Surviving the nuclear exchange

A forum to discuss Home Economics. Tips and tricks to run your household.
User avatar
spot
Posts: 38230
Joined: Tue Apr 19, 2005 5:19 pm
Location: Brigstowe

Surviving the nuclear exchange

Post by spot »

I was, oddly enough, a trainee member of the UK's Civil Defence Corps. It had an underground emergency communications floor on Regent Street where I put in an evening a week learning how the people of Britain might survive a nuclear attack.

Time's gone full circle. What was relevant back then is becoming relevant again.

Any international airport, power station, container port, military base or centre of local government is a potential nuclear target. If you live within, say, fifteen miles of one, could your family survive such an attack? Death as a direct result of a nuclear blast beyond fifteen miles would be a rarity, death indirectly as a result of civil breakdown is beyond the scope of what I'm discussing. Rescue after a single nuclear explosion would be a rapid national coordinated response, rescue after a nuclear exchange involving many such explosions would be arbitrary and piecemeal and that's the situation I'm addressing here.

How do you know you're down to the wire and entering survival mode? The horizon silently lights up as though the sun switched on. Nothing else can do that, it's a nuclear attack and it's more than a mile away or you'd not even notice it had happened, you'd be beyond caring.

You've remembered the right response, you've not looked toward it, you've dived immediately behind a solid barrier and stayed down until the sudden light's faded. At this point you're not a casualty, you're a survivor. The trick is to stay that way for the next month. A month from now there'll be practically no area left sufficiently radioactive to kill you (though plenty capable of shortening your remaining lifespan). Within an hour you might be enveloped in a radioactive hotspot which is lethal. That's the luck of the prevailing wind mostly. If it's a single blast nationally you'll be rescued anyway. If it's one of many blasts there's no direction to run which is predictably safe, what you need is shelter. If you're not prepared and this is a genuine nuclear exchange and the wind's unfavorable then I don't think you'll live.

Raiding the local supermarket at this point is a bad idea. Lots of other desperate people will be doing the same, it'll take too long (the potentially lethal radiation's about to arrive in an hour or so) and you have important matters to attend to. If you've not made preparations in advance then you're not in control of your fate. If you can't get to your shelter in the next few minutes you're already a victim.

Every house within the fifteen mile radius which hasn't collapsed will by now be burning to some degree or other, including yours. Your first priority is to get home and put that fire out, your house is your prepared shelter. To quote from the Civil Defence Act 1948, “a shelter” means any premises, structure or excavation used or intended to be used to provide shelter from any form of hostile attack by a foreign power. Take it from me, nobody else has prepared one for you. If you've not got your house ready beforehand you're not going to be able to live there until the emergency's over.

The sudden light's faded, there's a physical shock wave coming. Get into the open and ride it out unless you're already in your house. If you're already in your house stay there so you can put the flames out, if it collapses you've got no shelter anyway and you've already lost. Hide behind furniture from the inevitable flying window glass until the shock wave's past. Once it's over go from room to room extinguishing all flames. The place is going to be open to the elements from now on but you've prepared it as a shelter so you're on track. Your family has standing orders to all get home as soon as possible, your job is to have the place ready for them assuming they can make it. Don't go out searching for them, they have to come to you.

Your objective for the next month is for your family to avoid exposure to so much radiation that they'll die of it within the next year. That involves staying inside a part of your house from which you exclude as much radiation as possible. Initially you'll have to stay inside practically all the time. As the outside radiation level drops you'll be able to spend more and more time out of your shelter. After a month the outdoors will be relatively safe again.

As large as possible an area of the lowest floor of the house is your shelter. It needs to avoid proximity to an outside wall, it needs to avoid any breeze carrying dust from outside to inside.

Once the fires are permanently out, switch off all the utilities mains - water, gas and electricity. They'll be dead soon but you don't want them leaking. Then staple prepared ply shutters to all the external window frames around your shelter area. Staple prepared polythene groundsheets to the floor immediately above the shelter area because that space above is going to accumulate rainwater and you don't want rain penetration to drip in contaminants. Staple prepared polythene groundsheets across any stairwells to isolate the shelter area from the rest of the house. That's the breezes dealt with. It's going to get smelly in that shelter space but it's not going to glow in the dark.

