Nuclear 101: Survival

NOTE: If you had problems getting to the site, thank you for persevering and I will simply state that my hosting provider, Dreamhost, sucks. If I had the time and money I’d switch immediately at this point. Don’t, so can’t, but suggestions on good hosting providers most welcome. Given that I usually have a short time in which to write these posts, if the occasional typo/autocorrect error makes you meltdown, you might want to skip. These posts are high-level overviews, and if you want to discuss details, special cases, one-offs, etc. feel free but keep it civil and don’t pretend non-inclusion is a world-ending mistake to give yourself ego-boo. For all those (the majority of you) making good, solid, and thoughtful comments: THANK YOU! Such are very much appreciated.

First and foremost, yes humanity CAN survive a nuclear war. Is it possible to destroy all life on earth via nuclear war? Theoretically, yes, but it would take enough work and planning that there are good odds the insane people behind such an effort would be detected and hopefully dealt with early on. The same applies for any effort to wipe out humanity.

A current full-level exchange will do tremendous damage to the world, its ecosystems, and reduce human population, possibly even significantly via the loss of major cities. That said, if humans survive in sufficient numbers, we will find ways to thrive and bounce back, it’s the nature of the beast.

While the best way to survive is to not live near a target, it’s not a valid option for many people. I will admit that in my efforts to move out West for my health, one of the factors I’ve used in deciding on location has included not being near any primary, secondary, or even tertiary targets. Until then, however, I do live in a target city: Indianapolis. I strongly suspect it is a secondary target based on the old Soviet doctrine to take out state capitals, and as such it would be a bomber and not a missile target. Let’s run with that as a base assumption.

First, let me say I sincerely hope the Russians have updated their targeting packages as back a few years/decades ago, in addition to the capitol complex they would have targeted the Ford and GM plants, Western Electric (which actually had a bomb shelter under it), and possibly a few other facilities. Given bureaucratic inertia, I would be unsurprised (though extremely briefly disappointed) to find out that the targeting packages had not been changed and the Russians were bombing empty fields and possibly a strip mall.

Manufacturing is no longer the target driver for Indianapolis. Aside from the state government, the largest player is logistics, followed by data/management activities and biomedical research. The Indianapolis International Airport is one of the largest air cargo operations in the U.S. and slated to continue growing as the planned major expansion hub for FedEx. While there is a large amount of rail cargo as well, four interstates and several state highways brings in a staggering amount of truck-hauled cargo each day.

For purposes of our discussion today, let’s limit things to a single 1-megaton device detonated over the state capital. What damage would it do? Check out this entry in Britannica and this page at McGill University for some answers.

Such a blast would not only take out the state government complex, it would also destroy much of the data/management and biomedical research that is concentrated in the downtown area, close those four major interstates, damage if not destroy the airport and prevent operations, and take out a good bit of warehousing and logistics operations.

For me, where I live in a basement room, I am outside the circles for immediate destruction and while the building will likely take damage it should not be destroyed in the immediate blast wave and overpressure. Where things are very iffy is with the thermal effects including firestorm moving out from the area of the explosion. Depending on a number of factors, I’m either toast or I’m fine given distance and location. Let’s go with the fine, and get into what I do to stay fine.

To be honest, as this is a secondary target, if I have a working vehicle I will have packed as much essentials as I have and be long gone given any warning. I have places I can go, friends I can visit, etc. But, let’s say there’s no warning. What do I do?

First up after the blast, I’m checking the building out and determining how long I can stay in said building. I’m also checking to be sure nothing is trying to start a fire or otherwise create a major hazard. There is a very brief period between a blast and when fallout truly starts to come down. Make the most of that very limited time. Even in that time, I’m covering my mouth and nose with a mask, or two- to three-layers of tightly woven t-shirt. The latter is NOT ideal, but works well enough in an emergency.

Many years back, I had some interesting talks with a group at Ft. McPherson about some possible consulting work exploring the use of everyday items in a response to a nuclear exchange. Yes, bunkers, MOPP, etc. may be ideal but are not realistic for the vast majority of people. So, we were going to look at how to improvise good responses. Sadly, that did not take off as new administrations have different priorities. Doesn’t mean I can’t suggest a couple of out-of-the-box ideas here.

Now, the fact is that I, like thousands of others, are going to have to leave because we are on that nasty edge. However, for a number of reasons, it’s going to be best to wait a few days if possible so as to minimize fallout exposure. So, once I secure the structure of the building (and, yes, you should also be prepared to provide security), I’m going to cover the windows to the basement as best I can if not already take care of before the blast. Then, I’m going to shift bookcases and other items in my room to enclose an area as close to the center of the structure as possible. Why the bookcases? Books make great radiation shielding. I’m going to steal some wood pallets from my landlord to create a raised area, then seal that area with plastic including over the pallets. I’m also creating an “air lock” for getting in and out of the area. Tightly woven sheets go over the plastic, providing extra filtration. Put pillows and such down, and you have a nice secure area as a base. Bring in some of your prep food, a 5-gallon bucket as an emergency toilet, and you are in about the best shape you can be at that point.

