This is how you could probably survive a nuclear apocalypse, according to science.

The Cold War paranoia was a time in American history where Americans feared the threat of a nuclear annihilation, so the United States government recommended that school children “duck and cover” in case of a nuclear attack. What if World War III strikes the world tomorrow, (we’re praying it never happens), how will humanity survive the nuclear apocalypse? ‘Cause that’s all allied nations would be firing at each other. That’s sounds more like a Hollywood blockbuster than reality. However, there’s a pretty simple way of surviving rather than hunkering down at home, according to science.

Related media: How To Survive A Nuke


The Nuclear Apocalypse

Let’s hypothetically assume that its World War III (God forbid), and there’s a nuclear apocalypse. How on earth would people (you) even survive? What should you even do? And how long can you even survive? 

In 2014, atmospheric scientist Michael Dillon, Ph.D. from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory published a paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society suggesting that victims of a nuclear attack do something unexpected: Instead of staying at home, they should leave to find better shelter. In his paper, he crunched the numbers to determine a person’s best course of action in case of a low-yield nuclear attack — like the ones that devastated both Hiroshima and Nagasaki — is what experts think what a terrorist could detonate.

If a nuke like that goes kaboom, it would first explode with a giant radioactive mushroom-cloud fireball, followed by a flare of light that can blind and burn skin, and finally a blast of superheated air that can crush buildings and send clouds of debris flying. Dillon’s analysis, however, deals with the aftermath: the deadly radioactive fallout. What’s the best way to avoid it?

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Hold In Or Head Out?

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the most generally suggested guidelines are that you take shelter in a closet, or a more protective structure like a basement, a parking lot, or even a tunnel, which can reduce your risk of radiation doses by a factor of at least 10; but what if your house doesn’t have a basement? 

According to Dillon, if unfortunately your house isn’t very protective and you know a quality shelter that’s five minutes away, run to that shelter. But if the nearest shelter is 15 minutes away, wait for half an hour, maximum, then run to the shelter. This is because your radiation dose is a balance of how much you get in an improper shelter and how much you’ll get when you’re outside reaching a better shelter. From his calculations, a five-minute run is worth reaching a nearby shelter. But if it’s further away, then waiting pays off, since the intensity of the radiation around decreases over time. Dillon estimates that these guidelines could save between 10,000 and 100,000 lives.


The Experts’ Critics

You’re probably wondering like, what’s all that for? Obviously, not everyone agrees with Dillon’s advice. The critics say telling everyone to rush out and head for shelter might be the worse scenario for surviving a nuclear apocalypse. Since it could leave everyone forcing their way on the streets, where they’ll be slowed by gridlock and exposed to radiation for longer than they planned.

This is the reason why the United States government even recommend that people shelter for at least 12 hours after the detonation. Its really important to note that this strategy could assist the government plan better survival recommendations and evacuation efforts. This is because, knowing your risk of radiation dose in a poor shelter against risk of running to a better could help us make useful policy decisions, and could help save more lives.

Or better yet still, if a big one drops, try your best to hole up in a basement (or at least a fridge, the Indiana Jones style), and feel free to “duck and cover.”


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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Tue, Mar 26, 2019.

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