Preparing for a Nuclear Attack: Some Background

This is the first in a series of posts that will go over preparation for a Nuclear Attack.

gz_thmbWhy a series on Nuclear Prep?

Some of you might be up on this stuff but for the most part, when the Cold War went away so did major fear of nukes and as far as I know, a LOT of the information about a potential nuclear attack and how to prep for it and survive it was forgotten. It seems that a lot of people are almost too scared to actually confront the possibility, better to bury their head in the sand and pretend it just won’t happen than to study it and learn how to be prepared for it.

I’ve only recently (in the last 6 months or so) really come to the realization that I was clueless about a nuclear attack and really had no idea what to do in the event of one. In my attempts to learn about it and to come to a clear understanding of what needed to be done to be ready, the most significant thing I learned was that it’s really not that easy to get clear answers on this. The reason for this (i think) is that the preps you should make for a nuclear attack vary greatly depending on your location and situation. Your proximity to a high potential target for example greatly dictates what your response plan should be, what your sheltering plan should be and what your proactive protection preparation should be. All the books on this subject try to cover all these areas and it becomes rather confusing – in fact I may still be confused about some things.

My research has centered around preps based on my proximity to a potential target, which is pretty far since I live out in the country. City slickers will have very different requirements than I do. To the point that, if you live in a major city like Los Angeles, San Francisco, or New York your first prep should be to move cause otherwise you really don’t have a very good chance of survival – you’ll be reliant on getting a maximum amount of warning (20-30 minutes) to provide you with an opportunity to respond and shelter. While I’ll cover some aspects of what to do in other situations, this series will focus mostly on surviving a nuclear attack outside the proximity of the initial blast zone.

Dangers of a Nuclear Attack

I’m sure there was a collective ‘duh’ over the title of this section! The bottom line though is that if you are not in the proximity of the initial blast then the danger to you isn’t the actual explosion – it’s what happens AFTER the explosion.

Initial Blast Zone

What is the ‘initial blast zone’? Most research I’ve seen is based on the expectation that the bomb is a 10-kiloton warhead with a ground800px-abombdamage1945svg burst – meaning it explodes on the ground rather than in the air. Given this scenario, the initial blast zone is a 1 mile radius from where the bomb is detonated. Within this radius you can expect almost total destruction lessening as you get farther from the detonation point. The actual blast will flatten buildings and everything else around. The radiation from the explosion will burn up nearly everything within the zone. The only real chance of survival from deep within this zone is to be in a hardened underground shelter – and you’ll be there for a very long time.

Secondary Effected Zone

This zone extends in about a 12 mile radius from the Initial Detonation. Within this area there will be destruction from thrown material from the Blast Zone and extensive radiation from the detonation. This area will also be thickly covered with radioactive fallout within minutes of the Initial Detonation.

Outside of the initial blast zone the Primary Threat is going to be exposure to radiation. This will probably not be enough to kill you right away – the real danger is being exposed to enough radiation that it will slowly kill you over a couple days or weeks. Further out, the danger is being exposed to enough radiation that over time you will develop major cancers that will kill you over several months. To survive this, you must be in a radiation safe shelter when the bomb explodes.


Fallout is the danger to the rest of us. That huge mushroom cloud that we all know is associated with a nuclear detonation is the result of the explosion, it is all the dust and debris being blasted up into the air – completely radiated. This fallout, once airborne, can travel long distances before settling to the ground. Think of it as ash from a fire that is blown around in the air. As it settles on the ground it continues to be radioactive, potentially contaminating whatever it has come in contact with. The half-life of this radioactive fallout is anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks. That is, within 3 days to 3 weeks the radiation will have dissipated enough that it is ‘safe’ to venture out for short periods of time. During the fallout danger period, it is imperative that you remain in a fallout-safe shelter and that you take radiation meds (all this will be covered in detail later).

Disruption of Services

It is extremely likely, and should be prepared for, that all typical services will cease to exist in a full-on Nuclear Attack. This means you will likely be without power, water, natural gas, phone, internet, cellular phones – and subsequently you will be without sewer, heat, cooling, and most communication. The likelihood of a restoration of these services within a reasonable amount of time is almost zero. It will be a fairly long time before these services are actually available again. All of this must be taken into consideration while prepping for this scenario.

EMP Blast

As if all that wasn’t bad enough, there is a very high likelihood of an EMP wave destroying anything electronic. An EMP wave is an Electro-Magnetic Pulse, a blast of energy that will not register for humans, we won’t really know it happened, but will completely destroy modern electronic circuits. It can be accomplished by detonation a Nuclear Bomb in the air, less effectively by a ground detonation. This means almost all computers, all vehicles less than 30 years old, all appliances with advanced electronic circuits will be completely disabled. This effectively cuts off any mobility and almost all communications.

The Danger from Others

If you’re able to smartly survive this incident, your initial survival may be hampered by attacks from others who were not informed or prepared. Roving gangs or even just individuals will be stripped to their basic survival mode – willing to do anything to provide for themselves and their families. You will potentially be subject to starving people who have been 3 or 4 days without food, wandering around searching houses looking for food and anything else. These people will also be very sick, allowing themselves to be exposed to radiation and radioactive fallout. Hopefully your sheltering plan allows you to create the illusion of abandonment and emptiness. And hopefully it allows you to set up to take a defensible position against any who break in and attempt to steal what you have – most likely by murdering you. My hope is that after 3 weeks when we re-emerge that most of these types have died – either from killing each other, sickness or starvation.


What all this means overall is that in the event of a full-scale Nuclear Attack, we will be knocked back to the 1830’s. There won’t be food in stores, we won’t have vehicles to get there anyway, we won’t have power or gas. Transportation and thus Shipping and thus Commerce as we know it will be gone completely. You will not be able to re-stock your supplies, if you don’t have supplies you won’t be able to get them in a civil way. If you are able to survive, many many people will be dead – either from the attack or from radiation poisoning, starvation, deprivation and so on. To survive this scenario is really fairly simple but specific – you must be able to shelter in a location that is stocked with food, water, medicine and weapons and is hardened against radiation.

In the next few posts, we’ll go over several scenarios and how to survive them. We’ll cover how simple it is to shelter against fallout, what medications you’ll need and where to get them. We’ll also go over how to convert your basement to a fallout shelter, what things to think through and what you need to get stored up in order to survive this. Most importantly we’ll go over how to make an action plan with your family in order to get everyone to safety in the event of a Nuclear Attack.

In the meantime, I highly recommend you watch the television series Jericho. While there are some issues with their presentation and portrayal of a Nuclear Event, they do a pretty good job of creating a potentially realistic scenario. There are lots of things you will learn from it and lots of things in the show will get you thinking. That link will take you to the CBS page where you can watch both seasons of Jericho in their entirety for free.

The next post in this series can be found here.

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