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Nuclear war talk spikes fallout shelter sales; spurs survival mentality

Things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your property in the event of a nuclear blast

Nuclear threats by President Trump, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un renew interest in fallout shelter readiness, survival techniques

Threats of war and retaliation by Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump in recent days have renewed fears of World War III by the global community. Not since the Cold War has the prospect of nuclear holocaust been of such focus.

The bluster by two narcissistic leaders — Trump and Kim — has ignited a fear not seen since the height of the nuclear arms race in the 1950s between the U.S., Soviet Union, China, and other world powers. Now that North Korea has demonstrated the means to deliver an atomic warhead to the U.S. mainland, perpetual threats by Kim to strike North Korea’s enemies now takes on new meaning.

The topic of nuclear fallout shelters is again the concern of the U.S. network of emergency and disaster management. California, Oregon, and Washington are immediate potential targets, not excluding the Hawaiian Islands.

The danger of a massive strategic nuclear attack on the U.S. was less likely a concern until the rhetoric by Trump and Kim last week ratcheted up matters. The prospects of “dirty nuke” devices by elements of terrorism always has been a probable scenario, but the constant threats by Kim, whose emotional and psychological state is questionable, makes the threat from North Korea plausible.

And Trump’s bombast of “fury and fire” has only increased the temperature of conflict in the global community.

Nuclear blasts and your fallout shelter

A nuclear blast is an explosion with intense light and heat, a damaging pressure wave, and widespread radioactive material that can contaminate the air, water, and ground surfaces for miles around. A nuclear device can range from a weapon carried by an intercontinental missile, to a small portable nuclear device transported by an individual. All nuclear devices cause deadly effects when exploded. The three factors for protecting oneself from radiation and fallout are distance, shielding and time.

Distance. The more distance between you and the fallout particles, the better. An underground area such as a home or office building basement offers more protection than the first floor of a building.

Shielding. The heavier and denser the materials – thick walls, concrete, bricks, books, and earth – between you and the fallout particles, the better.

Time. Fallout radiation loses its intensity fairly rapidly. In time, you will be able to leave the fallout shelter. Radioactive fallout poses the greatest threat to people during the first two weeks, by which time it has declined to about 1 percent of its initial radiation level.

Taking shelter during a nuclear blast is absolutely necessary. There are two kinds of shelters:

Blast shelters are specifically constructed to offer some protection against blast pressure, initial radiation, heat and fire. But even a blast shelter cannot withstand a direct hit from a nuclear explosion.

A fallout shelter does not need to be specially constructed for protecting against fallout. Any protected space can serve as a fallout shelter, provided that the walls and roof are thick and dense enough to absorb the radiation given off by fallout particles.

Remember that any protection, however temporary, is better than none at all, and the more shielding, distance and time you can take advantage of, the better.

Before a Nuclear Blast

The following are things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your property in the event of a nuclear blast.

Build an Emergency Supply Kit. Make a Family Emergency Plan.

Find out from officials if any public building in your community has been designated as a fallout shelter. If your community has no designated fallout shelter, make a list of potential shelters near your home, workplace, and school, such as basements, subways, tunnels, or the windowless center area of middle floors in a high-rise building.

During periods of heightened threat increase your disaster supplies to be adequate for up to two weeks. To minimize risk to life and health, observe the following potential targets for nukes:

  • Strategic missile sites and military bases.
  • Centers of government such as Washington, D.C., and state capitals.
  • Important transportation and communication centers.
  • Manufacturing, industrial, technology, and financial centers.
  • Petroleum refineries such as the Exxon Mobil Refinery in Torrance, electrical power plants, and chemical plants.
  • Major ports and airports like the Port of L.A. and LAX.

During a Nuclear Blast

Here are guidelines for what to do in the event of a nuclear explosion.

Listen for official information and follow the instructions provided by emergency response personnel. If an attack warning is issued, take cover as quickly as you can, below ground if possible, and stay there until instructed to do otherwise.

Find the nearest building, preferably built of brick or concrete, and go inside to avoid any radioactive material outside. If better shelter, such as a multi-story building or basement can be reached within a few minutes, go there immediately.

Go as far below ground as possible. During the time with the highest radiation levels, it is safest to stay inside, sheltered away from the radioactive material outside. Radiation levels are extremely dangerous after a nuclear detonation but the levels reduce rapidly. Expect to stay inside for at least 24 hours unless told otherwise by authorities. When evacuating is in your best interest, you will be instructed to do so. All available methods of communication will be used to provide news and/or instructions.

Persons caught outside and unable to get inside immediately:

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 percent of the 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.

Aftermath of nuclear blast

People in most of the areas that would be affected could be allowed to come out of shelter within a few days and, if necessary, evacuate to unaffected areas. The heaviest fallout would be limited to the area at or downwind from the explosion. It might be necessary for those in the areas with highest radiation levels to shelter for up to a month.

