Nuclear Attack - General
When a nuclear bomb or missle explodes, the main effects produced are intense light (flash), heat, blast, and radiation. The strength of these effects depends on the size and type of the weapon; how far away the explosion is; the weather conditions (sunny or rainy, windy or still); the terrain (flat or hilly); and the height of the explosion (high or near the ground).
Standard Warning Signals
- The Attention or Alert Signal. This is used by some local governments to get the attention of citizens in time of threatened or impending natural disaster, or some other peacetime emergency. The Attention or Alert Signal itself is a 3- to 5-minute steady blast on sirens, whistles, horns, or other devices. In most places, the attention or alert signal means that the local government wants to broadcast important information on radio or television concerning a peacetime disaster.
- The Attack Warning Signal. This will be sounded only in case of enemy attack. The signal itself is a 3- to 5-minute wavering sound on the sirens, or a series of short blasts on whistles, horns, or other devices, repeated as deemed necessary. The Attack Warning Signal means that an actual enemy attack against the Unites States has been detected, and that protective action should be taken immediately. This signal has no other meaning, and will be used for no other purpose.
- If you should hear the Attention or Alert Signal, turn on radio or televison set, tune it to any local station, and follow the official instructions being broadcast.
- If you should hear the Attack Warning Signal -- unless your local government has instructed you otherwise -- go immediately to a public fallout shelter or to your home fallout shelter. Turn on a radio, tune it to any local station that is broadcasting, and listen for official information. Follow whatever instructions are given.
During Nuclear Attack
- If you have advanced warning, take your 72-Hour Kit and go to an approved shelter or your basement. Huddle close to the floor and as near to the south wall as possible. Get under a table for protection from falling objects.
- DO NOT attempt to evacuate your shelter until advised.
- If you see a nuclear flash and feel sudden heat, take cover INSTANTLY, within one or two seconds. Drop to the ground and curl up tightly, covering as many parts of your body as possible.
- Never look at the light of a nuclear explosion.
- Go to a shelter once the heat and blast effects have cleared.
After Nuclear Attack
- Take cover in an underground shelter, basement, etc.
- Remove contaminated clothing.
- Wash yourself thoroughly with soap and water. Wash your head and nose hairs especially well.
- If the source of radiation is known and travel advisable, travel in the opposite direction and go up wind from radiation.
- Remain in protective shelter for three days.
- Limit your exposure to contaminated areas.
- If someone needs radiation sickness treatment, keep the victim calm, give emotional support, and give plenty of fluids.
- Wipe food and water containers with a clean cloth to remove particles of fallout, which resemble sand or salt.
- Stay calm; don't panic.
- When a nuclear weapon explodes near the ground, great quantities of pulverized earth and other debris are sucked up in to the nuclear cloud.
- The radioactive gasses produced by the explosion condense on and into this debris, producing radioactive fallout particles.
- Within a short time, these particles fall back to earth -- the larger ones first -- which give off invisible gamma rays (like X-rays).
- Generally, the first 24 hours after fallout began to settle would be the most dangerous period to a community's residents.
- The heavier particles falling during that time should still be highly radioactive and give off strong rays.
- The lighter particles falling later would have lost much of their radiation high in the atmosphere.
- Fallout is not a mysterious, invisible, or unrecognizable substance that strikes without warning -- fallout particles range in size from those like grains of sand, which can be seen easily, to very small particles that appear as fine dust.
- The distribution of fallout particles after an nuclear attack would depend on wind currents, weather conditions, and other factors.
- No area in the United States could be sure of not getting fallout, and it is probable that some fallout particles would be deposited on most of the country.
- Areas close to a nuclear explosion might receive fallout within 15 to 30 minutes, but it might take 5 to 10 hours or more for the particles to drift down on a community 100 or 200 miles away.
Protection from Fallout
- The more distance between you and the fallout particles, the less radiation you will recieve.
- The more heavy, dense materials between you and the fallout particles, the better. Materials such as concrete, bricks, and earth will absorb many of the gamma rays and help keep them from reaching you.
- Fallout radiation decays fairly rapidly. As time passes, the radioactivity in fallout loses its strength. In most cases, the radiation level would decrease enough to permit people to leave their shelter within a few days for short periods of time, although unusual weather conditions or an extended period of attack could require a longer shelter stay.
- Fallout arriving within a few hours after a nuclear explosion is highly radioactive. If it collects on the skin in large enough quantities, it can cause burns.
- Gamma radiation is the most dangerous kind of fallout radiation because it can penetrate the entire body and cause cell damage to the organs, blood, and bones.
- Enough gamma radiation damage to your body can cause illness or death.
- People exposed to fallout radiation do not become radioactive and thereby dangerous to other people.
- Radiation sickness is not contagious or infectious; one person cannot "catch it" from another.
- If an international crisis should threaten to result in a nuclear attack, people living in areas more likely to be nuclear targets may be advised to move temporarily.
