Here’s How to Prepare for a Nuclear Attack

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By Daisy Luther


Would you know what to do if you were warned of an imminent nuclear strike? Or would you be frozen in shock? Perhaps scurrying to search up the information you need to survive?

It’s obviously far better to understand events of this magnitude ahead of time. Here’s how to get prepared for that horrifying possibility.

First things first, it’s essential to keep abreast of the news. Sign up here for my daily newsletter – I’ll let you know what I know, the moment I know it.

Now, let’s take a look at the facts about nuclear strikes.

Would a nuclear attack kill us all or cause a global nuclear winter?

I got a message from a reader during the North Korea crisis that encompasses what a lot of us are thinking:

N. Korea now has a Nuke or Nuke capabilities. Do you beef up your preps, wait for the chips to fall, kiss your butt goodbye, or other? Should we be acting business as usual?

First, let me dispel two myths about a nuclear attack.

We won’t all die or wish we were dead if a nuclear strike occurs. The movies – as much as I love them – have done us a terrible disservice here. If you are at Ground Zero of an attack, there is absolutely nothing you can do. Everything will be vaporized and that’s that. However, if you are outside the immediate blast zone, it is completely survivable and I don’t mean survivable in the horrible, lingering death kind of way. I mean, unharmed. You just have to know exactly what to do immediately in order to protect yourself. More on that in a moment.

We won’t suffer a nuclear winter. Everything thinks it will be like the post-apocalyptic scenario in that horrible book/movie, The Road. People aren’t going to be trying to eat each other. In that particular plot, the nuclear war was so great that a huge cloud of ash covered the planet. In reality, it would take hundreds of nuclear strikes to cause something like that, which is unlikely to occur. This isn’t to downplay the horror and death of one strike, but to point out that the aftermath isn’t going to make the quality of life on Earth as terrible as what the movies portray.

Here is what would happen if a 10 kiloton nuclear strike occurred.

Contrary to popular belief, a nuke won’t kill everyone within hundreds of miles. If you aren’t in the immediate blast radius, a nuclear strike is absolutely survivable.

The one-mile radius around the blast will be virtually unsurvivable. Within two miles, people will suffer 3rd-degree burns from the intense wave of heat.

If you are within two miles of the blast, the winds will be coming at about 600 miles per hour. This will take down buildings and cause a tremendous amount of pressure. Some experts recommend that you keep your mouth open to try and reduce the pressure on your eardrums. Looking at the blast could cause permanent blindness.

According to the DHS, 10 kilotons is the approximate size of nuclear weapon we could expect.

  • Nearly everyone within a half mile radius of the point of impact would die and most of the buildings would be demolished. This would be considered Ground Zero.
  • The area within the next half mile would suffer extensive damage, fires, and serious injuries.
  • Areas within three miles could see minor injuries to people and slight damage to their homes.
  • The fallout would kill even more people. According to the DHS:
  • Within 10 to 20 miles of the explosion, radioactive exposure would cause nausea and vomiting within hours and death without medical treatment.
  • But for those near enough to the blast, experiencing more than 800R of radiation, not seeking shelter immediately would cause deaths with or without medical treatment, the study found.
  • People would not be able to evacuate this area as fallout would arrive within just 10 minutes.


People upwind of the strike and outside the 20-mile radius would be unlikely to suffer any effects. People downwind would need to take shelter. Deaths from cancer that is related to the fallout could occur for many years after.

Here’s what I’m doing to prepare for a nuclear attack.

As cool as it would be to have one, you don’t have to have a bunker to survive if you take the time now to get prepped. You can survive by learning everything you can to prepare for a nuclear attack.

So, here’s what I’m doing.

Every time a new threat rolls around, I discover that while I have many of my bases covered, there are a few things I hadn’t accounted for. A nuclear threat is no different. There were some supplies I had to pick up myself, particularly a bigger supply of no-cook food.

