How to Survive a Nuclear Blast
As alarming as this sounds, the world reminds us that we are never free of mass destruction so long as nuclear bombs and weapons or threats exist.
At Survival Step, we want to provide you with the latest and most up to date information and preparedness steps in the event of a nuclear bomb emergency or explosion.
Are we any safer than we were decades ago?
Today’s nuclear bombs and weapons are many thousand times more powerful than those dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This means that those in imminent proximity and far away from the actual ground zero blast area may not stand a chance.
Recent events reminded us of how dangerous the world still is. North Korea launched a weaponized intercontinental ballistic missile capable of traveling 3,400 miles. This suggests North Korea, one of nine nations that amass 14,900 live nukes, could now strike Alaska! Tensions with Iran have also starting peculating again!
The US faces an additional shadowy survival threat such as a local terrorist-caused nuclear bomb explosion.
This is only one of 15 disaster scenarios that the federal government has outlined for preparedness.
Buddemeier couldn’t say how likely such an attack might be, but the concern isn’t unfounded since weapons-grade nuclear materials have increased over the years.
Is it possible to survive a nuclear bomb blast?
Yes, but you would likely need to be at least half-a-mile from the epicenter of the nuclear explosion.
“It’s what you do in the first 5 to 10 minutes after a bomb goes off that’s going to save your life,” radiation safety expert Andy Karam told Inside Edition.
If you can get inside and put 20 to 30 feet between you and the nuclear fallout, the distance will keep you safe.
Should a nuclear blast or explosion and threat occur near your city and you somehow avoided the searing flash of light, crushing shockwaves, and incendiary fireball, take shelter quickly.
How would a nuclear attack or war affect humans?
The effects of larger thermonuclear weapons explosions can produce a blast and thermal effects so large that there would be a negligible number of survivors close enough to the center of the blast.
The medical effects of the atomic bomb explosion on Hiroshima upon humans can be put into the four categories below:
- Initial stage—the first 1–9 weeks. In which are the greatest number of deaths, with 90% due to thermal injury and/or blast effects and 10% due to super-lethal radiation exposure.
- Intermediate stage—from 10–12 weeks. The deaths in this period are from ionizing radiation in the median lethal range – LD50
- Late period—lasting from 13–20 weeks. This period has an improvement in survivors’ condition.
- Delayed period—from 20+ weeks. Characterized by numerous complications, mostly related to healing of thermal and mechanical injuries, and if the individual was exposed to a few hundred to a thousand Millisieverts of radiation.
It is coupled with infertility, sub-fertility and blood disorders. Furthermore, ionizing radiation above a dose of around 50-100 Millisievert exposure has been shown to statistically begin increasing a person’s chance of dying of cancer and reduce surviving the nuclear explosion or blast.
Sometimes in your life beyond the normal unexposed rate of c. 25%, in the long term, a heightened rate of cancer, proportional to the dose received, would begin to be observed after c. 5+ years.
Can a nuclear blast or explosion blind you?
Those who look directly at the blast could experience eye damage ranging from temporary blindness to severe burns on the retina with lesser problems such as eye cataracts and other more minor effects in other organs and tissue also being observed over the long term.
Experts say the first thing survivors can do is find shelter as fast as possible
Those who survive the nuclear blast will be frenzied to escape or seek a hospital or shelter. Unless you need medical attention and the hospital is within 5 to 10 minutes away, you should seek a protective shelter that is a safe distance between you and the nuclear blast and 20 to 30 feet from any fallout.
It is always best to have an emergency escape plan mapped out for you and your family. Successfully existing such a situation means being prepared ahead of time and not waiting until the catastrophe is actually happening.
The most basic advice in order to survive a nuclear blast and attack is not to flee into the streets or drive away, but instead to seek shelter pretty close to where you are at the time.
The best option is to go as ar below ground and away from the roof and away from the direction of the blast. Once you find a safe area remove your exposed clothing as soon as possible and put them in a sealed plastic container.
The Japanese government moved quickly to handle and evacuate their people and to defend the food and water supply in Hiroshima. You may have from a few seconds to 15minutes to find a safety structure, depending on how close you are to the explosion.
