How to Survive a Nuclear Disaster

With the advent of nuclear technologies – the threat to everyone is unfortunately very real. If you are truly going to prepare for the nuclear threat, you must understand all the possible outcomes to be best prepared. 

When you hear the words nuclear disaster, most people start thinking about a nuclear strike from a foreign country.

However, the threat of a nuclear disaster is much more than just nuclear weapons and war. In fact, you could have a serious nuclear threat right in your backyard.

If that’s the case, you need to know how to react and what you need on hand to stay alive through the radiation and fallout.

Top 3 Known Threats of Nuclear Disaster

1) Nuclear Power Plants

There are nearly a hundred active nuclear power plants in our nation. These power plants supply millions of Americans with power each day and they are simply benign in the landscape and in how they affect our daily lives.

However, the greatest nuclear disasters of the 21st century did not happen on the battlefield.

Rather, they happened at a nuclear powerplant in Japan (Fukushima in 2011), and of course Chernobyl in 1986. Both are catastrophic nuclear accidents that have left irreparable damage to their surrounding areas. 

Source: Wikipedia

Experts estimate it will take 20,000 years before the 19-mile radius around Chernobyl is safe for habitation by humans.

2) Terrorists

While the threat of terrorists is very real, their current capacity seems to be limited to things like guns and trucks. Do you think it will be that way forever? Sad to say, but the day may come when we see an American city attacked by a dirty bomb.

The dirty bomb is an explosive device that contains radioactive material and is used to spread that radiation over a small area. It pales in comparison to the destruction and affect of a nuclear bomb but in a small crowded area the dirty bomb can do plenty of damage.

The time may come when terrorists figure out how to incorporate nuclear capabilities into their arsenal, so take note.

3) War

Of course, we are still facing the threat of nuclear war. Even after all these years and the understanding that an all-out nuclear war could mean the end of humanity. Its hard not to envision a future war where both sides are pushed to the brink and start lobbing nukes at one another.

Whether we are facing the growing contingent of radical dictatorial leaders or some other nation state, nuclear war is far from a thing of the past.

How Far Reaching is Nuclear Fallout?

We all need to get real when it comes to the conversation of radioactive fallout. While it can be very dangerous, fallout itself requires the right conditions. Of the various nuclear threats we face only one version is going to produce a large cloud of nuclear fallout.

According to Dave Jones, a long-time military man and expert in the field, a surface detonated nuclear bomb is the only tool that is going to send that plume of radiated material high enough into the sky that it will rain down for miles.

Dave also mentions that the most likely form of detonation in a large city, in America, would be in a delivery truck at ground level. So, there is validity in being prepared for fallout depending on how far from a city you might be.

One of the best ways for a civilian to understand the affect or radioactive fallout on their town is to use NUKEMAP. This is a free service that allows you to simulate a detonation of powerful nuclear weapons across a map of your area.

Aside from offering up information on immediate damage it also shows the full scope and direction of radioactive fallout. You can detonate powerful weapons in the most populated city or army base in your area and see if the fallout reaches your home. You may be out of range of this threat altogether.

What Happens if you are Exposed to Nuclear Fallout?

As bad as nuclear fallout sounds, you may be surprised at the simple methods that can be used to mitigate the risk and exposure.

If you find yourself exposed to nuclear fallout (ash, rain, radiation, etc.) – it can be managed by simply removing your clothes and leaving them outside or in a rubber made container and promptly taking a soapy shower. Doing this with a protective respirator on will assure the fallout doesn’t get inside the body.

Once you have been washed off you are free of the debris that has been touched by the radiation. Thus, the radioactive fallout is gone. Only when you are trapped outside in the fallout does it really become an issue.

Symptoms of Radiation Sickness

If you or someone you love has been affected by nuclear fallout you should know how to identify the symptoms. You are going to be feeling a lot of things in a nuclear disaster. Feeling sick from stress, emotional drain and downright terror could all make you feel like sick.

Source: Wikipedia

This is a list of symptoms attributed to radiation sickness.

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Ringing in your ears
  • Frequent colds or increased infections
  • Unexplained bleeding or small red spots on your skin
  • Fever or burns
  • Headache or confusion
  • Nausea, vomiting, or bloody diarrhea

Setting up a Radiation Shelter In your Home

SWhile you might think that the only way to survive the effects of nuclear fallout is buried deep in an emergency shelter, you are wrong. In fact, every American is completely capable of setting up their own in-home fallout shelter and waiting out the radiation.

Just to be clear I am talking about surviving nuclear fallout not a nuclear blast. If you find yourself in the blast area, unfortunately there is nothing you can do to survive.

Beyond the blast radius, radiation from a blast will not last forever. Contrary to popular belief. In fact, levels can seriously decrease in a matter of hours. Check out FEMA’s guidelines on the 7:10 rule.

The 7:10 Rule of Thumb states that for every 7-fold increase in time after detonation, there is a 10-fold decrease in the exposure rate. In other words, when the amount of time is multiplied by 7, the exposure rate is divided by 10. For example, let’s say that 2 hours after detonation the exposure rate is 400 R/hr. After 14 hours, the exposure rate will be 1/10 as much, or 40 R/hr.

