How to Survive a Nuclear Exchange

We are living in a world where nuclear war can happen at any moment. Global politics and leaders of nations are volatile; the whole of Earth seems to be teetering on the brink of social and economic collapse. Unless nuclear threats are totally neutralized and universally controlled, then this danger of the human race being wiped out with the very weapon we have created is truly possible.

You might be thinking if it’s even possible to survive a nuclear holocaust (or if it would even be worth it). The atomic weapons of today are much, much stronger than the ones made decades before. What will happen when these deadly weapons are launched, no one is certain. It may all seem to be certain doom for all of us, especially those in populated cities. But for those who are living in very remote areas… there may be a small chance.

Here’s how you can increase your chances of survival against such a world-ending cataclysmic event:

Preparing for the Nuclear Scenario

Everything starts with planning. To create an effective plan, it’s necessary to first understand the problem at hand. What are the effects of nuclear weapons? Once you understand the problem, you next have to know how to protect yourself from it (how do you counter radiation poisoning? Iodide pills?). After that, you have to take stock of what you have available to you and what you’ll need (this doesn’t have to just be supplies, you can include nearby geographical features like natural water springs, caves, rivers etc.). Finally, a game plan must be devised to put into motion in the event the problem occurs. Do you live near a likely target (military base, densely populated city, important manufacturing/supply region?) Look at the problem from a wide perspective first then narrow your vision. To summarize:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. How can you counter the problem?
  3. What resources are available to you?
  4. What resources will you need acquire now?
  5. What is the plan of attack if problem occurs?

Stocking up on supplies

Food and Water: It would be unwise to venture outside in search for food or other necessities after a nuclear weapon has been dropped. Therefore, it would be best to stock up on supplies (especially food and water) to last you at least 2 weeks. Having more stocked up is better. Make sure to include medical supplies and ample water so that you can focus on the other things you need to survive.

The food you store should be long-lasting and non-perishable. It should be able to last for a few years in storage. Carbohydrates are important, and so are calories. Choose a cool, dry and protected part of your home to stash them in. Ideally, you should have multiple storage locations. Some of the best type of survival rations include:

  • Freeze dried foods
  • Dehydrated or preserved fruits and vegetables
  • Powdered milk
  • Pasta
  • Oats
  • Beans
  • Wheat or white rice

Don’t forget to stash in a can opener along with the food supply.

Water should be stored in food-grade containers. Clean them thoroughly before putting in distilled or purified water. You should count several gallons per day for each family member. You may also want to keep water purifying equipment handy just in case you run out of water after a nuclear attack.

Communication:Many people might miss out on the importance of keeping communication tools such as walkie-talkies, whistles and a spare cell phone. You can use these to alert others to your position, coordinate a move or to stay informed of what’s happening outside. The radio may be solar or crank-powered so you won’t have to rely on batteries. A NOAA weather radio can be especially helpful as it broadcasts information 24/7. The whistle can be used for signal or for help. A cell phone could prove to be handy in cases where telecommunication systems still remain after a nuclear attack. Get one that’s sturdy and pair it with a solar charger.

You have the equipment. Now it’s time to listen to what’s happening around you. Make sure you know how to operate the radios and the weather radio. You should also keep a close eye on the current news because they are a potential indicator of when a nuclear attack might happen. Two conflicting nations with nuclear capabilities are definitely a cause for worry. Predict and stock up on supplies accordingly. Make sure to learn, understand and know by heart the meaning of DEFCON (Defense Condition) levels and what they mean to civilians.

Medical Supplies and Miscellaneous Items
Having the medicine and supplies can mean the difference between surviving for a few years or dying several days after a nuclear attack happens. You’ll need the following on your checklist:

  1. Potassium Iodide is essential to counter radiation poisoning. It basically occupies your lymphatic system to prevent radiation from entering. Stock up on it now as the price typically skyrockets after a nuclear event.
  2. Prescription meds and supplies. If you or a family member have a condition and needs a certain supply of medicine, make sure to stock up on it.
  3. First Aid Kit. You can buy these pre-packed, or you can customize one for yourself. The basics should include a small blanket, a thermometer, tweezers, scissors, latex gloves, antibiotic ointment and sterile bandages and gauze.
  4. You’ll also need to learn the most basic forms of administering first aid. Learn the process of treating wounds, burns and shocks. You should learn how to properly bandage a wounded patient. You should also learn how to do proper CPR.
  5. Prepare an emergency bag with the following inside: dust masks, wet wipes, plastic ties, black garbage bags, duct tape, pliers or a wrench, and a flashlight and some batteries.

Assessing the Risk/Knowing When To Evacuate

Ultimately, you’ll have to trust your instincts when it comes to the proper time to evacuate when the nuclear missiles are about to fly. Your country or your city may or may not announce an evacuation, but it always helps to be prepared. In this case, you should build a capable shelter underneath your house or somewhere near it. Know which areas or structures are the most likely to be targeted in case a worldwide conflict comes along. These would include major population centers, industrial cities, seats of power, commercial runways and airports, military airfields, naval bases and barracks.

