When Hawaii residents Saturday morning received this alert (later retracted):
the rest of the country asked themselves, “What would I have done if I received this alert?”
So I think we can all agree we’re unprepared. Some scoff by saying, “Well we wouldn’t survive anyway!” Actually, you can survive a nuclear attack. Here’s how…
It’s never too early to prepare
Firstly, know your shelters. There are two types:
Blast shelters offer some protection against the blast, heat, fire and initial radiation.
Fallout shelters offer some protection against the radiation from the fallout products.
Many public buildings in your city can act as fallout shelters. These may be schools, hotels, subway tunnels, or below ground pubs. However if your city doesn’t post or have either, you are more likely to be urged to “Shelter in Place”, which we’ll discuss later.
Secondly, make an “Emergency Kit” that has all your important papers, passports, medications, first aid, pet supplies, food and water.
Ready.gov suggests the following:
- Water – one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
- Food – at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
- First aid kit
- Extra batteries
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Manual can opener for food
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
- Radio (battery operated) so you can be up to date with what is occurring and be told when it's safe to exit your shelter
Consider adding the following items to your emergency supply kit based on your individual needs:
- Prescription medications
- Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives
- Glasses and contact lense solution
- Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream
- Pet food and extra water for your pet
- Cash or traveler’s checks
- Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
- Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate and sturdy shoes
- Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper to disinfect water
- Fire extinguisher
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
- Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
- Paper and pencil
- Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children
Where do I find shelter?
It’s best to get to a building that has a basement. Below ground is obviously safer than above ground. Moreover being surrounded by concrete or even brick is better than stucco.
Mic.com also suggests that the center of a building offers more protection than other rooms as illustrated below:
The farther away you are from the blast the safer, however, you do not want to be in your car in bumper to bumper traffic during an attack either.
Shelter in Place
If you don’t know where to go, than bunker down. If you have a basement go there. If not find an interior room with no windows and start praying.
What if I’m outside?
There is always the possibility that someone may be in the middle of a picnic when a nuclear attack hits. If that’s the case, and you can’t get indoors, Ready.gov suggests the following:Do not look at the flash or fireball – it can blind you.
- Take cover behind anything that might offer protection.
- Lie flat on the ground and cover your head. If the explosion is some distance away, it could take 30 seconds or more for the blast wave to hit.
- Take shelter as soon as you can, even if you are many miles from ground zero where the attack occurred – radioactive fallout can be carried by the winds for hundreds of miles.
- If you were outside during or after the blast, get clean as soon as possible, to remove radioactive material that may have settled on your body.
- Remove your clothing to keep radioactive material from spreading. Removing the outer layer of clothing can remove up to 90% of radioactive material.
- If practical, place your contaminated clothing in a plastic bag and seal or tie the bag. Place the bag as far away as possible from humans and animals so that the radiation it gives off does not affect others.
- When possible, take a shower with lots of soap and water to help remove radioactive contamination. Do not scrub or scratch the skin.
- Wash your hair with shampoo or soap and water. Do not use conditioner in your hair because it will bind radioactive material to your hair, keeping it from rinsing out easily.
- Gently blow your nose and wipe your eyelids and eyelashes with a clean wet cloth. Gently wipe your ears.
- If you cannot shower, use a wipe or clean wet cloth to wipe your skin that was not covered by clothing.
What about potassium iodide tablets?
These tablets help protect your thyroid from taking up radioactive iodine, as they saturate the organ. It’s an inexpensive pill that will protect one against thyroid cancer but not the other medical sequelae of nuclear exposure such as bone marrow injury and skin irritation.
The false nuclear attack alert Hawaii residents received enlightened the rest of the country on how unprepared the average American is. It’s about time we have a game plan and cities educate their citizens on where and how to protect themselves.
Daliah Wachs is a guest contributor to GCN news. Doctor Wachs is an MD, FAAFP and a Board Certified Family Physician. The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.