Sunday, October 25, 2009

Surviving Disaster: Nuclear Attack

This week's episode of Surviving Disaster was about how to survive a nuclear attack. I always find this series fascinating and informative and I think EVERYONE should watch these shows as they offer more basic, practical information about the things to think about during various types of disasters than you would get simply from reading about it. That said, even though you read this blog post, you should really head over to Spike TV online and actually watch these shows. Like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words (and video is probably worth more than that). Here's what I learned from this week's show:
  • This show follows two groups of people. The first group is located a mile from where the nuclear bomb detonates, about a mile from the city center. The second group is located about three miles from the area the bomb detonates, in the suburbs.
  • The 10 kilo ton nuclear bomb is driven into the city in the back of a van. When it detonates, it will leave a crater about the size of 75 football fields.
  • When the blast happens, turn away from the blast, don't look into the light, and get down on the ground, preferably in a ditch.
  • If you are driving when the blast occurs, pull over, get out of the car, and get down on the ground, again, preferably in a ditch, and turn away from the blast.
  • If you are near the blast area, as soon as you get on the ground, lay on your stomach, cross your legs. put your hands behind your head, and open your mouth so the pressure will not break your ear drums. At this point you will be waiting for the blast wave which will feel like a freight train roaring over you.
  • If you are further from ground zero, get out of your car and position yourself against something heavy and thick like a concrete wall. Get low and tight against the wall and again, open your mouth so your ear drums won't be blown.
  • The thermal pulse from the blast will cause a heatwave and a light that is like looking into the sun. Don't look at the light!
  • Everything within a quarter mile of ground zero will be incinerated.
  • Within a mile of the blast there will be fires and lethal debris falling.
  • Cover any exposed flesh if possible to prevent radiation burns.
  • After the blast wave, you will have 20 minutes to escape before nuclear fall out occurs and radioactive particles start falling to the ground.
  • After the blast wave, stay down until the initial debris caused by the blast have stopped falling.
  • Most injuries caused by this type of event are cuts, lacerations, burns, and broken bones.
  • Cover cuts, burns, and lacerations if possible so that radiation will not enter your body at these sites and get into your blood stream.
  • You will need to either find shelter quickly or be able to drive away from the fall out plume. It was pointed out here that with only 20 minutes to do this, you will probably have the leave the severely injured behind in order to protect yourself, which is really against our nature, however is necessary for survival.
  • As soon as this type of blast occurs, satellites will pick this up and inform NORAD which will inform the Pentagon at which time specially trained teams will be dispatched to the scene.
  • At this point it was clearly stated that in many of these types of disasters, law and EMS will be overwhelmed and they won't be able to come save you so plan to be on your own for a while. You are responsible for your life, the government isn't. The government will provide help but it will take time to get where the help is needed.
  • If you are one mile from ground zero you won't have time to escape the area before the fallout begins so you will need to seek shelter immediately.
  • When looking for shelter, stay away from walls which may crumble and watch out for sink holes, live wires on the ground, fires, etc.
  • In the suburbs there will be less damage and the roads may be passable; you can drive away from the fallout if you act quickly.
  • A nuclear explosion causes an electromagnetic pulse which toasts anything electronic (car electrical systems, computers, cell phones, airliners, TVs, etc) within a three mile radius.
  • If you are in the suburbs and can drive away from the fallout zone, you will need to get a car. In this show, they had to steal a car.
  • To find a car to steal in order to save your life, you will want to find one that wasn't in use during the blast as its electrical system may still be working.
  • This is where you need to watch the video as they showed how to break a window to get into the car, hot to hot wire the car, how to use a jack handle to break the steering wheel lock, and how to get under the car to engage the transmission since without a key the gear shift lever will also be locked.
  • Stealing a car and hot wiring a car are ILLEGAL which is probably why they showed basically how to do this but not in great verbal or video detail. It is a good idea to know how to do this, it is a bad idea to use this knowledge for anything but a life and death situation.
