#018: How To Protect Yourself From Nuclear Attack

A nuclear explosion has four main effects:

So? How do you increase your chances of surviving? Research!

Blast (heat and overpressure) & Wind Drag

Your best bet for protection is to use your house as a shelter. As the pressure wave from the blast passes, the windows blow in and let the house fill up with high pressure air. When the blast wave has passed over, to be succeeded by the low pressure wave, the pressure difference between the inside and the outside may be several pounds per inch. The is a predicament houses are particularly unsuited to withstand. They have some resistance to pressure inwards, because they have to stand up to wind, but they have no strength at all to resist expansion. As a result they tend to explode.

The main danger inside is the house collapsing, although the weapon that demolishes a house may vary greatly in size and range the weight of a house remains the same, and in most cases the staircase is strong enough to support the debris that fall on it. Do a Harry Potter and hide under the stairs. People who shelter under the stairs, idiotic as it may sound for precaution against nuclear weapons, will also be protected against heat flash and flying glass and have a good chance of surviving almost complete destruction of their homes.

Thermal Radiation

Damage done by heat radiated from the fireball is less easy to quantify. There are two heat pulses; one very short at initiation which carries 1% of the blast’s total thermal energy and is relatively harmless, the other some two seconds later lasts for 10 seconds and carries all the rest of the thermal energy (bear in mind that the center of the blast could be 300,000°C). Incapacitating heat could radiate up to 16 miles from the blast point.

If you find yourself outside then as soon as you see any sign of the explosion you need to get into shadow; get out of direct sight of the burst and you will be shielded from the heat waves.

How To Protect Yourself From Nuclear Attack

If you are lucky then you will be inside your house and have enough warning of attack that you can paint your windows white. If you whitewash your windows before an attack then the amount of heat entering your house by radiation from the fireball can be reduced by 80%. In general only cloth and paper will be set alight outside ranges at which blast damage is significant. Solid wooden objects (tables, chairs etc) will be charred and may flame briefly but “persistent ignition is improbable under the conditions of a nuclear explosion”.

How To Protect Yourself From Nuclear Attack

Fall-out (radioactive radiation)

The important quantity when thinking about survival is the total dose received in the first two weeks. Radiation will disperse differently depending on weather conditions.

Protection against fall-out is mainly concerned with the gamma rays given off by decaying isotopes. Alpha rays cannot penetrate the skin, beta rays are only harmful if radioactive dust is left on the skin or eaten on vegetables. But protection against gamma rays almost automatically defends against the others. Having taken care to avoid physical contact with fall-out dust, substantial protection against gamma rays is only given by (a) removal to another part of the country, (b) keeping the fall-out physically at a distance, (c) interposing a considerable mass of gamma-ray-absorbing material between oneself and it.

How To Protect Yourself From Nuclear Attack

Fall-out takes around 24 hours to arrive in large quantities so getting the hell out of the area is a good escape tactic but relies on accurate prediction of where the radiation will fall, which depends on wind conditions. A house is good protection because it provides a hollow space in which the fall-out can’t get. Fall-out lies on the ground and on roofs so staying indoors is good protection.

If you are stuck outside then dig a trench: gamma rays shoot up from and along the surface of the ground, but only a small distance through it.

How To Protect Yourself From Nuclear Attack

Recommended Reading:

How To Protect Yourself From Nuclear Attack - Beneath The City Streets by Peter Laurie

Beneath The City Streets by Peter Laurie was published in 1970, during the height of the Cold War. The book features insight gained from much spy type research, such as the suggestion that the Queen has her own tube link from Buckingham Palace (which the Victoria Line runs directly underneath) to Heathrow Airport - something only publically admitted last year.

One of The Most Interesting Books Ever™ - it starts by assessing the risk involved in nuclear war before getting to the real meat of the book, revealing crazily detailed decriptions of government defences - bunkers under London, secret underground train lines, back-up phone lines and military systems - facts all unofficially deducted from research.

“It is interesting to note that the official maps of Russia have apparently been grotesquely and purposefully distorted, so that hills, lakes, railway junctions etc are shown up to ten miles from their true positions.” (in order to prevent an accurate nuclear attack)

It may seem morbid but the book is strangely optimistic and will let you sleep easy knowing nuclear weapons are too stupid to ever be used.

4 Responses to “#018: How To Protect Yourself From Nuclear Attack”

  1. Joe Says:

    this is really helpful. I am writing a report on nuclear energy, and I am going to use your website.

  2. Tony Gosling Says:

    great scans - check out this bit of text from Peter Laurie’s conclusion at the end of the book.

    Technocracy - Robots to Hunt Down Non-cooperative Humans

  3. ayan Says:

    very helpful indeed!

  4. waleid Says:

    but this idea is not good

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