- People who survive a nuclear blast may be exposed to radioactive ash and dust called fallout.
- Finding a good shelter as soon as possible and going inside is critical to surviving fallout.
- A scientist has come up with a strategy for when and whether to move to a better fallout shelter.
President Trump has egged on a new arms race. Russia violated weapons treaties to upgrade its nuclear arsenal. North Korea is developing long-range missiles and practicing for nuclear war — and the US military is considering preemptive attacks on the isolated nation's military facilities.
Though these events are unlikely to trigger the last-ditch option of nuclear war, let alone a blast in your neighborhood, they are very concerning.
So you might be wondering, "If I survive a nuclear-bomb attack, what should I do?"
Michael Dillon, a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researcher, crunched the numbers and helped figure out just that in a 2014 study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical and Physical Sciences.
Likewise, government agencies and other organizations have also explored the harrowing question and came up with detailed recommendations and response plans.
You are in a large city that has just been subjected to a single, low-yield nuclear detonation, between 0.1 and 10 kilotons.
This is much less powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima — about 15 kilotons. However, it's not unlikely when looking at weapons like the new B61-12 gravity bomb, which is built by the US, maxes out at 50 kilotons, and can be dialed down to 0.3 kilotons. (Russia and Pakistan are working on similar so-called "tactical" nuclear weapons.)
One of your biggest and most immediate goals is to avoid nuclear fallout.
How to avoid fallout radiation
Fallout is a mess of bomb material, soil, and debris that is vaporized, made radioactive, and sprinkled as dust and ash across the landscape by prevailing winds. (In New York City, for example, a fallout zone would spread eastward.)
The best thing to do is to find a good place to hide — the more dense material between you and the outside world, the better — then wait until the rescuers can make their way to help you.