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Protecting Yourself and Others from a Nuclear Blast

Updated: Oct 24, 2022


As the threat of a nuclear strike elevates, it is understandable that most people want to know how to protect themselves and their families from a nuclear attack. First of all, if a nuclear explosion were to happen within five miles of your location, there is nothing that can be done. Outside of the blast radius, it will be difficult for most people to remain alive past 24 hours. There are, however, mitigation techniques that anyone can use to minimize the threat from fallout.



In order to understand how dangerous a nuclear explosion can be, one must first understand the different aspects of a nuclear blast. There are five characteristics of nuclear detonation:

Air Blast: A nuclear explosion creates a shock wave (or air blast wave) just like a conventional explosive does. The air explosion and the associated winds can cause structural damage and human injury. Additionally, flying glass shards and fallen debris can harm people. Within a 300-yard radius, the air explosion from a 1 KT detonation could ostensibly kill 50% of the nearby population due to flying glass fragments (up to 275 meters from impact). For a 10 KT detonation, this radius grows to almost 0.3 miles (up to 590 meters from impact).

Heat: Extreme heat, such as a fireball with temperatures of up to millions of degrees, would be the second effect. Even far away from the explosion, the heat and intense light from the fireball can ignite objects and incinerate people. Blindness is also a possibility. A 1 KT detonation's heat might result in 50% of the people within a 0.4-mile (up to 610 meters from impact) radius dying from thermal burns. For a 10 KT detonation, its radius rises to almost 1.1 miles (up to1800 meters from impact). However, it is possible that the impact of the heat could be prevented or reduced if there are any structures casting shadows between the person and the fireball.

Initial Radiation: The first minute after detonation is when the initial radiation is created. Intense radiation exposure is caused by the detonation's powerful initial pulse of ionizing radiation. The initial radiation pulse from a 1 KT device could result in 50% of the population within a blast radius of around 12 miles dying from radiation exposure. For a 10 KT detonation, the mortality grows to almost 75%. Due to the extra protection, exposure to people in basements and intervening buildings may be decreased.

Ground Shock: Another occurrence would be ground shock. This is comparable to a significant localized earthquake. Buildings, roads, communications, utilities, and other infrastructure components might sustain substantial damage as a result. The nearby infrastructure should see significant interruptions as a result of the ground shock and air blast.

Secondary Radiation: Secondary radiation exposure from fallout would mostly occur downwind from the explosion. Although, alterations in weather might distribute radioactivity and widen the impacted area. For the first hour after impact, a 1 KT device would cause radiation exposure that might result in exposure-related mortality in 50% of people for a distance of about 3.5 miles downwind of the event. A 10 KT detonation will expand this distance to roughly six miles. Depending on wind and weather conditions, these distances can increase or decrease. Improved shielding may result in lower exposure for people living in adjoining buildings and building basements, but it is NOT guaranteed.



If the weapon impacts a densely populated location, it will probably incinerate tens of thousands of people instantaneously. Third-degree burns would also be sustained by anyone protected by shelter or surrounding buildings up to a few miles from impact.

The wreckage would be torn apart by fires. Emergency personnel would have a difficult time providing assistance to survivors within the blast radius. People would be exposed to radioactive fallout.

Long-term nuclear winter, which is the result of dust particles being pushed into the atmosphere and blocking the sun, would be triggered if enough nuclear bombs in the world's arsenal were used. A population cannot be adequately prepared for such and would result in global starvation.

Nevertheless, there are some actions you may take to improve your chances of surviving a nuclear strike if you are at a reasonable distance from impact.




1. Upon being alerted to a potential nuclear attack, turn off your heaters and air conditioners.

Heating and cooling systems draw in air from the outside. This could potentially spread contaminated particles.

2. Once complete, put your hands under your body and lay on the ground with your face down.

This will shield your hands, arms, and face from flying objects and intense heat that could burn your flesh. We advise adopting this position.

3. Shield your mouth and nose if you have a high-quality mask available.

An explosion stirs up more particles that could be harmful to breathe in before any fallout even reaches the earth. If a high-quality mask is not available, use what you can to protect your mouth and nose.

4. When the shockwaves have passed, you can stand up and start looking for safety.

Within 15-20 minutes, you should be able to determine if the major shockwaves have passed. Find a brick or concrete building--such as a school or office. Brick and concrete buildings are some of the safest forms of shelter after a nuclear attack. Ideally, the best shelter would have few to no windows and a basement for long-term isolation. Schools or office buildings usually meet these criteria. It is important to note that prefabricated homes, mobile homes, and sheds are considered inadequate.



5. If you are not near any brick or concrete buildings you can relocate.

If there are no sturdy buildings within 15 minutes of where you are, it is still preferable to seek shelter than to remain outside. If you discover a safer building nearby, wait at least an hour before attempting to relocate. By then, the risk of radiation exposure would have been reduced by approximately 55%.



6. People outside during impact should shower as soon as possible.

It is important to use warm water and apply soap gently. The body has a natural protective barrier that may break down if the skin is scrubbed too hard.

7. While rinsing, cover any cuts or abrasions.

If you do not have access to a shower, use a sink or faucet. The next best option is to wipe or wet cloth your body. Blowing your nose and wiping your ears and eyelids are also important because debris can become lodged in these orifices.

8. After being exposed to radiation, washing your hair with shampoo is imperative.

However, conditioner is strongly discouraged. This is due to the fact that conditioners include substances known as cationic surfactants. These can bind to radioactive particles and trap them in your hair. In essence, they would serve as a glue between your hair and radioactive substances.

9. Isolate and seal the infected clothing.

The best method to safeguard others around you is to lock outer layers of clothing in a plastic bag that is out of the reach of kids and pets. Any tissues or rags used to wipe your body or face should likewise be sealed off.



10. Pay attention to the radio for further instructions.

Powerful electromagnetic pulses (EMPs)-- an imperceptible burst of energy that can damage phone, internet, and electricity cables-- are created by nuclear explosions. Radio waves could be interfered with by a nuclear EMP. This is less likely because radios have simpler circuitry. Therefore, after an explosion, emergency responders will probably play safety advice on the radio. Stay inside until the risk of contamination has decreased unless these officials say it is safe to leave.

While the initial reaction may be to search out friends and family, this is not recommended within the first 48 hours after the initial blast. After that timeframe, the exposure rate from a 10 KT explosion lowers to just 1%.

11. All open containers of food and foraged food sources found outside should be discarded and not eaten.

They would all be contaminated. That is why we recommend having a one-week stockpile of canned or sealed foods in a secure area of a basement. If a basement is unavailable, a room without windows could be substituted. Use your discretion.

It is important to mention that there are no indications that a major nuclear threat is imminent anywhere across the globe. However, we feel it is important to disseminate this information in the event it does occur. Educating yourself on the possibilities could go a long way in protecting you and yours during a nuclear event.


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