- A small nuclear bomb set off by a terrorist is one of 15 disaster scenarios the US government plans for.
- Radioactive fallout is the biggest danger for those who survive the initial blast.
- Sheltering indoors is important to lower radiation exposure, but you'll want a few items to help you make it through the first 24-48 hours.
- You should have a radio, water, essential medications, and food handy.
- FEMA has more-complete supply lists for emergency-preparedness kits, which it recommends every American family assemble.
North Korea on Tuesday reportedly launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile — a rocket capable of traveling more than 3,400 miles with a weapon on top. The feat suggests that the isolated country, one of nine nations that together wield more than 14,900 nukes, could strike Alaska.
However, the rest of the US faces a much different and shadowy nuclear threat: a terrorist-caused nuclear detonation, which is one of 15 disasters scenarios that the federal government has planned for — just in case.
"National Planning Scenario No. 1 is a 10-kiloton nuclear detonation in a modern US city," Brooke Buddemeier, a health physicist and expert on radiation at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, told Business Insider. "A 10-kiloton nuclear detonation is equivalent to 5,000 Oklahoma City bombings. Though we call it 'low yield,' it's a pretty darn big explosion."
Buddemeier couldn't say how likely such an attack might be today. But the concern isn't unfounded, since weapons-grade nuclear materials have proliferated in recent years, along with smaller, kiloton-class bombs. And while governments do their best to safeguard nuclear-weapons materials, there's no guarantee a terrorist couldn't succeed in obtaining them.
Should a nuclear blast occur near your city or town, and you somehow avoided its searing flash of light, crushing shockwaves, and incendiary fireball, take shelter immediately (read our full fallout survival guide here). You should also have a few items handy in your emergency kit.
"Would you have considered Oklahoma City a likely target?" Buddemeier said. "I think it's worthwhile for everybody to think about preparedness for any kind of event."
Buddemeier said the best plan was to round up the emergency supplies on Ready.gov, which are listed at the end of this post.
"This isn't just for the nuclear holocaust event," Buddemeier said. "This is for general emergency preparedness and making sure that you and your family can be safe in an emergency."
But if you're in a pinch, he said you should grab a few basics while you run for cover from radioactive fallout.