Within the shelter space you've previously placed enough dry-goods to feed the residents for at least a month. Be very careful with your choices, it all has to reconstitute with cold water, there's no fuel to cook with. A half ton of instant potato powder is useful, the same weight of rice or pasta will just be a lethal frustration. You've also placed enough 1-ton filled water butts (they're reinforced 3-foot 224 gallon cubic plastic containers with taps) to provide at least a gallon per head per day.

An hour or so after the explosion, radiation will rapidly build up outside. If you're in a hotspot then anyone still out there is at risk. If you're not in a hotspot you're extremely fortunate. If you bought a Geiger counter you can tell. What you can't do is know whether wind shifts will change the radiation levels outside. Stay put where you're safer.

Do you let people into the shelter space after the first hour? Of course you do. Get them to strip and soap-wash top to toe before they come through the outer door. If you managed to set up an external double door with those polythene groundsheets then between the doors is a good place for the decontamination.

The radiation outside will peak within the first day (though more may arrive as fresh explosions and wind changes dictate). It will halve in strength every three days thereafter. That's a drop to a tenth of the peak after ten days, a hundredth after twenty, a thousandth after thirty. One hour's exposure during the first three days is as dangerous as two hours in the next three days, as four hours in the three days after that and so on. Staying away from the radiation becomes less necessary as time goes on but those first few days, if you're in a hotspot, can be lethal. By the end of the first month the lethality is, to all intents and purposes, gone. So long as you avoid bringing significant quantities of radioactive dust in during the early days the shelter will be your protection. Ingesting it is your greatest danger, that's why you're keeping it out as much as possible.

Other bits you might find useful include spare clothes, disinfectant and wipes, several wind-up torches and radios, sleeping bags to stay warm in, a large septic tank and a first aid kit. You don't have enough water to flush toilets, they'll be inoperable. Get the septic tank or you'll be completely adrift in days.

What you'll find after you walk out I've no idea. The trick is to get through that first month without killing yourselves.
Nullius in verba|||||||||||
Who has a spare two minutes to play in this month's FG Trivia game!
gmc
Posts: 13566
Joined: Sun Aug 29, 2004 9:44 am

Surviving the nuclear exchange

Post by gmc »

You're feeling cheerful. So what brought this on?
User avatar
spot
Posts: 38230
Joined: Tue Apr 19, 2005 5:19 pm
Location: Brigstowe

Surviving the nuclear exchange

Post by spot »

I think it's likelier now than it was. Don't you?

My daughter watched The Bed-Sitting Room the other week and mentioned it, that's probably why the topic's in my mind.
Nullius in verba|||||||||||
Who has a spare two minutes to play in this month's FG Trivia game!
User avatar
Snowfire
Posts: 4835
Joined: Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:34 am

Surviving the nuclear exchange

Post by Snowfire »

When you hear the "4 minute warning" bend over and kiss your arse goodbye.

Is that defeatist or just accepting the inevitable ?

I have often, in the past, wondered which action I would choose. Would I survive or mores the question, would I want to, given what would be left.

I'd like to think I would give it a shot and fight on
"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire."

Winston Churchill
User avatar
spot
Posts: 38230
Joined: Tue Apr 19, 2005 5:19 pm
Location: Brigstowe

Surviving the nuclear exchange

Post by spot »

So you ought mate, so you ought. There'll always be people to help if nothing else. I reckon a hundred one-megaton explosions within the UK would significantly reduce the lifespan of perhaps a tenth of the population (assuming the government could avoid subsequent deaths from famine, epidemic illness and civil unrest), that's a far smaller proportion than the Black Death claimed.

I owe you a discussion about the Soft Machine too. That one was a harder question.
Nullius in verba|||||||||||
Who has a spare two minutes to play in this month's FG Trivia game!
Clodhopper
Posts: 5115
Joined: Mon Feb 25, 2008 5:11 pm

Surviving the nuclear exchange

Post by Clodhopper »

I think it's likelier now than it was. Don't you?


Not yet. I remember wondering how long the Cold War could go on without some nutter twitching. But I reckon in the next 20 years it will be.
The crowd: "Yes! We are all individuals!"

Lone voice: "I'm not."
User avatar
Betty Boop
Posts: 15592
Joined: Sun Mar 27, 2005 1:17 pm
Location: The end of the World

Surviving the nuclear exchange

Post by Betty Boop »

Snowfire;1235605 wrote: When you hear the "4 minute warning" bend over and kiss your arse goodbye.

Is that defeatist or just accepting the inevitable ?

I have often, in the past, wondered which action I would choose. Would I survive or mores the question, would I want to, given what would be left.