Immediate and Long Term Effects of a Nuclear Blast or Explosion
A nuclear explosion or blast produces immediate destructive effects within seconds or minutes of a nuclear detonation from its impact. This supersized explosion causes instant damage within seconds or minutes in the form of thermal radiation and immediate ionizing radiation.
The impact blast zone of a nuclear bomb
If you are within the nuclear blast or explosion impact zone, such extremely dangerous radiation levels exist around the explosion which makes surviving impossible. Many would be disintegrated by the fireball of the explosion. Only cockroaches and similar insects may survive as they have been proven to be around since before man.
“We may not be able to do much about the nuclear blast or explosion based casualties, because you can’t change where you are at that time. But fallout casualties are entirely preventable,” he said. “In a large city … knowing what to do after an event like this can save hundreds of thousands of lives from radiation illness or fatalities.”
“National Planning Scenario No. 1 is a 10-kiloton detonation in a modern US city.” Brooke Buddemeier told Business Insider. “A 10-kiloton detonation is equivalent to 5,000 Oklahoma City bombings. Though we call it ‘low yield,’ it’s a pretty darn big explosion for any kind of survival.”
How do nukes explode?
The nuclear blast creates a chain reaction and that is what causes an atomic explosion.
When a uranium-235 atom absorbs a neutron and fissions into two new atoms, it releases three new neutrons and some binding energy. … This causes a nuclear chain reaction. For more on this topic, see Nuclear Fission.
What is the kill radius of a nuclear bomb?
Anyone within a few miles of the detonation will die very quickly. All one has to do is look at what happened to the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Death is highly likely and radiation poisoning is almost certain if one is caught in the open with no terrain or building masking effects within a radius of 0–3 km from a 1 megaton burst and the 50% chance of death from extends out to ~8 km from the same 1 megaton atmospheric
Radiation or Nuclear Fallout From Gamma Rays
If you survive the blast and heat itself, you have to also deal with the release of radiation which can be carried in the air.
Individuals near the blast site would also be exposed to high levels of radiation and could develop symptoms of radiation sickness (called acute radiation syndrome, or ARS). CDC-Nuclear Blast-
This is a fearsome aftereffect of nuclear bomb blasts and explosion waves also know as fallout, a complex mixture of fission products (or radioisotopes) created by splitting atoms.
Fission decay rapidly emits gamma wave radiation; an invisible yet highly energetic form of light. Too much exposure in a short time can damage the body’s cells and its ability to repair itself, leading to a condition called acute radiation syndrome.
Arguably the most severe effect is the ongoing and far-reaching environmental and life-threatening radioactive fallout wave that inflicts damage over an extended period of time on all living things. This radioactive fallout wave has damaging effects that can last for years.
How long does a nuclear bomb fallout last?
For the survivors of a nuclear bomb blast, this lingering radiation hazard could represent a grave threat for as long as 1 to 5 years after the attack. Predictions of the levels of radioactive fallout are difficult because of several factors. Radioactive Fallout | Effects of Nuclear Weapons | atomicarchive.com
“It also affects the immune system and ability to fight infections,” Buddemeier said. The dangerous fallout zone (dark purple) shrinks quickly, while the much less dangerous hot zone (faint purple) grows for about 24 hours before shrinking back. See picture color scale below:
Only very dense and thick materials, like several feet of dirt or thick lead, can stop gamma radiation emitted by the fallout.
“Your ability to know where the fallout’s gonna go, and outrun it is very unlikely,” he said, because it would blow by high-altitude winds “often booking along at 100 miles per hour.”
If you escape to a fallout shelter within minutes after a blast or migrating to a better one, you’ll want some things to get you through the next 24 to 48 hours when radioactive fallout exposure at the greatest risk.
Lethal doses of radioactive fallout would be present 10 miles out for at least a week
Assuming you find adequate shelter fast enough and far enough from the origin of the blast, you will also want to know which areas have the highest and most dangerous levels of radiation.
If you are beyond the lethal area (of approximately 10-mile radius) additional radioactive contamination fallout could go 500 miles or more beyond ground zero.
