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Emergency Preparedness Essentials
 

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Nuclear Blasts and Attacks

Nuclear blasts are explosions that create extreme heat and light, followed by a damaging pressure wave and widespread radioactive material. That material can contaminate water, air, and/or ground surfaces for miles. These can be small enough to be carried by individuals or large enough to be carried by an intercontinental missile. No matter the size, all nuclear devices cause deadly consequences such as blinding light, thermal radiation, blast, fires, etc.

Though the Cold War threat is no longer an issue, the possibility that a terrorist could have nuclear weapons is still present. Improvised nuclear devices (IND) are usually smaller and less powerful but could be used by terrorists. Though a nuclear attack is predicted by experts to be less likely than other attacks, it is still imperative that you and your family know the steps that can save lives.

Hazards of Nuclear Devices

You need to prepare yourself, family, and property for the dangers associated with nuclear devices.

Though a massive nuclear attack on the US is less likely than other attacks, preparation is still needed to avoid the potential of one.

In case of a threat, those in the target area would want to and would be advised to evacuate. In order to be protected from radioactive fallout you would need to find shelter in either an underground area or in the center of a building.

Potential targets could be:
  • Military bases and other strategic missile sites.
  • Capitals, such as Washington DC.
  • Communication or transportation centers.
  • Centers of industry, technology, manufacturing, or finances.
  • Chemical plants, electrical power plants, or petroleum refineries.
  • Major airfields and ports.
Distance, shielding, and time are the most important factors for protecting yourself from radiation and fallout.
  • Distance Ėthe more space you can put between yourself and fallout particles the better off youíll be. Underground is better than above. Above ground the middle floor is preferable to the top since flat roofs collect fallout particles.
  • Shielding Ė try to put heavy and dense materials like concrete or thick walls between you and the fallout particles.
  • Time Ė because fallout radiationís intensity falls rapidly, you will be able to leave your shelter in time. The first two weeks are the most critical. After that it has fallen to about one percent of its original radiation level.
Any protection is better than none. Try to take advantage of as much shielding, distance, and time as you can.

Electromagnetic Pulse

A nuclear weapon can also create an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), which is a high-density electrical field. An EMP is faster, stronger, and shorter than a bolt of lightning. It can seriously damage electronic devices such as computers, communication systems, electrical appliances, and aircraft or automobile ignition systems. The damage ranges from minor interruption to burnout of components. Equipment within 1,000 miles of the nuclear detonation could be affected (battery-powered radios that have short antennas though would not be affected). Though EMPs donít generally harm people, they could harm those with pacemakers or other electronic device implants.

Radioactive Fallout

Nuclear blast creates some fallout, which may affect those that were not affected directly by the blast. Nuclear blasts occurring near the earthís surface draw millions of dirt particle vapors into a mushroom like cloud. This creates far greater fallout than those done further from the earthís surface. This happens because there is so much heat produced from the nuclear blast that causes the mushroom cloud. Condensation of the radioactive particles then takes place. This is known as radioactive fallout. This material decays after awhile. It is the source of a residual nuclear radiation.

Fallout can be carried for hundreds of miles so the effects from even a tiny portable device which explodes near the earth can be deadly.

Normal senses cannot detect nuclear radiation. It can only be detected by the use of radiation monitoring devices. This monitoring can help project the fallout arrival times, announced through warning channels. However, if a buildup of gritty dust is seen that is a warning as well.

How to Prepare for a Nuclear Blast

In order to protect yourself, family, and property:
  • You will need to create an Emergency Supply Kit, which will include non-perishable food, flashlights as well as batteries, water, and a hand-crank or battery-powered radio. You may also want a kit for your car or workplace in case you have to evacuate.
  • Create a Family Emergency Plan. Because you and your family might not be in the same place during an emergency it is important to have a plan for how you will find each other if the time comes.
    • Know and understand your disaster plans and warning systems that are in place in your community, including evacuation plans.
    • Decide places inside of and outside of your neighborhood where your family will meet.
    • See if there are public buildings which will be used as fallout shelters if there are none, create a list of potential shelters close to your home, school, and workplace. Basements or windowless areas of middle floors in buildings or subways would work.
    • Talk to the manager of your building about the safest place for a shelter.
    • Increase your disaster supplies to be able to withstand two weeks.
Blast or fallout shelters are the two types of shelters that can be used in this situation. Shelters are absolutely necessary for cases like these.
  • Though blast shelters can offer protection against heat, initial radiation, fire, and blast pressure, they cannot save from a direct hit of a nuclear explosion.
  • Buildings simply need to have thick walls and a roof dense enough to absorb the radiation that would come from fallout particles in order to qualify for a fallout shelter.

What to Do During a Nuclear Explosion

In the event of a nuclear explosion:
  • Listen to officials to find out if you need to take shelter, go to a new locations, or evacuate.
  • If they issue an attack warning, take cover, underground if possible, and stay until told otherwise.
  • Go inside the nearest building of brick or concrete to avoid radioactive material outside. If brick or concrete isnít available, any building would be better than nothing.
  • If you can reach a multi-story building or a building with a basement within a few minutes, go there instead of the small shelter.
  • Try to put as many walls of brick, soil, or concrete between you and the outside radioactive material.
  • Staying inside can save your life. Stay inside even if you are stranded from family.
  • Though radiation levels are incredibly dangerous directly after a blast, the levels reduce rapidly.
  • You should stay inside for at least 24 hours unless told otherwise by the right authorities
  • Communication will be kept open when available. You will be told to evacuate if necessary.
  • Those who are downwind from the blast may be asked to use protective measures.
  • If you are unable to get inside immediately:
    • Donít look at the flash as it can blind you.
    • Take cover wherever you can.
    • Lie down and cover yourself. It could take up to 30 seconds for faraway blast waves to hit.
    • Remember distance, time, and shielding. Get to shelter as soon as you can.
  • If you were outside when the blast occurred or afterward, get clean of the material that could have settled on you.
  • Take off clothing to keep the material from getting spread. This can take away 90% of the radioactive material.
  • If you can, put those clothes in a sealable or tied off plastic bag and get it as far away from people and animals as you can.
  • Take a shower if you can with lots of soap but donít scratch or scrub the skin.
  • Wash your hair with soap and water or shampoo but donít use conditioner because the radioactive material will bind to your head.
  • Gently wipe your eyes, eyelids, and eyelashes with a clean damp cloth. Wipe your ears and blow your nose.
  • If you are unable to shower, use a clean cloth to wipe your skin that wasnít covered by your clothes.

What to Do After a Nuclear Blast

Though decay rates are the same no matter the size, the amount of fallout will vary based on size. Because of this those in the areas with the most fallout may need to take shelter for longeróup to a month.

Eighty percent of the fallout will happen within the first 24 hours. The fallout will be heaviest closest to the explosion.

Most will be able to come out of shelters within a few days. Some may be evacuated to areas that werenít affected.

Returning to Your Home

When you go home remember:
  • Continue to listen to TV, news, or radio for places to avoid or where to go.
  • Even though you canít sense radiation it may still be there so stay away from areas clearly marked as dangerous.
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