Skip to Content

How to Survive Nuclear Fallout

Back in the 1950`s, Americans were well aware of nuclear threats (mainly due to the Cold War that was going on with the Soviet Union) and the nuclear fallout that they represented. 

There were hundreds of PSAs that taught preparedness back then, and schools even had procedures and protocols for students to follow in case a nuclear bomb was detonated nearby.  While the survival techniques they taught back in those days were pretty useless — some involved simply hiding underneath a desk, which would do nothing to protect you from a nuclear blast — at least we were actively taking steps to prepare ourselves for the worst.

Fast forward to today, and no one really discusses nuclear threats outside of the survivalist and prepper community. In my opinion, this is troublesome. Since the invention of the nuclear bomb, many countries (some allies, others enemies) have made leaps and bounds in terms of weapons of mass destruction. This means the threat is even higher today than it was during the early days of the Cold War. 

While there are plenty of articles out there that discuss what to do if a nuclear bomb were to go off in your city, there`s not many that talk about nuclear fallout — which can be just as deadly. In fact, many nuclear bomb survivors — including survivors of the Hiroshima bombings during WWII — die years later due to illnesses brought on by fallout.

In this article, I`m going to give you a few tips to help you survive nuclear fallout in case the SHTF:

Nuclear Fallout Explained

In the occurrence of a nuclear bomb, residual radioactive material is launched into the upper area of the atmosphere. The material that is present usually contains pieces of radioactive dust and ash and then begins to fall out of the sky. These specific materials then travel up to hundreds of miles in sync with the patterns of the wind. This exposure then turns in debris, dust, ash and rain that is all radioactive. These parts of the explosion can be extremely deadly. 

Within a short period of time, the exposure can cause a person to become severely ill and turn into acute radiation syndrome. The side effects include rapid cellular degradation, DNA damage, nausea, vomiting, adverse neurological effects and in extreme occasions, death. Pregnant women are at great risk and can miscarry, bear deformed children, become at risk of cancer and may even die a slow, painful death. 

However, fallout radiation does not stick around in the long run, it decays at a rapid rate and contaminated areas eventually become safe once time has gone on for long enough. In the case of fallout radiation, families should seek a safe, non toxic environment to escape to. 

nuclear bomb explosion in the desert

What Damage Fallout Inflict During The Initial Blast?

Any person within a few miles of the radiation blast will either be immediately killed or will die in a quick pace. For example, the nuclear bomb that dropped on Hiroshima was estimated to be at 300,000 degrees celsius. 

An example to compare to is a body that has been cremated. During cremations, human bodies are carried into a furnace that rests at roughly 1,200 degrees Celsius. One of the smaller bombs that are carried in North Korea spread out in a range of roughly one mile, and this is if it were coming in at about 10 KT. 

In accordance with Brooke Buddemeier at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the area between one to three miles is considered to be a zone with “œlight damage”. In this event, glass would shatter and people would get injured as well as building damage that would result in paint peeling and people getting third-degree skin burns from the thermal radiation traveling at the speed of light. Even at seven miles away, people can still get at least first-degree burns. 

Even at roughly 13 miles away from the initial blast people can become temporarily blind if there was direct contact with the blast. This is roughly at 53 miles at night time. The fallout hazard would be 10 to 20 miles from the ground. 

What Should You Do During The 1st Hour?

If one is to survive the blast it is recommended to hold one hand in the air in front of the mushroom cloud. With shutting one eye and raising your thumb to the blast. If the cloud however begins to get bigger then you are considered to be in the radiation zone and need to evacuate as soon as possible to receive proper shelter. 

Fallouts move very fast and can travel very long distances and seek proper shelter as soon as possible to keep you as safe as you can be. The United States government lays out three specific facts that can help one seek the appropriate protection and avoid the consequences of the fallout. 

Blast tunnel in a bomb shelter

Keep Your Distance

The further away you are from any fallout debris and particles, the better chance you will have of surviving and avoiding long term illnesses that could be life threatening. A basement or underground garage is the best option for seeking proper protection. 