- These areas are generally considered to be metroplitan areas of 50,000 or more population or areas with significant military, industrial, or economic importance.
- The designation of such an area does not constitute a prediction that the area will be attacked, but only indicates the potential for attack.
- The safer areas are outlying small towns and areas.
To protect themselves form the radiation given off by fallout particles, people in affected areas would have to stay in fallout shelters from two or three days to as long as two weeks. Many people would go to public fallout shelters, while others -- through choice or necessity -- would take refuge in private or home fallout shelters. A fallout shelter does not need to be a special type of building or underground bunker. It can be any space, provided the walls and roof are thick and dense enough to absorb the rays given off by the fallout particles outside. If there are no public fallout shelters near you, a home fallout shelter may save your life.
- If your home or basement -- or one corner of it -- is below ground level, your best and easiest action would be to prepare a permenent-type family shelter there.
- If you have basic carpentry or masonry skills, you probably could buy the necesssry shielding materials and do the work yourself in a short time.
- Varying thicknesses of bagged sand, gravel, or earth; bricks; concrete blocks, and wood are all acceptable materials that are easily accessible to most people.
- If you have no basement, or would prefer a shelter separate from the house, an outside fallout shelter can be built either above or below ground.
- Construction plans for permanent shelters can be obtained by writing FEMA, PO Box 8181, Washington, DC 20004. Please specify the type of shelter in which you are interested.
Improvising a Fallout Shelter
If an enemy attack should occur and you have made no advance shelter preparations, you still might be able to improvise a shelter either inside or near your home or in the open. In an emergency, radio broadcasts will tell you whether you have time to improvise a shelter or should take cover immediately.
- An improvised shelter probably would not give you as much protection as a permanent or preplanned family shelter, but any protection is better than none and might save your life.
- The best place to improvise a shelter would be in a basement or other underground area.
- You will need shielding mterials such as concrete blocks, bricks, sand, or earth.
- Other things could be used as shielding material, or to support shielding material, such as:
- House doors that have been taken off their hinges (especially heavy outside doors).
- Dressers and chests (fill the drawers with sand or earth after they are placed in position, so they won't be too heavy to carry and won't collapse while being carried).
- Trunks, boxes, and cartons (fill them with sand or earth after they are placed in position).
- Tables and bookcases.
- Books, magazines, and stacks of firewood or lumber.
- Flagstones from outside walks and patios.
Improvising a Basement Fallout Shelter
Set up a large, sturdy table or workbench in the corner of your basement that is most below ground level.
- On the table, pile as much shielding material as it will hold without collapsing.
- Put as much shielding around the table as possible.
- If a large table or workbench is not available, or if more shelter space is needed, place furniture or large appliances in the corner of the basement to serve as the "walls" of the shelter.
- As a "ceiling," use doors from the house that have been taken off their hinges.
- Pile as much shielding material on top of the doors as they will support.
- Stack other shielding material around the "walls" of the shelter.
- When family members are "inside the shelter," block the opening with other shielding material.
Using Crawl Space
Some homes without a basement have a "crawl space" between the first floor and the ground underneath the house. If you have this space under your house -- and if the house is set on foundation walls, rather than on pillars -- you can improvise fallout protection for your family there.
- First, gain access to the crawl space through the floor or through the outside foundation wall. A trapdoor or other entry could be made now, before an emergency occurs.
- As the location for your shelter, select a crawl space area that is under the center of the house, as far away from the outside foundation walls as possible.
- Around the selected shelter area, place shielding material -- preferably bricks or blocks, or containers filled with sand or earth -- from the ground level up to the first floor of the house, so that the shielding material forms the "walls" of your shelter area.
- If time permits, dig out more earth and make the shelter area deeper, so you can stand erect or at least sit up in it.
Living in a Shelter
People gathered in public and private shelters to escape fallout radiation after a nuclear attack might have to stay there -- at least part of the time -- for up to two weeks. During this time, they would need certain supplies and equipment in order to stay alive and well and to cope with emergency situations that might occur in their shelters. If you intend to use a home fallout shelter, you should gather together now all the things you and your family would need for two weeks, even though you probably wouldn't have to remain inside the shelter for the entire period. To augment the supplies of water and food that may be found in or near large structures where public fallout shelter is usually located, you should plan to take the following with you:
- As much drinkable liquids (water, fruit juices, vegetable juices, etc.) as you can carry to the shelter.
- As much food (and ready-to-eat food) as would be required for your family for two weeks.
- Special medicines or foods required by members of your family, such as insulin, heart tablets, dietetic food, or baby food.
- At least one blanket for each family member.
- A battery-powered radio, flashlight, extra batteries for each, and writing materials for taking notes or information given over the radio.
- Sanitation supplies.
- Cooking and eating utensils.
- Fire fighting equipment.
- General equipment and tools.
- Personal convenience items.
- Other miscellaneous items.