Any nuclear war explosion on the ground will (the actual fireball) create tons of radioactivity that gets sucked up into the classical mushroom-shaped cloud and quickly spreads across vast areas.
Outside of the first blast zone, the primary threat is going to be radiation energy. Assuming you find adequate shelter fast enough and are far enough from the origin of a nuclear explosion, you could survive the first blast.
People who are waiting to emerge from their shelter after a blast will want to know which areas have dangerous levels of energy. Where it may take half a day or more to attain, areas affected by radioactive fallout could increase up to 500 miles or more beyond ground zero.
Any nuclear explosion on the ground, or where an airburst was low enough that the fireball touched the ground, will create tons of radioactive materials that will be sucked up into the classical mushroom-shaped cloud to then be spread far downwind.
Nuclear fallout is the particles of matter in the air turned radioactive from the explosion
Gamma rays are invisible, and cannot be seen, smelt, or felt, even at very dangerous intensities. A nuclear weapon detonated in the air, called an air burst, produces less fallout than a comparable explosion near the ground.
The majority dosage from nuclear fallout is external exposure to gamma radiation from radionuclides on the ground.
Radioactive fallout may travel and settle in areas hundreds of miles from the explosion site. The longer fallout particles are airborne before reaching the ground. The heaviest particles normally fall closest to ground zero and the smallest of the particles, invisible to the naked eye, can travel thousands of miles and some of it will stay suspended for decades.
Why you should prepare to hunker down for 24-48 hours – preferably a fallout shelter
Fallout travels along at 100 mph, and even if you can make it to a freeway in your car, you should not be going anywhere because of dangerous exposure. Vehicles let outside air in through vents, etc.
Tip: Your number one best option is to stay inside and as below ground as possible. If you are close enough to a fallout shelter than you have the best chance to survive the initial wave.
After at least 24 to 48 hours after the blast, the lighter particles falling would have lost much of their high radiation. You should have an emergency supply to last through this time frame and possibly longer.
The 4 minimum items you should have in your survival kit or bag
You are also going to need to learn how to cook, and you are going to need to learn how to do it with basic elements, in order to successfully create a backlog of emergency food.
Tip: You should store enough food for at least a week, otherwise, it may be too dangerous to go out and search for food after an attack. The longer you can stay in your shelter, the better your chances of survival.
Make sure you have plenty of non-perishable food such as:
- Wheat and rice
- Canned food
- Dried food
- Freeze-dried food
You should also have can openers for any canned food, prepare a can opener. If you have dried food it will need warm water to render it edible. You may have to store a small compact stove to boil water for your dried and freeze-dried foods.
2- Water Supply and/or high-quality water filter
These essential items can be indispensable to your wellbeing and life in the case of a long-term disaster. You can only survive without water for just several days.
You should store an adequate amount for the long haul. In the case of a nuclear attack, everything in the area with a radius of several or more miles will be contaminated with heavy metals and chemicals, including all the water sources.
Purifying tablets can disable the chemicals, but these weren’t specifically tested for nuclear contamination. Still, if you are interested, we have an interesting page on water purification tablets. As long as you have at least one gallon a day, per person, you can store as much as you can and your shelter is capable of storing.
The Japanese government moved quickly to handle and evacuate the general public and to defend the food and water supply. You may only have from a few seconds to 10 minutes to find a safety structure, depending on how close you are to the explosion.
3- Radio and communications
Communication will be critical for survival. Another must-have survival item is a radio, ideally a hand-cranked radio with a USB charging port to power other devices and/or solar panels.
If you can incorporate or add a two-way radio, this will keep you in communication with others and may prove to be important to your survival.
Buddemeier says radios are important so you can receive emergency broadcasts and instructions. It’s one of the simplest ways to figure out where fallout has occurred and where to find the safest routes and exit zones are and try to avoid as much danger as possible.
Buddemeier prefers a two-way wave radio over a mobile phone because “sometimes cell towers may not work,” either by power outages, rushing wind, or the invisible effect called an electromagnetic pulse.
