Here Are The Best Places To Hide In The Case Of A Nuclear Attack

Now that some of the world’s most powerful nuclear weapons are in the hands of two impulsive kindergarteners with potty mouths, people across the world have started thinking about what to do in the case of a nuclear attack.

So, how do you survive a nuclear blast? Good news first: you probably won’t. Most experts on nuclear fallout patterns agree that no matter where you live, a direct nuclear attack is probably going to kill you. A 2011 study conducted by Sandia National Laboratories looked at the likelihood of surviving “a Chicago nuclear detonation scenario,” and found that about 100,000 of the cities 2.7 million would survive (for those interested, that’s less than one percent).

But if you’d like to boost the (slim) likelihood that you’ll survive the first blast without succumbing to horrifying radiation poisoning days later, the number one advice that experts have is to go inside and go underground.

In the case of a nuclear attack, the multi-government-agency Planning Guide For Response To Nuclear Detonation says that the best shelter materials include concrete, bricks, dirt, and stone. In other words, the best shelters in case of a nuclear attack are going to be underground parking lots and basements under multi-story buildings. On the other hand, lightweight materials like sheet metal and wood are considered poor shielding materials, and staying in houses made from these materials is marginally better than staying outside.

After the guide came out, many people wondered when it would be worth it to seek better shelter. So researcher Michael Dillion actually came up with a mathematical model to determine when the risks of staying in an inadequate shelter outweigh the risks of going outside. If there’s a good shelter 5-10 minutes away from you, then it’s generally worth it to try to get there.

On the other hand, if the shelter is 15 minutes or more away, it’s better to hole up in your current shelter (at least for another hour, when the worst of the radioactive fallout has subsided). If you’re somewhere secure, with food and provisions available, you’ll want to stay inside for up to nine days while the radiation settles.

Even though evacuating is technically better than sheltering, most experts don’t recommend evacuating without instruction from authorities because of the unpredictable nature of nuclear fallout. Fallout is basically an airborne mass of dirt, dust and ash turned radioactive and blown across the landscape by prevailing winds.

While the initial pattern of nuclear damage is a fairly predictable target around the blast site, fallout damage forms a long tail, usually in the direction of the prevailing winds. Because fallout damage isn’t entirely predictable, there’s always a risk of uninformed civilians evacuating right into the tail of the fallout, and contracting radiation poisoning. If you’re in a secure shelter, it’s way better to wait for the official evacuation.

While there are some areas you can seek out to lessen your risk of dying in the event of a nuclear blast, the truth is that your odds of survival are still pretty slim. Radiation is incredibly dangerous and, even if you aren’t killed by the radioactive material in the bomb itself, you’d still have to deal with the fires and infrastructure collapse indirectly caused by the bomb. So the very best and most foolproof way to survive a nuclear attack? Get involved with nuclear disarmament activism to make sure it never comes to that point, to begin with.

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