Throughout history Americans have had to prepare themselves for potential emergencies, facing the possibility of world wars, disease, and famine. In recent years, however, this preparation has been taken to a whole new level.
On July 4th, North Korea was reported to have launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile. This powerful missile is a rocket designed to be capable of traveling over 5000 km (3100 miles) while carrying a weapon on top. In a world where the development and existence of nuclear weapons have repeatedly made the front page, the capability of this missile highlights the risk before us.
The United States has been prepared for a number of potential disaster scenarios,. The federal government has looked at each of these situations, outlining the best-recommended way for the country to prepare and handle the situation should it arise. , a health physicist, an expert on the topic or radiation stated that “National Planning Scenario No. 1 is a 10-kiloton nuclear detonation in a modern US city. A 10-kiloton nuclear detonation is equivalent to 5000 Oklahoma City bombings.”
While the government is going to such lengths to devise plans for the country as a whole, it is important that each American is also prepared in his or her personal day to day lives. In the event of a nuclear explosion, we need to not only know what to do but also have the necessary equipment on hand in order to prioritize our personal safety.
Buddemeir cautions against efforts to outrun fallout. “[Y] our ability to know where the fallout’s gonna go, and outrun it, are – well, it’s very unlikely,”he explains stating that it would likely be carried by high-altitude winds, “often booking along at 100 miles [160 km] per hour.”Following a nuclear blast, it is important that you seek a fallout shelter as quickly as possible. You will need to stay safe and clear from contaminated air for at least 24 to 48 hours pending instructions.
Brooke Buddemeier/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Buddemeier stated, “We may not be able to do much about the blast casualties, because where you were is where you were, and you can’t really change that. But fallout casualties are entirely preventable. In a large city… knowing what to do after an event like this can literally save hundreds of thousands of people from radiation illness or fatalities.”
While maintaining a well-stocked emergency kit in the safety of your own home may not be a challenge, true emergency preparedness also needs to consider the times that you may not have this kit handy, such as if you are on your way to work, at the local mall or riding public transit. It these moments it is important to understand what items will prove to be the most valuable.
Many people will immediately jump to the item that they consider to be the reliable, medicinal solution to radiation poisoning – Potassium iodine pills, however, Buddemeier cautions everyone that they are not as effective as they may believe!
He explained, “Most people seem to think of the potassium iodide, or KI pills, as some type of anti-radiation drug. They are not. They are for preventing the uptake of radio-iodine, which is one radionuclide out of thousands of radionuclides that are out there. Radio-iodine is… probably like [0.2 percent] of the overall exposure that you may be facing if you’re outdoors.
The truth is that the risk in searching out the KI pills will likely outweigh the benefits it will provide by a considerable amount. The longer you are outside during this time, the more that you are exposing yourself to potentially harmful radiation.
Buddemeier suggests finding a hand-crank style radio, specifically one that offers a USB charging port in order to charge your other devices, if possible. While you are in your safe bunker it is of utmost importance that you are able to receive emergency broadcasts and instructions which will keep you updated on the situation outside and when it will be safe to leave your shelter. While a cell phone can be used, you do run the risk that cell phone towers may be impacted, hindering your ability to get a reliable signal.
While you are safely locked away in your bunker you will need a reliable source of water. This includes both for consumption, as well as to rinse off any radioactive fallout that you may have come into contact with while finding your way to safety.suggests that you have one gallon, or 3.8 liters, per person per day.
The human body is capable of surviving without food for a significant period of time, however, the length of time you will need to stay put is unknown, and hunger will only add to your stress level. Simple foods that are easily stored for future use like breakfast bars should be added to any emergency kits that you prepare.
If you are currently taking medication to maintain your health, it is important to ensure that you have these medications on hand with you while you are hidden away safely. There is no point in making the effort to keep yourself safe from the nuclear attack if you are not going to take the steps to maintain your health throughout the experience.
The US Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests that every family take the time to put together a clear and concise family plan. This includes where you are to go for safety, the location of your emergency kits and any necessary information required during an emergency. Children should be taught the emergency plan, and then reminded of it on an annual basis.
Brooke Buddemeier/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
They also suggest that you prepare and store several emergency kits so that you are prepared at home, at the office, while in your vehicle and any other areas that you are regularly found throughout your daily routine. The size of this kit will depend upon available space. For example, you can keep a much more thorough kit at home than you will likely keep in your vehicle. These emergency kits are not only for a nuclear emergency but also for power outages, tornadoes, hurricanes, snowstorms and other emergencies that force you to seek shelter.
Local Maps: for use to locate and understand safety routes as broadcasted during any emergency broadcasts
Flashlight and extra batteries
Water: 1 gallon per person per days, with enough to cover at least 3 days
Basic first aid kit
Food: A 3-day supply at a minimum of easily stored, non-perishable food items
Plastic Sheeting and Duct Tape: to use to protect your safe space from potentially harmful particles in the air outside
Whistle: to signal for help if required
Radio: Hand-crank preferably, or battery powered. If possible, FEMA also recommends a NOAA Weather Radio.
Garbage Bags, Plastic Ties, and Moist Towelettes: to use for personal sanitation
Dust mask: a minimum of one for each person to filter potentially contaminated air
Wrench or Pliers: to turn off utilities as required
Can Opener: to open canned food if any exists in the emergency kit
- Important Documentation: this includes copies of household insurance policies, bank records, identification, and health related information, all of which should be kept in portable, waterproof container
- Paper and Pencil
- Change of Clothing: a complete change of clothing, for example, a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes with socks, tailored to your particular climate
- Prescription medications and glasses
- Traveler’s Checks and/or Cash: change is also incredibly important
- Bleach and a Medicine Dropper: Bleach diluted to nine parts water/one part bleach can be used as an effective disinfectant
- Infant Supplies: formula and diapers if there is an infant to care for
- Books, games, puzzles, toys or other activities for any children
- Fire extinguisher
- Emergency Reference Material: Ready.gov provides a number of such documents including a first aid book
- Matches: in a waterproof container
- Pet Supplies: any necessary medications, food and extra water for any pets that you may have in your home
- Feminine Supplies and Personal Hygiene Items
- Sleeping Bag and/or Warm Blanket: one per person, with additional bedding as necessary depending upon your climate
- Mess kits, paper cups, plates, plastic utensils, paper towels
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