The ‘N’ Word

It’s the one word everyone hates to mention; Nuclear War.  The mother of worst case scenarios.  No matter how much prepping someone has done, no matter how much knowledge an individual has accrued, nothing can save him if he is in the wrong place at the wrong time when a nuclear attack occurs.  Even within a well-stocked bunker, no one could survive a direct hit from a nuclear blast.  Everyone in the immediate blast zone of a nuclear strike will simply be here one moment, and gone the next.  The severity of this very real threat has made speaking about a nuclear attack very difficult for many, both preppers and non-preppers alike.  We want to talk about how to best prepare for a nuclear strike, and what to do when you survive the initial blast of this ultimate disaster.

What To Expect During a Nuclear Attack?
Within a thousandth of a second of the detonation of a nuclear strike, a fireball would form, radiating instantly out to about 2 miles across, with temperatures reaching over 20 million degrees Fahrenheit.  In layman’s terms, this means hotter than the surface of the sun- and instant vaporization.  Winds exceeding 600 miles per hour would then level everything in its blast path out to about 4 miles in every direction.  The pressure from the blast at that distance would be greater than 25 lbs per square inch, crushing everything in its path  including shallow underground shelters.

As if that isn’t destructive enough, for approximately 6 miles in every direction the searing heat would be so intense that even sheet metal would melt.  For those as far as 10 miles out, the blast from the detonation would still be a formidable destructive force, as it would generate winds in excess of 200 miles per hour; 16 miles out, the heat would still be so great, that all flammable material would ignite, causing a horrific firestorm.  The temperature within this area would rise to approximately 1400 degrees Fahrenheit and all the oxygen would be completely consumed, leaving anyone in that area still alive, unable to breathe.


Likely Scenarios.
The worst case scenario would be no warning whatsoever.  The Government issues no warnings.  People in the blast zone simply never knew what hit them. For those far enough from the blast site to see the flash and feel the effects, there are a few seconds before the hurricane force winds rip through their location, flattening structures and blasting people with an unbearable heat wave.  For the majority of others who are quite far away from the blast site, there may actually be nothing to indicate anything has even happened.  It’s possible that there might not be any town sirens, emergency broadcasts, television news bulletins, or anything.  For those very far away from ground zero, (for arguments sake, 100+ miles) no bright flash would  be seen in the distance, nor loud sounds.  Perhaps a little shake underfoot. But this is very much dependent on the size of the payload.

Disruption to infrastructure would follow: Internet and cellular services.  Battery operated radios may all be transmitting pre-recorded automated emergency messages.  People would slowly come out of their homes and apartments querying the lack of internet and power outages.  The sky would seem eerily quiet.  No planes would be heard flying overhead.  Things would probably look quite peaceful.  Too peaceful.  Suddenly a neighbor might come running past saying that his friend down the street heard over his ham radio that there’s been a nuclear blast in the nearby city, some 300 miles upwind from where you are.  His friend’s wife was outside and saw the blast, and she has been blinded.  The flash lasted approximately 3 seconds, that’s all they know.  They can also see a mushroom cloud, still lingering over the horizon.  Everyone starts running around screaming, frantically trying to find their family members and figure out what to do.  The fact that most people have literally no relationship with their neighbors, only heightens the sense of lonesomeness and panic people feel.

But you and your family are prepared, and you have a plan. 

You have already done everything you can to be as far away from a major population center as possible to begin with.  You had the chance to move into a posh downtown high-rise, in the center of the hustle and bustle and enjoy the excitement of city living, or a not-so-posh place in a rural area, that needed a lot of work and came with a little land. Your survival instinct caused you to chose the later.  You also know the distance in exact miles from your home and places of work, so that if a nuclear flash ever appears on the horizon, you will know how far away you are.  This, along with how long the flash lasts, will help you to make the best decisions in the critical moments after the strike that will help you to survive.
You are already as far away from ground zero as you can be at the time of the strike.  You head underground, to put as much concrete/brick/soil between you and the outside as you can.  For those not at home, but at work, they head for a centrally located position inside the most center part of their building with as much material (again, concrete brick/soil) to surround themselves as possible, in order to protect themselves from that deadly radioactive fallout.

There are three kinds of radiation given off by nuclear fallout:  Alpha, Beta, and Gamma.

Alpha radiation is stopped by the outer skin layers. Beta radiation is more penetrating and this can cause burns if the unprotected skin is exposed to recent fallout particles for a prolonged period (such as over the course of a few hours).

Gamma radiation (or “Gamma Rays’) pose the greatest threat to life and are the most difficult to protect against.  This is because Gamma radiation can penetrate the entire body (like a strong x-ray) and can cause damage in one’s organs, blood, and even bones.  If too many cells are exposed to Gamma Radiation, the body can be damaged beyond it’s ability to recover.
You and your loved ones head for cover as soon as you become aware of a nuclear strike, knowing that seconds count when it comes to bracing yourselves for the impending shock wave, or blast wave that is coming.  You get indoors, behind shelter, a low ditch, whatever you can, and you cover your head and lay flat.  Being underground will be your best protection from the gale force winds and flying debris from the nuclear blast, but if you are caught in a field, then just go low, head down and cover your head.