If I don’t have a keychain detector, dosimeter, or other manufactured device, I check my Kearny Fallout Meter I built when things started to go south. Build it, or buy the other stuff in advance, as after the bombs go off it’s a bit late… If all is good, or at least good enough, and I have enough extra plastic, I’m going to cover the larger room as much as possible. If I’ve planned really, really well, I should have enough stuff left to create a small decontamination area outside the room. If not, one improvises and yes, I do have plans for that as well. As I can, I’m going to help those around me that are wanting to survive and willing to work.

Once I’ve done what I can to create a safe zone, taken care of others as warranted, and done as much advanced prep work as I can, I’m going to hunker down in my inner shelter and wait things out. Presuming no emergencies or the need to defend the site, sit, wait, and see if the emergency radio I tucked away a while back works and if so, if anyone is broadcasting and hopefully providing useful information. If not, I’m going to keep an ear out for military vehicles or any form of announcements being made by people.

Let’s presume no evacuation effort happens, no major problems crop up, etc. After two-three days, or if the Kearny meter says it’s good, I’m going to have to leave. The structure is damaged, power is out which means nasty radioactive flooding if it rains, and a probably degrading security situation. During my wait, I’ve made my preparations to depart. My largest backpack is filled with food, first aid, defensive means, survival gear, etc. I’ve turned the wheelbarrow into a covered means of transport and it has water, food, and other needful things already in it ready to go. Every water bladder, bottle, etc. integral to my gear is filled. I have my medicines and such in the backpack, it’s time.

I’m dressed in layers, and over it all I have my oilskin coat (or duster depending on some issues) and my poncho over that. I’ve rigged a plastic cover over my waterproof hat to help keep dust away from my face. I’m masked up, gloved up, and covered up as completely as I can be. At first light I take off and begin to head out using tertiary roads as much as possible as main roads are likely to be impassible. Where am I headed? In real life, not saying.

In this scenario, I plan to head south then west and try to find transport. Heading this way should put me on a course away from major fallout and radiation. Just to be safe, I frequently check the fallout meter. As for all the waterproof outer layers? Makes decontamination a lot easier and keeps the fallout away from you.

Now, if I were further out from the blast, and was clear of the major fallout path, my preference would be to hunker down and shelter in place. If you have made sufficient advance preparations, and are in a good location, it really would be the best choice. The less you have to go outside, especially at first, the better. Be prepared to deal with refugees and guide them onwards towards help. Be prepared for other issues at need.

Also keep in mind that general emergency preparedness, or preparedness for inflation and food issues, is the same basic preparedness you need for a nuclear situation. The only difference is that you should add in detection gear and gear to help you deal with the fallout. Also, have the means for you and each member of your family/group to transport as much of that material as possible if/when you have to leave. Wagons, carts, wheelbarrows and other delights can be used for other things until needed for emergency use.

If you are interested in preparedness, start here on page 3 of my preparedness posts and work your way forward. Just remember that while the number and type of disasters can approach infinity, there are only a few types of damage and that makes preparation relatively easy.

Again, this is a high-level overview and I’m not getting into a lot of detail. If there is interest in that, let me know and I can look at doing some posts that drill down a bit and explore things in more detail. Also, as I noted the other day, find a copy of Dean Ing’s Pulling Through and buy it! That and Alas Babylon are two excellent books to have on hand. Meantime, the thing to keep in mind is that even near a target, with prior planning (and a bit of luck) it is possible to survive a nuclear blast or war. How well and for how long are up to you to a surprising degree.

Some Previous Posts:

Vladimir And The Ukraine

Answers, Ramblings, And A Bit More On Vladimir And The Ukraine

Your Must Read For The Day On Russia

The Puzzles In Play, And The Missing Pieces

Quick Thoughts On Ukraine/Putin

The Thing Behind The Curtain

Missing Pieces And Surprise Pieces

Thursday Update

Not A Lot To Add


Monday Update

Burn Notice

Accuracy, Reliability, And More

Putin, Trump, And The Coming Storm

Three Futures For Russia

Quick Thoughts

Saturday Update

Mismatched Locomotives

War, Ag, Demographics, And The Worst Is Yet To Come

Past, Present, And A Hungry Future

Huge Grain Of Salt

The Moskva

Retribution Inbound

Uncertainty And Preparation

Honest Question

Monday Morning Quick Brief

War Of The Memes

A Little Free Ice Cream

Rumors Of War

Three Times Is…

If It’s Wednesday, This Must Be Moldova

Going Nuclear

How To Spy On The Russians

Here’s Hoping I’m Wrong

Pins And Needles Time

Mock Away

Intel Wars

The Revenge Of HUMINT

A Funny Thing Happened

Rumors of Rumors

Ukraine, Uvalde, Oh My

Very Interesting

A Quick Russia/Ukraine Update



Hmmmm Follow-Up

Ukraine/Russia Tidbit

If You Think


Nuclear War Posts In Order:

Nuclear What?

Nuclear 101: Weapons

Nuclear 101: Delivery

Nuclear 101: Now What?

Nuclear 101: Targeting

Nuclear 101: Scenarios


If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, feel free to hit the tip jar in the upper right or the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo. Getting hit by lightning is not fun, and it is thanks to your help and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.