  • To drive out of the path of the fallout, first find out which direction the wind is blowing. Look up on top of buildings at the flags to see which way the winds are blowing since the fallout plume will travel with the wind.
  • The shortest path to drive out of the fallout zone is to drive perpendicular to the direction of the wind (ie: if the wind is blowing north, drive west or east).
  • To treat flash blindness, cover the person's eyes with a scarf or towel for a while.
  • When driving, put the air condition on recirc to prevent outside air from being circulated through your car.
  • If you see fall out begin, you better be inside a building.
  • An ideal building for sheltering is a concrete building with a basement. Wood frame houses and buildings only block 30% to 60% of the fallout, concrete is much better. Concrete basements with no windows can block out up to 90% of the radiation.
  • Before going into the building use a pen or lipstick to write on the outside of the building how many survivors are inside, it will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
  • Before going into the building, take off all outer layers of clothes that could have been contaminated. Then use water to rinse off exposed hair and skin (a rag or newspaper works best for this). One group changed out of their clothes and into janitors uniforms they found in a supply closet.
  • Get a flashlight then find shelter in a basement that has no windows and thick walls.
  • Use tape to cover around doors, windows, outlets, and any other place that air can come in (it won't be air tight but will block out most radioactive contamination).
  • If the building you are in has no basement, climb as high as possible in the building; be sure to leave two floors above you to protect from fallout on the roof. Look for an inner office with no windows and reinforce the walls with desks, books, boxes, file cabinets, etc. in order to make thick "walls" to shelter behind. Make the walls a couple of inches taller than the tallest person in your group. Make an L-shaped entrance into the room from the doorway as gamma rays don't turn corners very well.
  • Stay in your shelter and wait for rescue, don't go outside wandering around.
  • Gather all of the food and water you can find and put it into your shelter room.
  • In 24 hours, rescuers will be in the streets looking for survivors, in 48 hours, rescuers will be searching buildings for survivors. In 72 hours, government resources will be deployed.
  • While in your shelter, you should stabilize broken bones, and keep clean bandages on wounds.
  • Signs of radiation sickness include nausea, vomiting, and swelling. Try to keep a sterile environment if someone is sick from radiation but you will need to seek medical attention to treat such an illness. Radiation sickness is not transferred person to person.
  • When you hear helicopters overhead, you will need to signal them so they can find you. One person from the group was sent to signal the helicopter. To leave the shelter you need to be covered completely. They used a towel with holes cut out for the eyes as a head shield. Over the eyes, they stapled a plastic covering. A rubber band around the neck was used to secure the head covering.
  • For a signal, they opened a cold compress then put the contents into a small garbage can and added water. Newspaper is soaked in this solution then rolled up tight. On the roof, the newspaper was lit on fire as a smoke flare. The person who was signalling ran outside on the roof of the building (easier to see the signal from the air and ground), lit the smoke signal, then ran back inside. You want to be outside for as short a time as possible.
  • When the guy came back from the roof they formed a decon line. Person number one had him to take off his clothes, person two washed him off with water, and person three gave him clean clothes.
  • After three days, the fall out looses 90% of its potency. In this scenario, the group close to the city had to leave the shelter to seek medical treatment. They waited for a few days until the fallout stopped and were careful not to walk through piles of radioactive dust.

The show ended with the rescuers finding the suburban group and with the urban group walking out to find a medical tent. Overall, another great show and definitely worth watching!


  1. I only saw about 10 minutes of this episode, but did catch the part about making a smoke bomb with the cold pak! This could be handy in many situations. I put a little note in my emergency "spot", I would remember that it could be done, but never all the details.

  2. Good show, I wonder if the series will continue, or was it a short time show like Jericho? This one was better than that, I hope they bring it back with different scenarios.

  3. The crater was 75 football fields long, but was that in diametre, radius, or circumference?