a prepper with an emergency plan. In fact, they insist it’s imperative for your survival.
Evacuation, shelter and communication are your top priorities, along with prepared emergency kits. You’ll need food and water (at least a gallon/3.8 liters per person, per day), enough to last at least 72 days. Toilet supplies, a radio, an emergency mobile phone, a tape to seal your enclosure, flashlight, batteries, whistle, maps, plastic sheets and a mask for dust should be standard items in your kit as well.
Bonus tip: Don’t waste your money on potassium iodide tablets. Even though they block radioactive iodine absorption in the body (and the isotope is highly common in nuclear power plant accidents), it’ll be “generally irrelevant for a nuclear weapon detonation.”
Surviving A Nuclear War: Bonus Tips
If you’re still crazed at the idea of a nuclear war, take these bonus tips into consideration:
• If you’re caught outside during a nuclear war, seek shelter immediately and dispose of your contaminated clothing
• Keep updated on news from media outlets and government officials – information will likely be coming at a fast pace
• If you don’t have access to cell service or internet, be sure to keep handy a battery-operated radio
• Create your survival kit right now to avoid rushed-packing in the case of an emergency
• Familiarize yourself with hazards related to nuclear explosions
• Remain calm at all costs
We can only hope that any preparations for a nuclear war will be in vain, but you can never be too sure. In any case, it’s better to be safe than sorry.