For starters I seriously hope that you are never going to need anything in this node, or at least if you ever do need to you don't try and read it after an attack, accident or incident. No matter the terminology used to describe an exposure or detonation, it is no joke. The guidelines set out here are only meant to assist an individual or group of individuals during and immediately after the unthinkable becoming a reality.

CAUTION: Protection from radiation depends on time of exposure, distance from source and shielding at the time of exposure. All of what is below assumes that the individual(s) in question survive the first 96-120 hours following an attack or accident.

-Things to consider during a major emergency:
DO NOT PANIC: You are in a situation that you cannot control. Losing control of the faculties you do have will possibly cause you to die.
USE YOUR RESOURCES: There is a way to survive; however it will take a considerable amount of effort on your part to achieve that. You may be required to do very unpleasant things in order to survive.
DO NOT BE STUPID: Think before you act. Becoming irrational or losing focus in a given situation will accomplish nothing other than opening yourself up to conditions that may lead to either serious injury or death.
YOU ARE NOT GOING TO DIE: If you have the will to survive then you probably will. If you consign yourself to death, then you are going to die. If you have made it to the second week, it is a fairly good bet that you are indeed going to survive, barring some unforeseen calamity.
THINGS ARE DIFFERENT: Do not sit around and whine about everyone and everything being gone. If anything all this will accomplish is severe demoralization. This is the last thing you need at this point.
THIS IS NOT A RELIGIOUS EVENT: If the somewhat unlikely was to occur and The Lord(tm) has arrived on the planet, you'd know it. Be rational. By all means continue to nurture your spiritual or religious life, do not allow it to affect every decision made.

Blast or Notification of Major Exposure
b. Gather any protective equipment or survival items you may need. Think immediate survival; do not gather up such items as photo albums, jewelry, pets or anything else that does not contribute to your living past the next five minutes.
c. Improvised Shelter:
-Freeway drain culvert.
-Large abandoned stone or brick buildings. Preferably in a basement, large underground parking structures in major urban centers are to be used warily. The buildings above may collapse at a later date if incident is a premeditated attack. If problem is a large-scale accident then such structures are ideal for shelter. It would benefit you, (if you are in an area that is near a large nuclear facility such as a plutonium processing facility or major nuclear reactor it would not hurt to locate such a place prior to an actual need.)
-Cave or tunnel covered with three or more feet of soil or dirt.
-Foxhole at least 4 feet deep. (Remove topsoil within two foot radius of foxhole lip.
d. Radiation Shielding Efficiencies:
-One thickness, (i.e. listed measurement is considered a single thickness,) reduces radiation exposure by ½. Every additional thickness beyond that reduces the exposure by ½ as well.
-Use these while determining the effectiveness of a given shelter.
Iron/Steel: .7 inches
Brick: 2.0 inches
Concrete: 2.2 inches
Earth: 3.3 inches
Cinderblock: 5.3 inches
Ice: 6.8 inches
Wood (Soft): 8.8 inches Note: Assume all wood is soft.
Snow: 20.3 inches
e. Shelter Survival:
-Keep contaminated materials out of the shelter. In the event of good weather bury contaminated clothing outside of the shelter and recover later. If weather is bad then shake clothing strongly or beat with branches. DO NOT WRING OUT.
f. Personal Hygiene:
-Wash entire body with soap and copious quantities of any available water. Pay particular attention to fingernails and hairy areas of the body.
-If no water is available wipe all exposed skin surfaces with a clean cloth or uncontaminated soil.
-If conditions are dusty or fallout is still active: be sure to keep the entire body covered. Use appropriate respiratory protection or at a minimum keep a heavy cloth over the nose and mouth, be sure to wear goggles at all times. DO NOT SMOKE in a fallout affected area at any time.
g. Daily Radiation Time Table (Assuming no other equipment or notification.)
1-3 days: complete isolation. (30 minutes on third day allowable for acquisition of drinking water.)
4-7 days: Brief exposure. (30 minutes maximum.)
9-12 days: Brief exposure (1 hour per day.)
12-15 days: Light exposure (2-4 hours per day.)
15+ days: Moderate to normal exposure, dependant on scale of initial incident.