I'd like to think I would give it a shot and fight on


I'm not sure there would be anything to survive for, I need convincing.

So after a month of being holed up we can all emerge and assess what's left.

What kind of human beings are going to emerge?

Will we all emerge grateful, united and happy to work together to rebuild our lives?
User avatar
Snowfire
Posts: 4835
Joined: Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:34 am

Surviving the nuclear exchange

Post by Snowfire »

spot;1235607 wrote: So you ought mate, so you ought. There'll always be people to help if nothing else. I reckon a hundred one-megaton explosions within the UK would significantly reduce the lifespan of perhaps a tenth of the population (assuming the government could avoid subsequent deaths from famine, epidemic illness and civil unrest), that's a far smaller proportion than the Black Death claimed.

I owe you a discussion about the Soft Machine too. That one was a harder question.


The news reel film from Hiroshima and Nagasaki should be compulsory viewing for school children. It shows what a tiny nuclear device is capable of. The destructive capability of modern devices is almost beyond imagination



Yep, the prog rock Canterbury scene needs much more consideration. It has horrors of its own
"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire."

Winston Churchill
User avatar
Snowfire
Posts: 4835
Joined: Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:34 am

Surviving the nuclear exchange

Post by Snowfire »

Betty Boop;1235611 wrote: I'm not sure there would be anything to survive for, I need convincing.

So after a month of being holed up we can all emerge and assess what's left.

What kind of human beings are going to emerge?

Will we all emerge grateful, united and happy to work together to rebuild our lives?


I lean towards humans natural tendancy to survive. I'm not sure it would be entirely as Hollywood would have us believe. I'm an optimist but I have asked myself those very questions
"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire."

Winston Churchill
gmc
Posts: 13566
Joined: Sun Aug 29, 2004 9:44 am

Surviving the nuclear exchange

Post by gmc »

spot;1235597 wrote: I think it's likelier now than it was. Don't you?

My daughter watched The Bed-Sitting Room the other week and mentioned it, that's probably why the topic's in my mind.


No. In the eighties there were a couple of near misses with the US in particular putting a bot too much faith in automated systems. (where do you think the ideas for terminator came from?)

Key Issues: Nuclear Weapons: Issues: Accidents: 1980's

The 1980s began with the failure of a 46-cent computer chip causing the NORAD headquarters to mistakenly believe that they were under attack by Soviet missiles. Some 100 U.S. B-52s were readied for take-off before the mistake was discovered.




The cuban crisis is the closest we have ever come to a real live exchange-have a look at some of the papers being released now and you'll see what I mean. I don't see russia china or the US engaging in nuclear war with each other but a bigger threat if the nuclear missiles the israel have and whether they would use them. India and pakistan are also a likely candidate. We send aid to both countries while they are able to afford aircraft carriers and nucler missiles in preference to feeding their own people. The US sells pakistan jets that can carry nuclear weapons and thinks india is being paranoid. China and Pakistan have fought before and have their own problems with muslim ethnic minorities-how do you think china will view a nuclear armed fundamentalist Pakistan? The west never learn-they support a military dictator and US media commentators laughed when he locked up liberal politicians and the lawyers and then are surprised when the taliban gain support in the tribal areas they are busy bombing indiscriminately and no one in government seems capable of asking why are we doing this. Musharifs successors seem to have the same inclinations

Pakistan locks up hundreds in bid to silence protests - Asia, World - The Independent

FACTBOX-U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan | Reuters

PAKISTAN'S POSITION

Although its military has also bombarded Mehsud's stronghold with air raids and artillery, Pakistan officially objects to the U.S. drone strikes, saying they violate its sovereignty.

Pakistan also worries the strikes could undermine efforts to deal with militancy because the civilian casualties they cause inflame public anger and bolster support for the fighters. Pakistan has pressed the United States to provide it with drones to allow it to conduct its own anti-militant operations.


We can't afford Realpolitik any more but we seem unable to stop it.

On the other hand ordinary people are more connected than ever before and increasingly see themselves as part of a world community with more in common than we have differences and ever more ready to make themselves and their opinions known rather than just go along blindly with what their leader tell them.

So no I don't think it likelier. In europe we are now on our third generation without a major all out war between the various states. (leaving aside all the other altercations) such a long period of peace has never happened before. If we can just cut out the military adventuring and realpolitik who knows what might happen.

Besides if you think Armageddon inevitable what is the point in living?

Return to “Home Management”