Upon returning home, continue to listen to the radio and television for news about what to do, where to go and places to avoid. Avoid damaged areas, especially those marked “radiation hazard” or “HAZMAT.”

Mass Care Shelter and Safe Rooms

Even though mass care shelters often provide water, food, medicine and basic sanitary facilities, you should plan to take your disaster supplies kit with you so you will have the supplies you require. Mass care sheltering can involve living with many people in a confined space, which can be difficult and unpleasant. To avoid conflicts in the stressful situation, it is important to cooperate with shelter managers and others assisting them. Keep in mind that alcoholic beverages and weapons are forbidden in emergency shelters and smoking is restricted.

safe room is a hardened structure specifically designed to meet the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) criteria and provide near-absolute protection in extreme weather events, including tornadoes and hurricanes. Near-absolute protection means that, based on our current knowledge of tornadoes and hurricanes, the occupants of a safe room built in accordance with FEMA guidance will have a very high probability of being protected from injury or death.

To be considered a FEMA safe room, the structure must be designed and constructed to the guidelines specified in  FEMA P-320, Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room for Your Home or Small Business and FEMA P-361, Safe Rooms for Tornadoes and Hurricanes: Guidance for Community and Residential Safe Rooms. For more information on residential safe room doors, please download the Residential Tornado Safe Room Doors Fact Sheet.

Search for open shelters by texting SHELTER and a Zip Code to 43362 (4FEMA).

Learn more by visiting: http://www.disasterassistance.gov/

Emergency Food and Water

Access to safe food and water after a disaster is a must. The resources below can help you learn safe handling practices and how to get assistance. And much of the information is also available in PDF form. (See websites for details.)

If you need to find an emergency facility near you, be sure to tune into your local radio or TV stations. They may be able to provide location or contact information.

Food Assistance for Disaster Relief – Learn how the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) coordinates with state, local, and voluntary organizations to provide food for shelters and other mass feeding sites.

Find out how to distribute food packages directly to households in need in limited situations — Disaster Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) benefits. (USDA)

Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) (PDF, 143 KB) – Get a fact sheet to learn about D-SNAP. The program offers short-term food assistance to families affected by a disaster. Contact your local SNAP state information hotline number for details. (USDA)

Emergency Disinfection of Drinking Water – Learn the steps to properly disinfect drinking water in an emergency. There are different ways you can do it depending on your situation. (Environmental Protection Agency)

What Consumers Need to Know About Food and Water Safety – Get food and water safety facts you can use in an emergency. Learn what to do during and after a power outage or flood. You can even watch a short video on food safety during power outages. (Food and Drug Administration)

A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety – This guide is full of tips on how to keep food safe, reduce the potential for food loss, and reduce the risk of foodborne illness. The guide offers information on:

Visit a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) to talk with someone in person for guidance or information. To find a center near you, use the DRC Locator or text DRC and your zip code to 4FEMA (43362). Example: DRC 01234. (Standard text message rates apply.)

Search for open shelters near you by texting SHELTER and your zip code to 4FEMA (43362). Example: Shelter 01234. (Standard text message rates apply.)

Find Open Shelters – Locate the nearest shelter or find your local Red Cross. (American Red Cross)

Housing and Homeless Services – Enter your zip code to find your nearest Salvation Army. (The Salvation Army)

FEMA Evacuee Hotel List – Find a hotel participating in the Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) Program. (Corporate Lodging Consultants)

You can read about symptoms, causes, treatments, and prevention. (U.S. National Library of Medicine)

Adult First Aid, CPR, AED Ready Reference (PDF, 660 KB) – Get a detailed guide on how to give adult first aid. Learn about CPR, choking, burns, head or neck injuries, stroke, and more. (American Red Cross)

Pediatric First Aid, CPR, AED Ready Reference (PDF, 756 KB) – Get a detailed guide on how to give child or infant first aid. You can learn about: How to check an injured or ill child, CPR, choking, using an AED, how to control bleeding, burns, poisoning, and seizures. (American Red Cross)

Emergency Wound Care After a Natural Disaster (PDF, 88 KB)- Learn how you can care for minor wounds after a disaster. You can also learn about what wounds should get medical treatment as soon as possible, as well as things that can cause infection. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Traumatic Brain Injury – Learn the causes and types of traumatic brain injury (TBI). You can get information by topic; learn how to prevent TBI as well as the signs and symptoms, and find data and statistics. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Nuclear Attack fact sheet


Planning Guidance for Response to a Nuclear Detonation

Be Prepared for an Emergency. Be Red Cross Ready!

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Radiation Emergencies

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Nuclear Weapon Target Map for California

READ ALSO: How to Pack an Emergency Kit

READ ALSO: Emergency First-Aid and Supply Kit Checklist

Jarrette Fellows, Jr. is Publisher and Editor of Compton Herald. He attended junior and senior high school in Compton, and is an alumnus of California State University, Los Angeles.


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