Ever since the 1950’s it's been all the rage to have your very own nuclear fallout shelter. Sadly, your parents or landlord didn’t build one, and most likely wouldn’t let you build a huge 500 ft underground bunker just for kicks. That’s right: most likely, should there be a large scale nuclear war, you wouldn’t survive. Since most of the worlds nuclear weapons are in the hands of sane leaders, a nuclear war probably won’t be affecting you anytime soon.

What just might possibly happen sometime in the future is a terrorist getting his/her/its hands on a nuclear weapon and detonate it in a city. No warning, which means no time to get to your underground bunker and live out your life eating ramen noodles. This is a guide should you find yourself in a situation in which some evil terrorists bring a briefcase nuke to your fair city.

What to do when you see the light

A nuclear blast is about four times as bright as the sun. You’ll know when it goes off. The 1st and foremost thing to do when you’ve realized a nuke has gone off; do NOT look at the blast. If you do, you’ll go temporarily blind, and groping the floor is not a good way to find shelter before the blast wave hits. You’ll also get those little spots you see when you poke your eye or look at the sun permanently burned onto your eyes and you will have them for the rest of your life. So just DON’T look at the light, it’s a very bad idea.

Heat (35% of a nuke’s energy)

The thermal pulse of a nuclear bomb is the real wammo. If you’re out in the open when it hits, you’re dead. It’s deadly to about four miles away; from there on its just burns and flying glass from the shock wave. If you’re uncovered and less than 4 miles from ground zero when the thermal pulse hits you’ll get severe burns and your clothes will most likely catch on fire. The good news is that fog or buildings between you and ground zero severely reduces the thermal blast wave’s energy. Dive behind anything that has a shadow. Really quick like. This is very important.

Blast Wave (50%)

After you’ve seen the bright light and felt the flesh-burning heat, run for cover. You only have few seconds, depending on how close you are to ground zero. Get inside or under something that won’t move when the blast wave hits, like a large car (SUV preferred). Even better is inside a brick or concrete building which didn’t catch on fire when the thermal pulse came. You will likely be near several Starbucks cafés which are almost always made of brick. Take cover in the back closet, away from windows. When you’re covered by your cover, wait. When the blast wave hits, there will be tons of pressure outside, shattering windows and hurling glass, wood, small mammals around. Depending on how far you are from the blast, winds will range from 30 mph to about 600mph. These only last a few seconds, but you still wouldn’t want to be caught in 600mph winds, because they will most certainly rip you to pieces. If after two minutes nothing happens, congratulations, the light you saw was not a nuclear explosion, or the nuclear explosion just happened far away from you, and the blast wave hasn’t made it to your location. Lucky you.

Initial Radiation (5%)

The initial radiation will be released during the 1st minute following the blast. It's not deadly unless you are about a mile from the blast, and if you’re that close the blast wave and searing heat have already killed you, unless big buildings have blocked it. You’ll know whether the radiation is fatal after about the 1st 5 minutes. The EMP from the blast will have knocked out all unshielded electronics, so you won’t be able to escape the area in a car or a plane. Your cell phone will be fried, along with your PDA, pager, and Furby.

