This is advice I hope you’ll never need, but it’s good to know anyway. A nuclear attack is everyone’s worst nightmare. The immediate aftermath is simply as bad, if not much worse, than the explosion itself. Here is what you should do if that happens and you survive the initial blast.
You will know a nuclear bomb went off in your area if there is a sudden flash of bright, white light, which might or might not give you flash blindness if you are within 50 miles or so of ground zero. If the bright, white blindness eventually clears up, and you do not suddenly feel at peace, then you’re alive. Other signs of a nuclear blast include instant first-degree to third-degree burns if you are within 10 miles or so, and sure enough, a trademark mushroom cloud looming over the skyline.
When you realize what is happening, you should find shelter immediately to escape nuclear fallout, according to researcher Michael Dillon, from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. In his report for the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, he suggests hiding within the densest building material possible. The thicker, the better.
For instance, sturdy brick or concrete structures which lack windows, or heading underground to a cellar, basement, or sub-basement. Hiding in such a place will expose you to just 1/200 of the fallout radiation you would be exposed to outside. Apparently, an actual bomb shelter is ideal, but most people are not close to those. This FEMA graphic, that was recently shared by Business Insider, can give you an idea of right places to go:
Wooden structures, like most houses and smaller one-story buildings, will not do much good against fallout radiation, sadly. Is it better than nothing? Kind of, but Michael Dillon recommends you move to a better location if that’s possible. If you can dash to a denser, protective shelter in about five minutes of exposure, then go for it. If getting there would take longer, let’s say up to 15 minutes of exposure, it’s better to stay where you are for at least one hour, and then make your move. A good portion of the intense fallout radiation will have subsided by then, reducing your exposure to some extent.
While you wait in your dense, thick-walled shelter, the EPA suggests that you stay away from any doors or windows, take a shower or wipe down exposed parts of your body with a wet cloth, and ditch your now-contaminated clothing. Stick your contaminated clothing in a plastic bag, seal it off, and get it far away from you and other people. While you shower, use shampoo and soap but don’t scrub or scratch your skin. And don’t use hair conditioner, as it can bind radioactive material to your hair. Once clean, blow your nose, wipe your eyelids, eyelashes, and ears to remove any leftover material.
Finally, ensure you only drink bottled water and eat food from sealed containers until a rescue team can get to you. While you wait, listen to the radio to stay up to date on where you can find help and get screened for contamination.