December 16, 2010
Duck And Cover: Stay Inside After Nuclear Blast

Suppose you find yourself half buried under rubble after your city gets nuked. What to do? Flee? Nope. Find a stable building and go inside and stay there. Time spent outside fleeing will radiate you and get you killed. Of course, if you are really close to the center of the blast you have nothing to worry about except maybe the afterlife.

Suppose the unthinkable happened, and terrorists struck New York or another big city with an atom bomb. What should people there do? The government has a surprising new message: Do not flee. Get inside any stable building and donít come out till officials say itís safe.

Even staying inside a car will cut your mortality risk by 50%. But better to get into something more solid. This is the latest official thinking.

Decontamination may be necessary. Duck and cover! That flash means act fast!

"He did what we all must do. You and you and you and you. Duck and cover!"

Remember, radioactivity is "unseen, unheard, and odorless". Go in to 9:45 to watch buildings get knocked down. Best to be further from the epicenter so you can still find a building to enter for shelter.

If terrorist attacks with nukes ever become a substantial possibility then cities would need a bunch of mostly underground structures that can withstand blasts as long they aren't really close to the epicenter. Then people could have nearby places to flee to.

I'm still way way more concerned with natural aging processes as the most likely way the vast majority of us are going to die. I'd rather have rejuvenation therapies than a fall-out shelter in the back yard.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 December 16 11:21 PM  Dangers Nuclear Warfare

PacRim Jim said at December 17, 2010 11:44 AM:

Having hidden under the desk and walked across town to the fallout shelter in the 1950s, I can assure you that they're funóóto children.

Lou Pagnucco said at December 17, 2010 11:45 AM:


As you note in your last remark, we need to be infinitely more worried about the Grim Reaper than government-contrived phantasms.
Too bad that most people can be fooled all of the time
- otherwise, we might spend as much on life-extension research as on a major league pitcher's contract
- or, maybe we need to spend a lot more on cognition enhancement?

brian wang said at December 17, 2010 3:51 PM:

Instead of fallout shelters - we should strengthen existing buildings. You probably will not have time to move to a fallout shelter so it is better that any building you are in can take 5 PSI or better for woodframe and 15 PSI or better for a high rise.

The same construction improvements that are used against a hurricane (post-Katrina in Louisiana) or ordinary fire would apply to greatly reducing bomb damage. The difference is like construction in Haiti versus construction in Japan versus an earthquake.

A blast-wave overpressure of 5 pounds per square inch, which is associated with winds around 150 miles per hour, is enough to destroy wood-frame buildings and cause severe damage to brick apartment buildings. However, with simple and cheap construction improvements and retrofits it is possible to enable all wood-frame buildings to survive 5 PSI. Further construction improvements can increase the survivability of buildings and the people inside them.

Re-inventing civil defense

Blast resistant wall paper and enhanced civil defense.

As the technology becomes available and affordable continue to increase higher levels of robustness.

Level 1: Hurriquake nails and other cheap adjustments that are widely available now and in use for some new construction. Expect to get to 2-5 PSI and up to 10-15 resistant houses. Also need treatments for improved fire resistance. 50-70% casualty reduction.

Level 2: Use cellustic fiber that is almost up to the strength of steel (nanopaper made from wood), more steel framed construction, better concrete or carbon fiber, or graphene reinforcement. Stronger windows, doors OR monolithic domes for some new construction. Resistant PSI 10-25+. 60-85% casualty reduction. Add anti-radiation damage drugs (new carbon nanotube based drugs that are 5000 times more effective.) Total 85-92% casualty reduction.

Phillep Harding said at December 18, 2010 2:11 PM:

Back when the USSR was the big threat, I was sometimes asked if I thought "anyone could survive a nuclear war". You would be amazed at how many different ways people "really" meant that question. To me, the questions means "could a small number of people live through a nuclear war, either by luck or preperation" (to me, obviously "yes").

Some thought "anyone" meant "everyone", "could" meant "would without needing any luck or making any effort", "survive" meant "continue an unchanged life" ("Ohhhhh, life is just not going to be worth living if I cannot get in my car and drive whenever I feel like it. I don't call that surviving!" one notable zit brain wailed), still others thought that a nuclear war would involve every single existing nuke (and they thought there were many more than actually existed) and would turn the earth into an astroid belt. I think there were other interpretations as well. And, there were those who thought my answer meant that a nuclear war was winnable and I was therefore a warmonger. Go figure on that last one. A nuclear exchange would be seriously damaging to all sides, including the non-combatant nations.

Demolition Man said at December 19, 2010 8:19 AM:

>>Add anti-radiation damage drugs (new carbon nanotube based drugs that are 5000 times more effective.)

Can you give more details about how the new carbon nanotube base anti-radiation drugs would work? Will this drug repair DNA damage, or will it clean the radioactive particles after they enter the bloodstream?

But separately, here is a cursory explanation of weapon yields:

The issue is that terrorists, if they are very religious, can sacrifice themselves by assembling hundreds of low tech amateur nukes in ordinary houses in western countries, without the need to fit these in missiles, which is much more difficult. They would just smuggle the small components . The trouble is that nuclear terrorists who assemble many bombs all over the western world can severely disrupt the distribution of food, water, and fuel, and they can also cripple the power grid, This, indirectly, would kill at least half the population at the minimum, and probably much more than 50 %, maybe 80 % due to disease and lack of water. The only question is how soon the terrorists will get the capability to make so much enriched uranium. Maybe another 25 years, but no more than 50 years for sure.

Randall Parker said at December 19, 2010 10:19 AM:

Brian Wang,

Thanks for the very useful information. It strikes me that houses in tornado and hurricane zones ought to built using your level 2 anyway.

I wonder whether HEPA filters would help. Though after a nuke electric power would be out.

Phillep Harding,

A lot of people do not want to think about bad outcomes. So they rationalize there is nothing that can be done about them in order to dismiss the need for preparations.

By contrast, I like to look for ways to prepare for multiple possible bad outcomes. Brian Wang's suggestions have the virtue of also helping to prepare for other types of disaster that are perhaps more probable.

Jay said at December 22, 2010 8:07 AM:

SIP is the only option for areas within a few miles of a detonation. Folks in the suburbs would need to "duck and cover" to avoid the overpressure and debris, but would have ample time to seek better shelter before the fallout starts landing (which depends on altitude of detonation and wild conditions).

It would be ideal for the folks running the weather satelites to be prepared to detect a detonation and pinpoint the location and fallout pattern - then distribute this information so people know if they should stay in a marginal shelter or risk leaving to seek more protection elsewhere. That would not be asking too much - they already track the wind and storm systems.

Actually, the ideal is the kill the terrorists and bury them in pork, and repeat until everyone gets the message not to trifle with us.

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