Shield Yourself

The larger the materials, such as, concrete, bricks, and thick walls that will keep you as far apart from the fallout particles, will be more beneficial for safety. 

The Waiting Game

In the long run, fallout radiation begins to lose its intensity fast which will give you enough time to leave the fallout shelter that was chosen for safety. Within the first two weeks, that is when radioactive fallout is the biggest threat to people. After that, you`re waiting for the initial radiation levels to drop by 1%. 

Fallout radiation loses its intensity fairly rapidly. In time, you will be able to leave the fallout shelter. Radioactive fallout poses the greatest threat to people during the first two weeks, by which time it has declined to about 1% of its initial radiation level.

Keep These Factors in Mind

It is crucial to remember these factors when trying to survive nuclear fallout. If you are with other people and you have been blinded it is not wise to hide in a car, trailer or any kind of vehicle unless there is a chance to escape before 15 minutes are up.

If a cloud of debris is coming towards you, leave the designated area by a particular path that is perpendicular to the fallout. If a building is nearby that can offer more protection, then get to the building within a few minutes. 

The further underground you go, the better. Try to be in the center of the building. Once an underground area is established then shut off ventilation systems and seal any windows or doors that may be open to keep as much radioactive materials out. 

If you fail to do this properly, “œbeta burns” may begin to appear on the skin and deadly levels of radiation will begin wreaking havoc on the body. Instruct those who may be coming from outside to remove their clothes and place it inside of a plastic bag that can be tied up and put somewhere far from others. 

If water is available begin to wash your body with a large amount of soap and wash your hair with shampoo and no conditioner. Make sure to also blow your nose and wipe your eyelids, eyelashes and ears off. The overall goal is to remove as much radioactive material from your body as soon as possible. 

What to do The Next Day

Once shelter is established, it is best to stay in one spot for up to 24 hours. The longer that shelter is kept after the blast, the better it is for your safety and health. 

It could be days or months until radiation levels within the area are monitored and kept by emergency services. However, when it is safe to remove yourself from the shelter, supplies will be needed. 

Emergency Water

Drinkable Water

Water is a priority and needs to be drinkable. Bottled water is going to be the best option, however if it is not possible to be found then tap water from deep wells and tanks will be a better alternative. 

The wells that would need to be looked for would be from a farm or a rural home. Radioactive elements are not able to be removed from water in any ways, this means that boiling or disinfecting will not work and a proper source of clean water would need to be found elsewhere in case it is contaminated. If clean water cannot be found then filtering water through a basic clean earth filter will be the best option. 

Emergency Radio

Emergency Radio

After the first few steps, contacting emergency personnel through an emergency radio will be the best option and listening for updates will be helpful if needed to know when it is safe to be removed from the shelter. 

In some events, there is a slight chance that electronics will not be able to work due to the effects of the blast, however, if working electronics are able to be found then hand cranking a radio may be possible, since a power outage is most likely to have occurred. A person should always be actively listening to the radio for updates. 

If someone begins to show symptoms, such as feeling fatigue then acute radiation is Beijing to set in and they should be assisted. If Potassium Iodide is available in a first aid kit then it should be used on them immediately. 

If contaminated, then there are other ways to manage it. If vomiting does not occur within the first four hours, then this is a positive sign and means they will most likely begin to recover within a few days, to a few weeks as long as rest is administered. If seizures, unconsciousness or vomiting begin to occur within an hour, then medical attention is needed as soon as possible.

What to do After 7 Days & Beyond

Once proper shelter and water have been administered then waiting is all that there is left to do. Locating any canned or packaged foods that have not been exposed will be your best bet for survival. Be cautious when touching and consuming items that they have not been contaminated in any way. 

Listening to the emergency radio continuously will ensure that others have been updated about your whereabouts in case any persons are in need of medical attention and can be found and treated as quickly as possible.