Surviving the Nuclear Attack

Now that you’ve been proactive and done what you can to increase you and your family’s chances of survival, it’s time to know what to do and what not do in case of imminent attacks.

Seeking Shelter:Don’t stand and wait for the obvious. As soon as you hear and see the geopolitical warning signs, seek shelter ASAP. The warning signal and the alarm should sound just right before impact. The explosion of the blast and the resulting blinding light could be seen many, many miles away. If you are within the blast radius of the nuclear warhead detonation, then your chances of survival are very slim, unless you have an underground shelter with excellent blast protection capabilities. If you are away from ground zero from about 10 to 15 miles, then you’ll only have around 15 seconds until the heat wave arrives, and about 30 seconds until the shock waves hit. Don’t ever look into a blast and the mushroom cloud directly with your naked eye. The results can cause temporary blindness at the very least. The damage radius depends on how powerful the bomb is, how high was it when it was detonated, and the weather conditions during the time of the blast.

If you fail to find sufficient shelter, or when there’s not enough time to head to your underground shelter, find a reasonably low-lying area (a ditch/gully) and curl up into fetal position, you’ll need to cover your ears and eyes to protect them from the shock-wave. The key here is to expose as little of yourself as possible. You can go and dig if such a terrain is not readily available. A good 5 miles from the blast radius can produce third degree burns; one at 20 miles can burn the skin right off your body. The wind can compound this effect, destroying and burning any living thing it comes across.

Head indoors if there’s no sufficient ground cover. The structure should provide sufficient protection from the heat and the blast damage. The solid walls can provide a measure of protection against radiation. It all depends on the structure’s construction and how near or far you are from ground zero. It will be best to block yourself in a room without windows as the resulting blast can easily shatter windows, even from far away. Finally, make sure to keep away from combustible or flammable products. Any oil-based material or nylon will easily burn from the resulting heat wave.

Protecting Against Nuclear Radiation:Radiation is one of the most important elements you’ll have to think about when facing a nuclear attack. Radiation exposure is one of the leading causes of death in nuclear attacks. There are several types of radiation and the particles of radiation that you’ll need to know.

The initial radiation happens when the nuclear warhead impacts the ground. This is short-lived and will only travel short distances. This will be the most likely source of death for those who survive the blast and the heat near ground zero. Residual radiation, or otherwise known as “fallout”, is a more serious matter. Nuclear weapons that detonate above ground have larger radiation fallout than one that detonates on the ground. All the dust and the debris are forced upward into the atmosphere, which eventually comes down, forming what’s called “black rain”. The temperature will be extremely high and this rain is very fatal to human beings.

Consider yourself lucky if you somehow managed to survive the initial blast but you’ll have much more to do in defense against the black soot.

The Different Types of Radiation

Alpha Rays: These are the weakest of all nuclear particles and are essentially not a threat to us humans. Alpha particles are short-lived and are quickly absorbed by the air around us. Though they present the least danger, one should not inhale them. Wearing clothes should be more than enough to protect you against alpha particles.

Beta Rays: These are faster and can go further than Alpha particles. They can travel for about 10 yards before they mix in with the air. Being exposed to beta particles should not be fatal unless it’s on an extended period of time. You can suffer painful sunburns (called Beta Burns) if you’re not careful. Beta radiated particles are dangerous when they come in contact with your eyes. Inhaling this type of radiated particle can be deadly. Wearing thick clothing along with goggles and a quality respirator should provide enough protection against beta particles.

Gamma Rays: These are the deadliest of them all. They travel the furthest; about a mile from ground zero, and are powerful enough to penetrate non lead shielding. Exposure to gamma rays can make quick work of any affected individual. You’ll need the best protection for surviving gamma rays.

You should not be exposed to gamma rays for more than 5 minutes. The best chances of survival would be to find deep underground parking lots or tunnels. Basements/crawl spaces can be adequate if you stack enough material on the floor above you and on the sides.

Reinforcing Your Shelter

Reinforce your shelter immediately. Stack the walls with soil, dirt or any type of material that won’t easily combust. If you’re lying in a wide trench, then it’s in your best interest to start creating a roof using materials that you can easily reach. Don’t expose yourself under any circumstances. A tent or a canvas will not provide sufficient shielding from the resulting nuclear fallout. Don’t rest just yet; you’ll need to protect yourself against the deadly gamma rays. It’s quite difficult, if not impossible to try to build a complete, 360-degree shield against radiation. The best you can do is reduce it to non-fatal levels. Here’s a quick reference guide on which type of materials will help you reduce radiation:

  • Snow reduces penetration at 20 to 22 feet
  • Soil reduces penetration at about 4 feet
  • Wood reduces penetration at about 9 feet
  • Concrete reduces penetration at about 2 feet
  • Rock reduces penetration at about 3 feet
  • Steel reduces penetration at about 1 feet

The length of time you should stay in your shelter should be at least 9 days, or around 200 hours. You should never leave your shelter within 48 hours after a nuclear attack. Radioactive iodine only has a half-life of somewhere around 8 days or so to be reduced to a harmless isotope. Take heed and keep caution in mind the length of time for radioactive iodine to decay to .1 percent is around 90 days. After the 9-day mark, only leave if necessary.

