You'd think we were in the middle of another Cold War. Recent headlines are full of doom...
- A new nuclear arms race looms
- North Korea: Kim [Jong Un] warns western drills risk nuclear war
- U.S. could again hold nuclear weapons on British soil, documents suggest
- Even a limited nuclear war could cause billions to die of starvation
- Russia's Medvedev makes new nuclear threat over Ukraine war
For folks who didn't live through the Cold War, it was, at times, scary. The threat of nuclear annihilation was terrifying. But we found ways to soldier through. Life went on.
The important thing was preparedness...
School kids would have regular "duck and cover" drills in their classrooms. Sometimes we'd even practice evacuating to fallout shelters in the basement of a nearby church or library. And some families prepared their own fallout shelters at home where they'd plan to hunker down during a nuclear attack.
I'm old enough to remember practicing our family's escape plans into the basement of our Boston home as Russian missiles turned up in Cuba.
One of my researchers told me about her grandfather, Sonny, who was stationed in Nagasaki, Japan after the Allies dropped a nuclear bomb on the city. Sonny saw firsthand what horrors a nuclear blast can bring. His family, who lived near a missile site during the Cold War, also took the nuclear threat seriously. They kept plenty of spare food and made sure the kids knew where to shelter.
Still, the Cold War era of 1946 to 1991 was a time of incredible economic growth in the U.S. In the 1950s, incomes rose, inflation was low, and more folks than ever before were accomplishing the classic "American Dream."
Thankfully, the Cold War ended with no nuclear bombs dropping. But today, people are again worried about the threat of nuclear war.
Look... I'm not personally worried about a nuclear bomb. It's very unlikely that we will be face-to-face with one anytime soon.
But nuclear bombs are powerful. They can cause widespread instant death... and spread slow, painful radiation sickness over an even wider area.
So if that unlikely scenario is troubling you, let me tell you how to keep yourself alive in a nuclear attack...
Get inside and stay inside.
Within minutes, a nuclear bomb's radioactive particles can pollute your lungs, skin, and clothing. That means if you want to even have a chance at survival, you need to get inside immediately. And you should expect to stay inside for at least 24 hours, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency... and possibly for 16 days or longer.
The best place to take shelter is below ground. But if you can't get underground or don't have the luxury of choosing among multiple basements, look for a concrete or brick building, and stay as far away from outside-opening doors and windows as you can. This will reduce the radioactive material you're exposed to.
(This is also how to take shelter from a tornado, incidentally... a likelier danger.)
Now, if you're too close to where a nuclear bomb detonates, you probably won't get a chance to benefit from our tips. But the fallout from a nuclear bomb can spread dozens of miles, so you might be at grave risk even if you think you're too far from a blast to worry yourself about it.
If you're concerned enough about the nuclear risk – either from a bomb or a radiation accident at a nuclear power plant – you can outfit your home with basic items that will help protect you.
You'll probably hear a lot of expensive recommendations from self-interested hucksters or passionate but misinformed loonies. A basic nuclear-survival pack should actually include three simple items:
- A roll of duct tape – If crisis strikes, tape over any gaps in the windows and doors of your home to minimize the ingestion of airborne radiation (the most concerning of which is called iodine-131) from the outside air. The half-life of iodine-131 is eight days, so the threat it poses declines quickly for about a month after a nuclear event.
- Several surgical masks – These reduce the amount of radioactive particles (iodine) inhaled.
- A small bottle of iodine pills – If you take iodine pills (potassium iodide) when there's radioactive iodine in the air, they block your thyroid gland (a critical organ in your body) from absorbing the radioactive iodine, thereby reducing potential damage to the body. The key is for adults to take about 130 milligrams right away and daily for several days or until authorities give an all clear. Children should get about half of this amount. But do NOT take these during normal times, unless advised by a doctor.
You'd also need enough packaged food and bottled water available inside your home to last your household at least 16 days. Buy bulk items from places like Costco and choose food that won't require electricity or gas to prepare. Also be sure to have flashlights (and extra batteries) available for when the sun goes down.
Now, duct tape, masks, nonperishable food, and flashlights are good things to have around your house for many types of crises. But iodine tablets can be dangerous... You'd only want to take them after you're already facing harmful radiation, when the alternative would be even worse.
If you're concerned about preparing fully for a nuclear disaster, experts say iodine tablets do have value when taken properly. Just make sure that you're not putting yourself at worse risk by misusing them, mixing them up with your other meds, or leaving them within reach of children or pets.
(That's not to be confused with liquid iodine, also called povidone-iodine. It's a useful thing to have around the house. It's a disinfectant for minor cuts, scrapes, and burns... and it can be used to purify water when you're unable to boil it. A few drops per gallon of water could save your life during a drinking-water crisis.)
You can also make a list of the following information to keep on hand for some peace of mind in the rare, rare chance of a nuclear disaster...
Shut off all heating and air conditioning units in the building immediately, as they pull in air from outside and will contaminate your breathing space.
If you were outside during or following the blast, bandage any cuts or abrasions you have, and then shower with warm water and soap (scrubbing gently so as not to break any skin) as soon as possible. Wash your hair with shampoo, but skip the conditioner, which will bind to radioactive material, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you don't have access to a shower, use a sink or a washcloth to clean off. Also blow your nose and wipe your eyelids to get rid of any potential debris.
Seal any contaminated clothing, towels, tissues, and so on in a plastic garbage bag, and keep the bag away from children or pets who might accidentally open it.
I hope you get the idea... Nuclear poisoning is unlikely, but some simple things to set up in a basement will immediately maximize your survival odds in the rare event something happens. This should make any of us sleep better at night.
As I said, I'm not concerned about the breakout of a nuclear war. But there are lots of likelier catastrophes you could face.
That's I wrote a book filled with practical plans for how to prepare yourself and your family for the unexpected – The Doctor's Protocol Field Manual.
It includes things like the most calorically dense foods you can store, how to secure all your personal documents, and a $20 device that can scare away any burglar. I also cover everything you need to survive a variety of crises, from what to do on a crashing jetliner to how to ship your assets offshore. Use it as your go-to guide in almost any type of crucial situation.
Preparing for the worst means less stress and a clear plan of action when disaster strikes. Learn more about preparing for major weather events, blackouts, health scares, and financial crises in The Doctor's Protocol Field Manual. Click here to get your electronic copy today. Paid subscribers to my Retirement Millionaire newsletter already have access right here.
What We're Reading...
- Something different: How France is adapting to the falling demand in wine.
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
August 31, 2023