As you can see radiation will decrease over time, but you need to be insulated from it during the decrease period. The best way to do this is to think about insulation. Things like mattresses, cushions, and thick blankets can provide you with this insulation. Even plastic sheeting taped along doors, windows, and any other opening to the outside will provide substantial protection.

You will want to find a location near the core of your home, away from windows and air flow from the outside world. Here you can create an insulated shelter in a closet or hallway that will put the maximum distance between yourself and the fallout outside.

Into this shelter you should bring things like food, water, entertainment and an emergency radio. As you can see, you might be holed up in there for a while to avoid as much radiation as possible!

So be prepared for that. Listen to the radio so you can stay on top of radiation levels and how your area is being affected. These broadcasts will also tell you when its safe to go outside again.

Addressing Demands that Follow a Nuclear Disaster

A nuclear disaster is a very scary thought! Depending on the size and scope of nuclear disaster we could see a variety of failures in public service. These will have the biggest impacts on life after the disaster. If we see critical infrastructure like water treatment, power and waste management services disrupted you will quickly feel the effects.

Contrary to popular belief, a nuclear blast (assuming it is a single event) is much more manageable afterwards than other types of events. In situations like Chernobyl and Fukashima – radioactive waste is dumped for days at a time, or longer, in massive quantities.

Bombs and power plant disasters are two very different things. If you are in an area facing a meltdown of a power plant, you must leave immediately.  The condition of the land and water will be so bad, it is irrelevant.

However, if you find yourself managing fallout from a nuclear blast you should consider these 4 things to be best prepared.

Food and Water

You can count on your sealed food and water in a nuclear disaster (like these). They will be fine to eat and drink. Don’t grab food from your garden or water from your rain barrels. These will have nuclear particles on them for some time.

Backup Power

The effect on your local power grid is going to be substantial. Multiple city blocks will be obliterated. Don’t look for power to be back on for some time. The same can be said for WIFI signals. Be sure that you have other options like solar or a generator.


Unfortunately, in times of severe distress people may act in their own self interest and try to take things. Even a nuclear bomb won’t keep the bad people away. You need to have a means to secure that food, water and backup power.

I will let you decide how you plan to do that, but my first option is a 12-gauge shotgun deterrent.

First Aid

Emergency services are going to be busy, to say the least. The more self sufficient you can be when treating illness and injury the better off you will be. This doesn’t mean avoiding the proper care if you need it but just be prepared to be turned away and have another option. Consider reading this if you have a medical condition.

5 Nuclear Specific Preps

There are certain preps that really lend themselves to prepping for a nuclear disaster. Take a minute to explore these 5 below. You might find that you are more prepared for a situation like this than you thought.

1) Potassium Iodide Tablets (PI Tabs)

These tablets find a home in the nuclear disaster kits of most preppers. These small pills are used to saturate your thyroid which will keep your body from allowing radiation to spread throughout it. These tabs are cheap and are easy to get your hands on. They are not top-secret stuff anymore – be sure you have enough for your family and maybe some extra to spare. The benefits of these tablets are immeasurable immediately after a nuclear disaster.

2) Radiation Counters

A much larger investment than the PI Tabs a radiation counter or radiation measurement device is going to tell you exactly how much radiation is in the air. There will be no guessing here. While these are expensive preps, I think if you are near a nuclear power plant it might be worth having. You never know when you might need it.

3) Baking Soda

Baking soda or soap and water are the key to radiological decontamination. You know, its not like you need a secret serum to decontaminate yourself. You will need something to scrub your hair and body with. Baking soda is a pretty common prep and you are likely storing it already.

4) Respirator Masks

While fallout on the body can be washed away, fallout in the body is going to do serious damage. If you inhale micro fallout particles its going to affect your lungs first and your whole body over time. A quality respirator is a very important prep to have on hand in case of a nuclear disaster. Check out these respirators to add to your stash (link).

5) Eye Protection

Eyes are another area that can be affected by fallout. Maybe you rub your eyes with a sleeve and not understand what you are doing. This is very dangerous and will spread that material throughout your body, as well. Be sure to have something to cover your sensitive parts immediately after a nuclear event.

Make Sure you Are Ready NOW!

The threat of a nuclear disaster is more complex than most people think. Every radiological disaster is different. The most important takeaway is to understand what items you need to add to your inventory to assure you can respond to such a disaster.

The one thing that all nuclear disasters have in common is that they inflict serious damage either from blast radius, radiation or both. No matter what the situation, you must act in a nuclear disaster.

Having the knowledge and the right preps will help but in most instances of fallout and radiation you are going to fall back on two major skills. The first being patience. You can safely wait out radioactive fallout. That is the best move if you are on the outskirts of the disaster.

The other skill is going to be your evacuation or bugout skills. If you are too close to an area and the radiation is hazardous, well, you have no choice but to leave.

For those in the blast radius of a modern-day nuclear weapon, well, there aren’t really any preps that will help you. The best thing you can do is be prepared for the worst and hope and pray for the best!

The Simple Prepper