Preparing for Nuclear War

In the latest episode of the All American Podcast we ask the question – is the U.S. going to war with Russia over Ukraine? We urge you to listen to that podcast episode and while we will not repeat the content of that podcast here we will let you know that we think a conflict of between these two superpowers is a possibility and if it does occur, it could easily go nuclear particularly if Russia feels that its people or territory will be lost to a coalition of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries. Russia is intent on protecting its ethnic majority in southeastern Ukraine and Crimea, with its Russian population and critical military installations. Let’s hope that cooler heads on both sides prevail but in case they don’t we think it is prudent to prepare and prepare before everyone catches on to the idea and shortages of critical supplies rapidly emerge.

A nuclear war is more survival than people think – unless they are at or near ground zero where a detonation occurs – so there are some things everyone should look to do in preparation for such a conflict.

The first thing to do is identify potential nuclear targets in your area. These include important military installations (like Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota; and Naval Station Norfolk, Norfolk, Virginia); spy agency locations (like the Central Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, and National Security Agency) and their assets scattered across the country; critical infrastructure like nuclear power plants and hydroelectric facilities; as well as munitions manufacturers and military supply arsenals and depots.  If you have any of these targets in your area you’ll need to know how close they are to you and plan multiple escape routes to get away from them in case of war. If you’re near any of these facilities you’ll want to seriously consider relocating or “bugging out” when a war with a nuclear power begins or, if you survive a first strike, have a way to move out of the fall out zone after that strike occurs. This can be done so don’t let people tell you it can’t be.

Find your location on a map and look to see if you have any of the targets listed above within 15 miles of you. If you do, start looking for egress routes that lead to areas with low population density, readily available water sources and that are away from expected radioactive fallout.  How do you determine if targets are near you and what the fallout zones are?  For starters, go to any number of online map services to identify the likely targets we’ve described and their proximity to your home. Then, go to and type the name of your city into the search box and hit the “Go” button. Next, you’ll enter the type of warhead being used by the enemy and since most people are unfamiliar with warheads you can select from a pulldown menu that identifies various types of warheads used by China, Russia and North Korea, for example. For your first exercise, try using the Topol SS-25 warhead used by Russia.

Next, you’ll get to choose whether the warhead is an airburst (meaning it is detonated above the grounds) or surface burst (meaning it is detonated at ground level) type. You’ll want to try both scenarios out since airburst will do greater impact damage over a broader geographic area but will have almost no fallout compared to a surface burst warhead. This is because surface burst warheads have much of their energy transferred into the earth’s surface while lifting untold quantities of radioactive dirt, dust and other materials high into the air with the mushroom cloud they create – and this is where you get radioactive fallout that gets carried out even further by the wind, causing what later looks like snow to fall in a phenomenon called a “nuclear winter”. This is one of the things you need to be most concerned about if you survive the initial blast and accompanying fireball and shockwave. To track the fallout on Nukemap, make sure you click the box called “Radioactive fallout”.

After you’ve done these things, click the “Detonate” button to see the damage and proximity to your home or bugout location. With the surface burst warhead you’ll want to zoom out on the map to see just how far the fallout is predicted to travel. Nukemap is an incredible tool for planning your family’s response to a nuclear attack on a target near you. A Topol ground burst attack in the center of Washington, D.C., for example, would have a fireball that would engulf the entire downtown and capitol complex while doing extensive damage to nearly the entire city.  The radioactive fallout, however, is projected to carry along the wind in a northeast direction as far north as Yonkers, New York with the heaviest fallout to occur between Baltimore, Maryland and Wilmington, Delaware. If you live near Washington, D.C., will tell you that running for the hills in northeast Maryland would be a pretty bad decision. It will also tell you, however, that if you live in Springfield, Virginia, just 14 miles away by car, you’ll probably survive this particular attack.

So how does one prepare his family for such an event, beyond knowing the nuclear targets in his area and plotting an egress to safe zones? We first suggest that you review our ideas for how your automobile should be prepared and ready to go at a moment’s notice. We provided this advice in our blog article entitled: Bug Out Load-Out for Your Car. Take another look at this article to see how your vehicle needs to be prepared for an emergency evacuation. If you have a location already you’ll want it to be fairly remote, secure and well stocked with emergency food, medical and hygiene provisions as well as fuel for heating, cooking and light. You’ll also want any supplies you plan on taking with you predetermined and hopefully prepacked so you can just grab whatever box, bin or bag they’re in, hit the car and get out of town. A word to the wise, however. You’ll want to map out at least a couple of different routes to your retreat because the freeways and highways may be obstructed with traffic jams or debris. Having a backroads egress to your retreat is advisable.

If for any reason you decide you need to stay in place and not evacuate then you need to be sure you are safe from any blast or fallout. Of course being too close to a blast means you won’t survive but if you only need to worry about the lesser effects of the blast because you are far enough away from ground zero that you won’t experience the worst of it, you need to have a shelter. Your shelter can be a specialized one built and installed by an experienced shelter builder or it can be as something as simple as your basement wherein you place large tables and stack multiple things on top of those tables like books, clothes, or other furniture like bookcases, mattresses and plastic sheets. Don’t forget to have some potable water in sealed containers as well as food, hygiene items and a bucket for human waste in your shelter. All of this, of course, is something you’d want to set up ahead of any potential nuclear war and you’d be surprised how much you can insulate yourself from low level fallout by using strategies like this.

If you are in one of these areas that is not expected to get fallout or will receive very low levels of fallout you may be fine sheltering in place as stated above and it may be possible to come outside after three days or so when radiation levels are not significant enough to cause you harm. How do you know if the levels are safe? By investing in a good Geiger counter. Good ones cost a bit of money right now but they are worth the purchase. How else will you know if it’s safe? After all, you can’t smell, taste or touch radiation. That means you’ll have to test for it with specialized equipment.

Whether you’re able to come outside or not, as soon as possible you’ll need to start popping potassium iodide tablets to ensure you protect your thyroid gland from radiation.  When a nuclear explosion is set off, radioactive iodine is taken up by your thyroid gland potentially leading to thyroid cancer, among other problems.  Potassium iodide is designed to saturate your thyroid gland with safe iodine – which your thyroid needs in order to function properly – so that the radioactive form does not get taken up by the gland. This is critically important so stock up on enough potassium iodide to protect your family It isn’t that expensive and it is widely available now. If you wait until a war breaks out you are guaranteed to see prices skyrocket and availability disappear just as happened when the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan exploded as a result of a devastating tsunami in March 2011.

If you can afford to get radiological protective gear as well as a mask and filtration system we suggest you get it as soon as possible. These suits, known as MOPP (Mission Oriented Protective Posture) gear to the military, can go a long way towards protecting you from fallout as well. Gear like this is sold online and a complete suit that will cover you from head to toe, including a high quality NATO mask and filters, can be purchased for $300 to $600.

In any case, whatever you do to prepare your family for the possibility of nuclear war, you must remember one thing. If you ever see a very bright flash of light that washes out your environment, the first thing you need to do is hit the ground and cover your head to protect yourself from flying glass and other debris – and do not look at the light which can permanently blind you. We know the action of dropping to the ground and covering one’s head is effective because it saved many lives in Japan when the United States dropped atom bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Many people may mock this tactic, thinking a nuclear attack is not survivable, but it actually worked and these conflicts can be survivable as long as you take the required action and have the will to survive. Take the steps in this article to prepare. Do you really want to risk it?

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