6 Keys to Surviving a Nuclear Disaster

1. Shelter: In the aftermath of a nuclear attack or major accident at a nearby nuclear facility, shelter is critical. Even a marginal shelter can help reduce your exposure to radiation. Experts say that taking shelter in car would increase your chances of surviving the radiation fallout of a nuclear bomb by up to 50%.

The best shelters are underground and lined with metal or concrete. A basement is also suitable. If you don’t have a basement in your home, designate a safe room that you’ll seal with duct tape and plastic sheeting in the event of an attack.

2. Food: Once you get inside shelter, it’s imperative that you stay put for at least two days. The first 48 hours following a nuclear attack is the time when radiation danger is at its highest. Avoiding exposure as much as possible during that time period is critical. Keeping your exposure to a minimum for the two weeks after an attack is also wise.

A food reserve will help you remain safely indoors, provided you’re at home when the attack happens.

3. Water: Even more important than food is access to safe water. Water is easily contaminated, so you don’t want to drink from your tap after an attack, unless it’s tied to a covered well. If you rely on municipal water, plan a water storage system. Store your water in heavy-duty, 5-gallon plastic containers. You can easily move these from where you store them to your safe room.

4. Medicine: You may be cut off from medical supplies for days or weeks. In a wide-scale disaster, disruptions could be even more severe. Stock up on first-aid supplies and keep a first-aid instruction manual on hand to help you deal with unexpected situations. Also, build a store of the prescription medicines that people in your household depend on.

If you begin to show signs of radiation sickness – nausea, vomiting, hair loss, or bleeding gums – take the risk and go to the nearest hospital. Treatment of radiation exposure in recent years has seen many advances and could save your life.

5. Potassium Iodide: One of the most toxic compounds that gets released through nuclear explosions or nuclear power plant leaks is radioactive iodine, which is absorbed by the thyroid gland. When large amounts of radiation accumulate in the thyroid, cancer is likely to develop.

Taking potassium iodide (or potassium iodate, which is a nearly identical compound) in the event of fallout will saturate the thyroid gland with stable iodine, thereby preventing dangerous radioactive iodine from being absorbed.

The American Thyroid Association recommends that individuals living within 50 miles of a nuclear facility have immediate access to potassium iodide. Even if you don’t live near any known nuclear threats, it’s not a bad idea to keep potassium iodide tablets on hand so you can be sure you are protected no matter where you are traveling or what unforeseen circumstances present themselves.

In the event of being exposed to nuclear radiation or at heightened risk of exposure, take 85 to 130 mg of potassium iodide as soon as possible. Repeat this dosage daily for 10 to 14 days. Infants should be given approximately half the regular dosage. Potassium iodide should not be taken regularly as a “preventative” measure. Doing so could cause serious health problems. It should be saved for emergency situations only.

6. Communication: During the aftermath of a nuclear attack, good communication is crucial. Make sure you have a good hand-crank radio among your supplies. Listen to it regularly, even when you are not getting a signal–eventually emergency reports will come through, and that can help you decide if it is safe to leave your shelter.