Fallout (10%)

Fallout will affect tons of people, all across the country. When Mt Saint Helens blew up, ash fell all over the country. A nuclear bomb’s fallout is like that, except the ash is radioactive and if you get covered in it, odds are you’ll get cancer very soon. The nuclear ash will be sucked into the middle of the troposphere along with the flames in the trademark mushroom cloud. Heavy pieces of radioactive ash will rain down as far as 15 miles from ground zero. The light pieces, which are still dangerously radioactive mind you, will be carried downwind for hundreds of miles. This will almost certainly affect you, but be grateful you weren’t in the blast radius. Since you don’t have your very own ramen noodle shelter, you will be exposed to the radioactive fallout. The best way to keep your body safe is to take iodine tablets. These will fill your thyroids with stable iodine, so that when radioactive iodine gets into your system, your body will be forced to expel it, as your thyroids are already filled up. This is the easiest way to live with radioactive fallout, but it's also a good idea to close your windows and wash your clothes a lot to keep you away from radioactivity, because even if your thyroid is safe, the rest of your organs are not.

Doses and effects:

Bone Marrow Syndrome (>100 rad): damage to most rabidly dividing cells, like your blood, spleen, and lymphatic tissue. Symptoms include internal bleeding, fatigue, bacterial infections, and fever.

Gastrointestinal tract syndrome (>1000 rad): Damage to your gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, electrolytic imbalance, loss of digestion ability, bleeding ulcers, and the symptoms of bone marrow syndrome.

Central nervous system syndrome (>5000 rad): Damage to non-dividing cells, like brain cells. Symptoms include loss of coordination, confusion, coma, convulsions, shock, loss of interest in E2, and the symptoms of the bone marrow and gastrointestinal tract syndromes.

About 600 rad to your genitals will permanently sterilize you. Anything above 600 rad to your entire body will result in your death within two weeks.

Sources: Fema website ( and the Nuclear Blast FAQ

HOWTO: Protect yourself from a Nuclear Detonation.

With proper preparation, any citizen has the means to ensure their survival from the effects of a nuclear explosion. I will cover:

  • With Advanced Warning
  • Without Warning

    First let me cover the 4 basic effects of nuclear fission. Note: US Army doctrine is the source for much of this, so it may be dumbed down a bit. Refer to end notes.

    1. Blast

      • The physical blast from a nuclear detonation accounts for roughly 50% of the energy released by a nuclear explosion. This includes the shockwave.

      • The shockwave accounts for most of the physical damage.

    2. Thermal Energy

    3. Nuclear Radiation

      • Accounts for 14% of the energy released.

    4. Electromagnetic Pulse

      • Accounts for 1% of energy released, and damages electrical systems.

    Preparing for a Nuclear Attack

    Shelter - The ideal shelter is buried underground. Earth is the best insulator against all the effects of a nuclear explosion. The shelter must have an airtight door with a fortified pathway straight up to the surface. In addition, a person must remember to fortify their bunker with supplies such as food, water, and hygiene products. Other helpful items are radios and batteries, flashlights, digging tools, and at least one weapon and ammunition.

    Notes on shelter: Don't dig a tunnel or stairs as an escape route, because the shockwave from the blast could damage these, trapping you inside or outside of your shelter.

    Notes on supplies: Don't rely on plumbing to supply water, because these systems could be damaged. Personally, I would plan at least one month's worth of supplies. Weapons. It will be pandemonium after the detonation, and individuals can and will try to either seize your supplies, or your shelter. A loaded weapon is the best deterrent.

    Equipment - In your shelter, you should place your electrical equipment in an area, together, and surround them with sandbags or other dense materials. This will help shield them from damage (refer to end notes). Store the items with the cables disconnected, and the power sources removed.

    Reacting to a Nuclear Attack *


    Most likely, if you aren't killed by the thermal radiation, then you have a decent chance of surviving the initial blast.

    Drop to the ground, close your eyes, and attempt to cover your exposed skin. This will prevent the thermal burns produced by light. LOOK AWAY! COVER YOUR EYES! If you happen to be looking in the direction of the explosion when it detonates, then hopefully your body will react instinctively, and fast enough.

    Lay on your back, cover your head, and bring your knees to your chest. This will help protect your head and your vital organs. Your primary concern at this point is collateral damage. Debris presents a sizeable threat, and the effects of dynamic pressure will rip structures and objects to pieces. You are safest with a barrier that will deflect the blast above and away from you.

