With the threat of a nuclear attack by North Korea mentioned in the news daily, we are left to wonder what, if anything, we should do to prepare our households – without wasting money on any unnecessary items.
Fortunately, there are plenty of low-cost items you can buy that could help you in the event of a nuclear attack. There are even some no-cost means of protecting yourself. To provide a well-rounded list, we’ve also included some significant-cost items that could save your life, if you have the means and wish to acquire them.
Next: Include these items in your emergency supply kit.
1. Water and food
- Stock one gallon of water per person for at least 3 days.
Most of the items for your kit are inexpensive, everyday items you would want to have available in case of a nuclear emergency. Many of these items are things you will use one day anyway, nuclear event or not. A full, more detailed list of what should be in your emergency supply kit, and information on where to store the kit, can be found here.
First and foremost, the kit should contain one gallon of water per person for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation. It should also hold at least a three-day supply on nonperishable food and a can opener. Don’t forget pet food and extra water for your pet. Remember to include baby formula, if applicable. Also needed is a supply of cups, utensils, and paper towels.
Next: Other essentials you should have in your emergency supply kit
2. Clothing, prescriptions, and other essentials
- Store one full change of clothes per person.
Other necessities for the emergency supply kit include medicine (prescription and over-the-counter), toiletries, a full change of clothing and sturdy shoes per person, a sleeping bag or warm blanket per person, cash, forms of identification, flashlights, and extra batteries.
A more complete list of items for your supply kit and a printable version of the disaster supplies kit list are available on Ready.gov.
Next: This one item could be a life-saver.
3. Self-powered, emergency radio
- Price range: $20-$45
Access to a self-powered, emergency radio could save your life and provide you with important updates, such as when it’s safe to go back outside. These radios often feature a hand crank, solar panels, and the capacity for charging USB cables.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and National Weather Service (NWS) have implemented an Emergency Alert System, through which, for instance, the president can address the American public during a national emergency. For reasons such as this, having access to a radio when the power is out is extremely important. Keep the radio tuned to an emergency response network at all times for updates.
Next: Here’s how to create a family emergency plan.
4. Family emergency plan
- Price: Free to download from various websites
Creating a family emergency plan costs absolutely nothing and could save the lives of you and your loved ones. Ready.gov provides a handy checklist for creating information to share with family members including shelter plans, evacuation routes, and family communication plans. The website also provides an emergency plan tailored to parents.
Next: These Cold War-era shelters are few and far between.
5. Blast shelter
- Detroit’s salt mine can shelter more than 5 million people.
Blast shelters are specifically built to offer protection against pressure from blasts, as well as initial radiation, heat, and fire. However, keep in mind that not even a blast shelter can withstand a direct hit from a nuclear explosion. Not all of us have easy access to a blast shelter. As the Cold War era faded away, so did many of these shelters. Focus over recent years instead has moved to creating shelters from natural disasters such as hurricanes. Keep in mind, however, that underground salt mines and caves can and do serve as nuclear bunkers.
Next: Learn the best spot of your home or office to avoid nuclear fallout.
6. Fallout shelter
- Stay in your shelter for at least 48 hours after the blast.
Unlike blast shelters, fallout shelters are not necessarily built with the sole intention of protecting against fallout. A fallout shelter can be any space with walls and a roof thick enough to absorb radiation given off by fallout particles. Remember, some protection is better than none. A basement could be used as a fallout shelter. It is recommended that to best avoid fallout, you should go as far below ground as possible or in the center of a tall building. It is not recommended under any circumstances to leave the shelter in the first 48 hours.
Next: What exactly is nuclear fallout?
- After 2 weeks, radioactive fallout has declined to 1% of its initial radiation level.
You may be wondering just what fallout is. After a nuclear bomb is detonated, radioactive material is propelled into the atmosphere. Made up of radioactive dust and ash, the material falls out of the sky. It can travel for hundreds of miles, depending on the wind. Exposure to fallout material is deadly. For more information on nuclear fallout and its effects on the body, refer to this Lifehacker article.
The video below shows what nuclear explosions look like.
Next: These materials can keep harmful air from entering your home.
7. Materials to seal off windows and doors
- Keep windows and doors sealed for 2-3 hours.
Since the air outside may be dangerous, temporarily sealing off a room can help protect you from harm. If large amounts of debris can be seen from the window, or if local officials say the air is dangerous, you may wish to take this kind of action. You can cheaply seal the windows, doors, and vents using duct tape and plastic sheeting.
It is recommended to remove the plastic covers within two or three hours, as suffocation could occur if the room is kept tightly sealed for more than five hours. Instructions for sealing a room can be found here.
Next: Find out an inexpensive way to keep warm.
8. Mylar Thermal Blankets
- Price of a 10-pack: around $20
Mylar thermal blankets are inexpensive and lightweight, and they help regulate your temperature when you are occupying a small space for long periods of time. They typically reflect back 80% to 90% of your radiated body heat. One reviewer of these products recommended using two of them when sleeping – one to wrap around the body and another one to place on the floor to prevent heat loss into the ground.
A durable, warm emergency sleeping bag for each person in the family is also an important item to keep near your emergency kit.
Next: This item helps prevent cancer after nuclear fallout.
9. Potassium Iodide tablets
- Price for 180 tablets: around $10
Potassium Iodide saturates a person’s thyroid gland so that radioactive iodine particles cannot find a home there. Instead, such particles are expelled out of the body through its normal waste channels. Taking these tablets can protect a person’s thyroid from the damage caused by radioactive nuclear fallout. Ingesting such fallout can lead to thyroid cancer. As such, these tablets’ sole purpose is to protect the thyroid. Potassium Iodide tablets can be bought online or over the counter at stores.
Next: This product could help ensure drinkable water.
10. Walter filtration system
- Price of a lightweight water filter: $20
Some water filters do not require batteries and will purify contaminated water without the use of iodine, chlorine, or other chemicals. Amazon sells a lightweight water filter for $19.95. This filter can be kept, among other things, for emergency situations. It filters up to 1,000 liters of contaminated water. It is said to remove waterborne bacteria and parasites. Such an item could come in handy when there is otherwise no drinkable water on hand.
Next: Learn about an air filtration system.
11. Air filtration system
- Price on eBay: $2,999
Air filtration systems can be installed in a room or an RV. They are designed to over-pressure rooms to provide protection after a nuclear event. These devices filter all air that enters the room and thus protect against toxins that are part of nuclear fallout. These devices don’t come cheap, however. This model sells on eBay for $2,999.
Next: Know which strategic targets are near you.
12. Move away from strategic targets.
- Notable cities with potential to be wiped out: Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Honolulu, and others
This might not be the most practical or inexpensive suggestion, but it is worth a mention, nevertheless. Certain spots would likely be considered as nuclear attack targets. Living near these spots would therefore increase your risk of being killed or injured in the event of a nuclear attack.
Potential targets include strategic missile sites and military bases, government centers like Washington, D.C. and state capitals, transportation and communication hubs, as well as manufacturing and financial centers. The list also includes oil refineries, electric power plants, and chemical plants. Major ports and airfields would also be included.
Next: Further resources can help you prepare for the unthinkable.
Nuclear attack information resources
There is a flood of information online regarding surviving a nuclear attack, including supply kit lists, emergency management plans, timelines, and more. Links you may find helpful include the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Communicating in a Crisis fact sheet and the ready.gov Nuclear Blast information page referenced in this article (which also includes a link to an emergency plan checklist).
Inside Edition released a report on what steps you can take to seek safety after an attack:
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