Surviving in a Nuclear Attack

In 1991, the Berlin Wall came down, and that signaled the end of the Cold War. The real cause for celebration was that the whole world had lived under the threat of nuclear annihilation for half a century. And here we are now, in another Cold War with North Korea. The threat of nuclear war is amongst us yet again. From my point of view, there is very little we can do about the potential for nuclear war. But that doesn’t mean we can’t survive. Our survival will depend on us, not the government. So what can we do to survive a nuclear attack?

Location, Location, Location

To keep it simple, the farther you are from the center of the explosion, the better your chances are for survival. As powerful as these bombs are, they are limited. The blast that would come from a 500kt nuclear weapon will:

  • Destroy and kill just about everything within a 1.5 mile radius

  • Cause damage to commercial buildings, including fires, within a 5.8 mile radius


So, if you live a mile from the target, your chances of surviving are non-existent. When purchasing a home or starting a business, try looking six miles away from a potential target. Living six miles away, your chances of survival are very high.


If you are unsure whether or not you are near a potential target, try looking online. There are multiple maps, including interactive ones, on the internet.

Survival Preparation

Surviving a nuclear attack consists of two parts: surviving the blast and surviving the fallout. The best shelter to have for both parts would be underground. Your shelter should be close so you can get to it and enter quickly. You should also have it stocked enough to survive for at least a month. The effects of the blast will last just a few minutes, but the fallout can be an issue for a month. To protect yourself from radiation, you’ll have to stay in your shelter until you receive the “all clear” from the government.


I recommend preparing your shelter with:

  • Things to help stay warm

  • Sleeping bags or blankets

  • Some changes of clothing

  • Food

  • Water

  • Chemical toilet

  • First-aid supplies

  • A radio (with extra batteries if needed)

  • Flashlights (with extra batteries)

  • Something to keep you/your family entertained

  • Radiation dosimeter


Of course you can add any other prepping supplies you want, but these are absolute necessities for your shelter.

What to do in the Event of an Attack

A nuclear explosion puts out different types of energy, including particles and rays. They will probably get to your body before you actually grip what is happening. Most likely, you will need to reach your shelter in less than a minute. Which is not much time. If your shelter is in the basement, I’m sure you’ll make it. But if it’s a bit further, you’ll need to shelter wherever you are. Find a barrier. This can be a cement wall, rocks, trees, a hill, etc. You want to at least be blocked from items being thrown by the wind.

Shelter From Fallout

Let’s assume you’re not in your shelter when the bomb goes off, first you want to get to the shelter. You’ll have to stay there until you get the “all clear” from the government, which is why I recommend having a radio. Knowing the winds in your area will help you predict how bad your area will be hit by the fallout. Watch for symptoms of any illness in your family members, most likely there will be some type of military force out and about ready to help.

How to Deal with Radiation Sickness

In your first-aid kit, you should make sure you have potassium iodide. This can be used to prevent radiation sickness. It won’t treat or cure it, but it will help prevent it. Only take it if you need it. Here are some normal dosages:

  • 1 - 130mg tablet per day for adults, pregnant women, and women who are breastfeeding

  • 1 - 65mg tablet for children 3 years old to 18 years old

  • ½ - 65mg tablet for infants

  • ¼ - 65mg tablet for newborns up to one month of age

Pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding should definitely take potassium iodide if they can because it will help protect their babies.  

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