When a nuclear bomb goes off, the area around the blast zone is scorched and pulverised with a blinding flash of light and heat.
The pressure wave that erupts from the bomb flattens all buildings around it everything in a miles-wide radius immediately gets contaminated with deadly radioactive fallout.
But the good news is that nuclear attacks do not always mean immediate death. They can and have been survived in the past.
When the United States dropped the world’s first nuclear bomb on Hiroshima in Japan in 1945 nearly twice as many people survived the blast than were killed, though the aftermaths haunted them for years to come.
‘Ready’, the official US public campaign service for natural and man-made disasters, lists several steps needed to survive in such a nuclear catastophe.
What to do before the blast hits
Whether you anticipated the attack months in advance or only have minutes to spare before impending doom, being prepared is the key surviving the attack.
Essentials include as much non-perishable food and sealed water as you can muster, flashlights and first aid kits.
Your supplies should be able to last you for a minimum of two weeks.
It is crucial that you have access to a battery powered radio and enough batteries to last you a lifetime. Another great alternative is to invest in a hand-cracked radio unit.
Having a change of clothes at hand is advised if your clothes become contaminated with radioactive fallout.
Also find out if you will have a way to communicate with your closest family.
The key to surviving a nuclear attack is being prepared for the blast
Where to hide from the blast
According to Ready, there are three essentials: distance, shielding and time.
Stay away from damaged areas. Stay away from areas marked ‘radiation hazard’ or ‘HAZMAT.’
Ready, US public campaign service for disasters
The more distance between the blast zone and yourself, the higher your chance of survival.
Ideally you should be on the lookout for underground areas such home or office basements, or official blast shelters designed for this purpose.
Buildings made out of thick materials like concrete or brick are ideal to shield from radiation. Avoid wooden structures unless you have no other choice.
Once you find safety in your fallout shelter, give yourself some time before you head out. Radiation drops in intensity quite quickly, but the first two weeks are the most deadly.
The best place to hide is in concrete basements or fallout shelters
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What do to during a nuclear blast
When you know that the blast is imminent, immediately seek shelter that will give you sufficient protection.
Stay alert for any official communications form authorities and do not risk evacuating unless instructed so. Right after the initial blast, radiation is the most deadly killer.
If you find yourself caught outside during an attack, duck for cover and lie down flat on the ground.
Keep your eyes closed and do not look at the fireball – it could blind you.
Once the blast is over, look for a shelter where you can scrub yourself clean under running water with soap to remove any radioactive particles.
You should dispose of you clothes in a sealed plastic bag to keep away any dust that settled on them. Bear in mind that radioactive dust can travel for hundreds of miles.
Once the attack is over, it could take weeks for the radioactive fallout to dissipate
What to do after the blast
Most people will be able to leave their shelters within days of the attack if authorities deem it safe enough.
However areas affected with the heaviest fallout could stay quarantined for up to a month.
If you plan to return home, keep listening for radio and TV broadcasts about where to go and which places to avoid.
Ready warns: “Stay away from damaged areas. Stay away from areas marked ‘radiation hazard’ or ‘HAZMAT.’”
If necessary, seek professional medical help.
If there is any.
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