These pulses can disable electronics, and a ground detonation would mostly confine EMP to the blast damage zone, where you’d have much bigger problems.
Make sure your radio can also catch NOAA’s radio station and can tune in to emergency broadcasts, which transmit information 24/7.
Some models are better than others so, if you want to run a comparison between the best products, take a look at our reviews
4- First aid kit and medical supplies
Fourth, he says to grab essential medications you might need.
You can’t go far without some life-saving medications, pain-killers, allergy drugs, or any other special medications for conditions you or some of your family members have.
Prepare a first-aid kit and place all the necessary medications in a special water-proof plastic bag, preferably with a zipper (to keep water and moisture away).
Make sure these medications are newly bought since they have expiration dates. Change them as needed with new ones.
In your first-aid kit, keep also lots of adhesive tapes, bandages, sterilizing solutions and sprays, gloves, tweezers and scissors, warm blankets and even a thermometer (digital). Don’t forget to include an instruction guide on the most basic life-saving first-aid actions.
You can purchase a ready-made first-aid kit with the needed items in it. Most have an instruction guide, but if they don’t, purchase one yourself. We have a great step-by-step tutorial with reviews on how to choose the best first aid kit according to your needs so don’t forget to take a look.
Do you need to have potassium iodine (KI) pills?
“Most people seem to think of potassium iodide or KI pills as some type of anti-radiation drug. They are not,” “They are for preventing the uptake of radioiodine, which is one radionuclide out of thousands of radionuclides out there.”
Radioiodine is “probably like [0.2%] of the overall exposure that you may be facing if you’re outdoors.” He said that the pills are most helpful for addressing longer-term concerns like food-supply contamination.
The 11 Must-Have Emergency Survival Supplies Handy Per FEMA
It’s smart to have a family plan and basic emergency survival kit at home, work, and all vehicles.
The emergency-supply listed below, published by the US Federal Emergency Management Agency, aren’t only helpful to get through the aftermath of a nuclear blast, but also for weathering tornadoes, hurricanes, snowstorms, power outages, and other take-shelter emergency survival preparedness.
Have A bug out bag for your emergency supplies
A bug out bag Is an emergency survival bag filled with the essential survival gear that you would need to survive during a long-term or short-term disaster or many other situations?
“This isn’t just for the nuclear holocaust event,” Buddemeier said. “This is for general emergency survival preparedness.
If you don’t have a bug out bag or a full emergency-preparedness kit isn’t handy, Buddemeier recommends trying to quickly grab any survival items around, just as long as it wouldn’t delay taking shelter from fallout by more than a couple of minutes.
If you’re in a pinch, he said you should grab some basics while you run for cover from radioactive fallout.
Numerous preppers think about bugging out without having the right essentials that can save your life. Think about what items you must have to prevent you from drying? You should also have a map or a bug out location or a particular mark to meet family once it’s safe to do so.
FEMA recommends each of your kits have these essential items in a portable bag
- Water & Water Filter: 1 gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
- Food: at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food – more is better
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and an NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First-Aid kit (survival type kit preferred) and plastic sheeting and duct tape
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust and Hazzard Mask to help filter contaminated air
- Sanitary Materials (toilet’s, moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities and survival all-in-one tools
- Can Opener & Knife
- Local Maps
FEMA recommends beefing up your preparedness kit with these additional items:
- Prescription medications and glasses
- Infant formula and diapers
- Pet food and extra water for a pet
- Important family documents, such as copies of insurance policies, ID’s, and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container. 5.
- Cash or traveler’s checks and change
- Emergency first-aid books or information from Ready.gov
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate
- Complete change of clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and sturdy shoes. Consider extra clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate
- Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper (when diluted nine parts water to one part bleach), as a disinfectant. You can also use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented or color-safe bleaches, or those with added cleaners
- Fire extinguisher
- Matches in a waterproof container or better yet, waterproof lighter
- Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
- Mess kits, paper cups, plates, and plastic utensils, and paper towels
- Paper and pencil
- Books, games, puzzles, or other activities for children
You can access information about how to prepare for a variety of emergency scenarios at FEMA.