    All is applicable if you survive the overpressure effects.

    Once the initial wave and the dynamic pressure phases pass, you are free to seek shelter. Your shelter choice should attempt to resemble the previously established guidlines. Things to avoid - High ground with open winds. Low ground. (Fallout will settle in these areas.) Areas with open cross-winds. Your best bet is to seek shelter in an undamaged building above the first floor.

    Now, the Army tells me to train soldiers to get near a wall and lie flat, but I don't. Reason being, that wall is coming down. Collateral damage is also a primary casualty producer in a nuclear explosion. I suggest finding a median area. Remember to get away from any windows or unstable structures you might be near, if possible. These will be destroyed, sending shrapnel in all directions.

    Depending on the size (kilotons) of the weapon, fallout levels may not drop to non-lethal levels for sometime. Be patient*. Last as long as you can before you attempt to escape the area, because in your attempt you will expose yourself.

    Nuclear Explosion Types

  • Air burst - This produces the most damage due to the fact that the blast radius isn't hindered by geography. There is no fallout from this type of detonation. This detonation appears as a white cloud.

  • Surface burst - Devastates surrounding area, and produces large amounts of fallout. This produces the typical "mushroom cloud" effect, due to the vacuum created by the explosion sucking dirt and debris up into the atmosphere. Note: The bomb does not actually hit the surface, just close enough to suck up dirt and debris.

  • Subsurface burst - Underwater or ground. Creates lots of fallout, and a large crater is the telltale sign of a subsurface burst. Not an effective employment of a nuclear weapon.

    Things to remember!

    Some forms of radiation can't penetrate even your skin. Alpha and Beta particles are too reactive to penetrate skin, but are highly dangerous when ingested. To minimize exposure, cover your mouth with a wet rag if you must expose yourself to fresh air.

    Radiation builds up. A lethal dose is around 800 centigray (cGy). Although, most people don't have radiacmeters (radiation detectors) so the rule of thumb is *minimal exposure possible. Somatic effects of radiation probably won't be felt for days or weeks, depending on exposure.

    After finding your shelter, thoroughly dust yourself off and discard the clothing and items you wore previously. Also, as Brain pointed out, you should attempt to wash your skin with water, preferably warm and soapy. These items might contain radioactive particles, and carrying them around is just begging for contamination. Fallout usually comes down in the form of ash and dust, giving the appearance that it is snowing. Remember that once you decontaminate yourself, leave the area and find a new shelter, perhaps in a different room or floor. You have tracked contamination in and want to avoid that as much as possible.

    There are no surefire preventive measures that can be taken to prevent dying in a nuclear attack. There are too many factors to cover. However, with these preventive measures you can limit the amount of radiological contamination you receive and greatly increases your chance of survival.

    Reacting to an attack* - No warning.

    Sources come from US Military, particularly Army, training and doctrine on surviving a nuclear detonation.

    Taliesin's Muse says "ps. if you have an airtight door, you haven't mentioned air supply, or scrubbers, O2 candles etc... Also, you need an effective faraday cage to protect against EMP - sandbags pretty useless. Had some other issues with your details, but those are the main ones."

    Well, the military has their soldiers bury their equipment to shield them from EMP, after removing power sources. I think I'll stick with that. Taliesin's Muse is right about the air scrubbers and so on, but this is a practical list for the everyday person, not the guide to surviving a Nuclear Attack. ps. Thanks for the typo corrections, I'm a horrible editor.

    Also PS, if I miss something please let me know, as T_M did. I'm just relaying the information that I've been taught, which is the same information I give to my fellow soldiers that I live with and fight beside. They trust me with their lives in this respect, so I tend to take NBC related material very seriously, as my MOS requires.

    Refer to sievert for lethal radiation doses.

    Thanks to vuo and Brain for some excellent points they raised.

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