Other types of radioactive isotopes you should look out for are Strontium and Cesium. These isotopes have a far longer decay period: 28 and 30 years, respectively. These isotopes are readily absorbed by living things and can stay on our planet for decades, making food products lethal. They are also light enough to be carried for miles. Diligence is vital for surviving a nuclear attack. Ultimately, you’ll have to leave the local area for non radiated land (ideally up stream of the fallout).

Wear protective clothing at all times. These include long sleeve shirts, goggles, gloves, hats, etc. They are meant to block radiation such as alpha and beta waves. When in the shelter, get your clothes decontaminated by washing them with clean water. Any exposed skin will have to be washed thoroughly as well. The residue can settle in and cause unwanted burns.

Treating Thermal Burns and Radiation Burns

Treating Minor Burns: These types of burns can be classified as beta burns, and are easily treated by running cold water to the skin until the burning sensation subsides. For the best results, keep it under the flow of water for a good 5 minutes. If the affected skin starts to break, char or blister, immediately wash it under cold water to get the contaminants off. Open your first aid kit and cover with a compress to prevent further infection. Don’t ever try to break the blisters. If it doesn’t break, char or blister, then keep it uncovered. Wash under cold water, then apply petroleum jelly, or a combination of water and baking powder if possible.

Treating Severe Burns: Thermal burns are life-threatening and they are the result of contact with the nuclear blast itself when it detonated. Almost all aspects of survival are compromised as infections, lung damage, water loss and shock present themselves. You can follow this treatment step for thermal burns:

  1. Protect the severe burn from any other possible contamination.
  2. Gently cut away clothing in and around the burn using medical scissors. Do not attempt to remove clothing that has stuck or melded with the skin. Do not pull the clothes over the affected area. Do not apply any type of burn ointment.
  3. Start the treatment by washing it gently with cold running water. Do not apply any ointment or cream.
  4. Don’t use generic dressing that are not specifically for dressing burns. The best alternatives can easily be found and procured. Cling films, food wraps and saran wraps are excellent against skin burns because they don’t stick and are sterile.
  5. Reduce shock as much as you can. Shock is the condition that happens when there’s not enough blood passing through vital organs and tissues. It can be fatal if left untreated, and usually happens in instances where there’s a deep burn or a significant loss of blood. Check for the following telltale signs of shock:
  • Sweating even if the patient’s skin is cool.
  • Unusually pale skin.
  • Thirsty and restless.
  • Quick and short gasps.
  • A blank-faced look.

It’s important keep the patient calm. You can do this by gently massaging the chest area and keeping an optimal breathing rhythm. Untie and unbutton any restrictive garments while speaking in assuring tones. Be gentle and have self-confidence.

Rationing Your Supplies

Food and water are finite; they’ll run out eventually. It will be your primary responsibility to see to it that you stretch out the supply of food and water you have stored. There may come a time when you’ve exhausted all your edibles and will need to find sustenance out of your shelter. Here’s how you can find more food and ration what you already have:

Plants that are growing inside “hot zones” are relatively safe to eat. Find ones that have edible undergrowth and/or roots, i.e., potatoes and carrots. Bring a Geiger counter to make sure the food you find isn’t radiated and is safe to consume.

The remaining living animals may be hunted and eaten, provided you carefully prepare them. Discard the kidneys, the liver and the heart. Also discard the meat that’s close to the bone marrow, as bones can retain radiation for a length of time.

Processed or canned goods are safe to eat, provided they aren’t damaged in any way. Check for punctures where radiation could enter.

Beware of open water sources. They are most likely contaminated with fallout particles. It’s risky to try and drink from it. Look for other water sources, such as underground springs or covered wells, as they are safer. The water from lakes and streams should only be taken as a last resort. You can create a filter to further minimize the risks. Dig a hole about a foot deep near the stream/river and drink the water that seeps inside. Allow the incoming water to settle to remove any dirt or mud, then boil it to remove harmful bacteria.

Water from buildings are generally safe to drink. Because domestic water pumps won’t be operational, do the following: Open the highest-positioned faucet in the structure. Then, open the lowest-positioned faucet to draw the remaining water from the pipes. Allow the water to settle and boil before drinking.

How to Guard Your Equipment Against EMP

Your electrical equipment can prove to be useful in certain nuclear scenarios, so it’s best to keep them safe from EMPs. An EMP forms when a nuclear weapon is exploded at high altitudes. The EMP, or electromagnetic pulse resulting from the blast will destroy any and all electrical equipment within the blast radius.

Start off by unplugging/turning off all your devices. Put your essential survival gear such as flashlights, cell phone and radios in a sealed metal container, or a Faraday Cage, and line it with foil. This protects the equipment within the box as long as the electronic items don’t come in contact with the metal enclosure. The foil should completely surround the equipment you want to protect.

Don’t assume that nuclear attacks are a one and done affair. Always assume the worst. There could be subsequent attacks and retaliations, followed by enemy invasions and hostile takeovers. The key thing to survival is to maintain your shelter and protect it at all costs. Go out only to search for edible food and drinkable water.