After the shock wave passes, grab your bug out bag, and head to the safest place you can get to fast.  You and your family have already discussed and agreed upon the best shelter in your area.  You have approximately 30 minutes to get there. If your ‘first choice’ shelter is further away than that, then you are better off staying put in your ‘second best’ shelter, due to the fallout contamination you would suffer enroute to a further location.

If anyone in your family is too far away, it has already been determined that they are going to stay where they are, go deep, and hunker down for about two weeks.  Everyone in your family has been mentally prepared for this possibility, so that no one is going to panic if members of the family do not come together immediately.  Each member of your family keeps a bug out bag in their car, home or office, with at least a two-week supply of food, water, a change of clothing and potassium iodine tablets. (See suggested bug out bag items listed below). After a nuclear blast, no one should leave their shelters for at least 24 hours, but two weeks is a good rule. Radiation levels are the highest immediately following the blast, and reduce 80% after the first day. Obviously, the longer you are able to stay in your shelter, the far better off you will be.  If you positively need medical attention, assess the risks involved in leaving your shelter vs seeking help.  This is where common sense is going to come into play, as only you will be able to determine the best course of action for your particular situation, and how life-threatening your injuries are.
If you are caught outside during the blast, it’s imperative that you do not look at the blast.  This can cause major eye damage including permanent blindness.  As mentioned previously, get to shelter as fast as you can.  Once you are safe inside your shelter, it’s going to be very important that you remove all your contaminated clothes as soon as possible, then put them in a sealed bag or other container for immediate disposal, away from you and others.

Next, be sure to wash your body thoroughly with soap and water.  Do not scrub the skin hard, or scratch it, but wash very gently. Remember to wash your hair thoroughly as well, but do NOT use conditioner, as it may bind any radioactive particles to your hair.  Blow your nose, and make sure you wash as much exposed skin as you can- don’t leave anything out.  If you don’t have running water-which many won’t- use wet wipes, or a damp cloth with soap and water… anything you can find to try to get the radioactive particles off your body.  Do your very best with what you have, wherever you are.  Radiation cannot be seen or smelled, so it’s vital to get as clean as you can.  Once inside your wait out location, it’s recommended that you seal off as many vents and air ducts as possible, as well as window and door cracks, which may blow in radioactive particulates.
The odds of communication devices (like cell phones) working after a nuclear strike will be low- however HAM radios may be your best bet in trying to gain immediate intel from regular citizens.  For regular emergency radios, make sure you have extra batteries handy.  Faraday cages will most likely prove a good investment for those who had the foresight to keep some electronics and communication devices in one of those, and close to their shelter.  In the case of a warning of this event, those who unplugged their electronic devices and protected them may be able to get some to work.  Don’t assume your cars will work after a strike.  Most likely, wherever you need to go, you will be going on foot.
Eventually the Government will get communications back up and running, so be on the alert for information.  In the meantime, try to get as much information as you can from civilian sources as well.
Who Hit Us?
One thing to consider is the duration of the nuclear ‘flash’.  Knowing how many seconds the blast/flash lasts can help you determine how big the bomb is, and from where it originated.

If the flash lasts around 2-5 seconds, then you can assume it was a smaller nuke (20 KTs or less) which was likely the result of a rogue terrorist attack, and probably a lone, desperate detonation.

A blast lasting between 7 and 10 seconds could indicate an origin of N. Korea, Iran, or another Rouge State.

A flash of up to 10 seconds could be from a country which has the capability of such a larger Kilo Ton bomb, the likes of whom are France, the United States, United Kingdom, India, North Korea, and Pakistan. (NATO Members who belong to nuclear weapons sharing states include Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Turkey).   A bomb detonated by one of these countries may have a long-term goal of continued attacks, so be mentally prepared for more than one strike.

A blast duration between 10-20 seconds is definitely reason to be on the lookout for subsequent strikes, and a prolonged attack. These bombs could be the result of MERVs, (Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicles) which the Russians use, usually launched from submarines.  If the flash lasts 20 seconds or more, we are definitely looking into the Mega Ton range.  If the blast last up to 40 seconds, you could be safe to assume it’s Russia, or more likely China. Either way, 20 seconds of more, you are looking at all-out WWIII.  Be mentally prepared for a major pummeling from the air and ground, as well as a well-orchestrated ground invasion.
Following a nuclear attack, use common sense and reason to discern what’s best for you and your family.  Avoid government installations and camps where possible; little privacy, and very few comforts are afforded at those places.  Remember, a nuclear strike will almost certainly mean martial law, so know your enemy.

Heading out to your bug-out location, far from major population centers and large cities might just be your best bet- especially if that’s where you and your loved ones have decided ahead of time to reunite after an event such as this.  There is always safety in numbers, so trusted friends and family will most certainly be an asset during the aftermath of a chaotic event where food shortages, roving gangs, and lack of police protection may arise.   Once again, knowing how long the initial flash lasts can tell us quite a bit about what scenario we should most likely brace for, and the best course of action we should take. 
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