Kennedy and Wren’s 4-Step Guide to Surviving a Nuclear Attack
In our last installment of the 10 Flavors of the Apocalypse, I discussed nuclear attacks and why they are the most likely apocalyptic scenario in our lifetimes. Now for the good news: you can survive a nuclear attack with a little luck and the proper preparation.
Step 1: Survive.
As previously discussed, a Cold War-style nuclear attack is unlikely (and you can bet the Department of Defense has a plan in place for that). More difficult to plan for, and more likely, is a dirty bomb attack by terrorists. The upside of this is the weapon is likely to be smaller and a significantly smaller range.
However, this step is totally down to luck and depending on where you live can be easier said than done. For those of you in lower Manhattan and downtown DC things aren’t looking good. Anyone living outside a major city should be able to complete this step, which is quite possibly the only reason I’d consider moving to the suburbs.
Step 2: Shelter in place.
Assume an attack occurred in DC (for those interested, a preparation guide on this situation is available here). Those of you living in Baltimore and further north would have approx. two hours to prepare before the radioactive clouds reached you. While human instinct often signals “flight”, you want to undertake the opposite course of action. Why? Because everyone else in the area will be trying to get the hell out of there and the interstate will be a gridlock. More importantly, your car won’t protect you from radioactive fallout.
FEMA has put together a great map of the likely path of radioactive fallout, should a major US city be the target of a nuclear attack:
To protect yourself from the fallout, you will require a structure that fits one of the following specifications: 5 inches of steel, 16 inches of brick, 2 feet of packed earth, or 3 feet of water. Preferably you will have constructed an appropriate shelter to meet these conditions. If not, or if you are stuck away from home, you may have to get creative. While a subway tunnel (particularly under a river) would do quite nicely, keep in mind you may have to shelter for an extended period of time. I hope I won’t be stuck in a situation that involves getting cozy with the rats and other subterranean creatures.
Step 3: Don’t eat the food (or drink the water).
This is where your survival kit will come in extremely handy. Anyone remember the radioactive cows wandering around Japan after the Fukushima disaster? Be sure to have enough materials on hand to get you through a couple of days. Hopefully by that point the disaster relief system will be functioning and someone will swoop in to save you (but don’t count on in).
Step 4: Listen to the radio.
Or Internet or TV or other communication device that is still functioning. I recommend having several at your disposal – you never know whether you’ll be able to get a minute-by-minute update on a 24-hour talk radio station or be stuck relying on Twitter to find out about those outside. This will provide the best guidance on what to do should an attack occur. Please keep in mind that the points above are only guidelines and there may be situations in which the appropriate to response is to get as far away, as fast as possible.
And yes, this is probably one of those times where you should follow the government’s advice. Someone in the Department of Homeland Security has probably prepared for the situation in far more detail than you or I ever could.