Surviving a Nuclear Threat: What You Need to Know

When faced with a nuclear threat, it is important to know what steps to take in order to survive. The first step is to find a reinforced room or shelter if one is available. If not, you should lie under a sturdy table or next to a bed or sofa, but not under it. Avoid doors, tall furniture, and windows as they are likely to break.

If you are warned of an impending attack, immediately enter the nearest building and move away from the windows. This will help provide protection against explosion, heat, and detonation radiation. When the bomb detonates, it will start with a brighter flash than the sun. Trees, fences and people will immediately catch fire. The only way to survive is to run inside and dive into a cast-iron tub just as the shock wave hits.

After the explosion, you will be left looking at the burning ruins of your neighborhood. Deadly fallout is on its way. At this point, you may be wondering whether you should stay in your wobbly house or run across town to the public library to take refuge in its basement. A new mathematical model developed by Michael Dillon, an atmospheric scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, may have the answer. He began exploring this topic about five years ago after the US government called for more research on nuclear shelters. The government's advice is to take refuge in the nearest and most protective building.

For most people, that would be the basement of their house. However, basements in California often offer little protection from rain. In this case, official recommendations suggest an early transit to find a better shelter with thick layers of concrete over the head and plenty of food and water. If you spend too much time outside in the rain, you're lost. Lawrence Wein, research scientist in operations at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California disagrees with this conclusion as it fails to account for several important issues that are of vital importance to policy recommendations.

Anyone heading to the apocalyptic wasteland will have no idea how long the transit time will actually last. Because of this uncertainty, Wein suggests that US government's recommendation is to take refuge for at least 12 hours after the explosion. He is also concerned with the problem of collective behavior - after the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster, a few thousand people were ordered to evacuate and nearly 200,000 people took to the streets. The model assumes that you have each person on strings like puppets and can dictate their actions - which is simply not going to be the case in the aftermath. C. Norman Coleman, US Public Health Researcher at National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland believes that this criticism does not reach the point.

As someone who works with government and state and local planners, he finds models extraordinarily useful for developing concepts of operations. Knowing how long you have before needing to get to a better shelter can help classify evacuation plans. At the very least, Coleman says that Dillon's model reveals what can be done and what isn't likely to be useful. People who were outdoors during an explosion should take a shower as soon as possible using warm water and soap applied carefully - rubbing too hard could damage skin which acts as a natural protective barrier. It should also cover any cuts or abrasions while rinsing. No matter how well built your rain shelter is, there is always a risk that debris will block your entrance and trap you inside. Building a small emergency escape hatch doubles your potential exit routes. Finally, everyone should know how far they live and work from major nuclear power plants and potential nuclear attack sites. If we've learned anything from the COVID-19 pandemic it's that we can't wait for a crisis to respond.

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Bradford Tutwiler
Bradford Tutwiler

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