Part of your preparations will depend on where you live, so this will be different for everyone. Are you near any places that are likely targets? Places like Washington DC, Hawaii, New York City, Los Angeles, and large military bases are more likely targets than say, a low population area in the midwest. Of course, this doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Just that it’s less likely.

Are you in a house or an apartment building? What is the best place in your home to seek shelter? Plan all of this ahead of time. If you know exactly what steps you are going to take, you will be able to better perform them under pressure.

Here are some key points to consider.

You won’t have a whole lot of notice.

Scientists say that residents of Hawaii would have only 8-12 minutes notice if an ICBM was headed their way, and residents of New York City will have an hour. Clearly, there won’t be time to run to the store – and if you did, you’d be fighting it out with a bunch of terrified, panicked people – so get your supplies together now.

You could be in your car.

If you are in your car, make certain to turn the vent to recirculation so that you don’t bring any outside air into the vehicle. Your goal should be to immediately get to shelter.

Be prepared to go into lockdown.

In nearly every case, staying home is the best course of action. Imagine you are in New York City and this nuke is headed your way. If you try to evacuate, you are most likely to get stuck on one of the bridges on the way out of Manhattan and that would be far more deadly than hunkering down in your apartment and hoping you are outside the half mile radius of Ground Zero. Experts say that you should plan to stay sheltered for a minimum of 9 days. Our personal plan is 14-21 days, depending on proximity and wind direction. I’d rather err on the side of caution, personally.

During a talk on surviving a nuclear attack, professor Iwrin Redlener, US specialist on disaster preparedness, said: “In that 10 to 15 minutes, all you have to do is go about a mile away from the blast.

“Within 20 minutes, it comes straight down. Within 24 hours, lethal radiation is going out with prevailing winds.”

Prof Redlener said you should feel for the wind and begin running perpendicular to it – not upwind or downwind

He said: “You’ve got to get out of there. If you don’t get out of there, you’re going to be exposed to lethal radiation in very short order.

“If you can’t get out of there, we want you to go into a shelter and stay there. Now, in a shelter in an urban area means you have to be either in a basement as deep as possible, or you have to be on a floor – on a high floor – if it’s a ground burst explosion, which it would be, higher than the ninth floor.

So you have to be tenth floor or higher, or in the basement. But basically, you’ve got to get out of town as quickly as possible. And if you do that, you actually can survive a nuclear blast.”

The most hazardous fallout particles are readily visible as fine sand-sized grains so you must keep away from them and not go outside if you see them. (source)

While I’m not a professor, I would not be trying to run perpendicular. I’d be trying to get inside to shelter, ASAP.

Fortify your home against fallout.

  • Your goal is to put as much mass as possible between you and the radioactive fallout. Sandbags are a good way to quickly create mass. Take shelter in a basement if possible and fortify the windows and doors with as much mass as possible.
  • Use duct tape and tarps to seal off all windows, doors, and vents. Get a LOT of duct tape and tarps.
  • Turn off any type of climate control that pulls the outside air into your home. Expect to survive without heat or air conditioning for the duration.
  • Close off your chimney.
  • If someone enters the home, make certain that there is a room set up that is separate from other family members so that they can decontaminate. All clothing they were wearing should be placed outside and they should immediately shower thoroughly.
  • Make a breezeway for putting things outdoors (like pet or human waste.)  Hang heavy tarps around the door and put on disposable coveralls, gloves, shoe covers, and masks if you have to actually go out. Disrobe, discard the disposable clothing by tossing it out the door, and shower immediately when you get back inside.
  • If you don’t have a basement, go to the most central part of your house and erect as many barriers as possible. If there is no central area without windows and exterior walls, go to the room furthest away from prevailing winds.

Have enough supplies on hand to wait out the danger.

As with many emergencies, you need to be prepared to survive at home without help from anyone. It’s unknown whether water and electricity will be running, and if the water is running, whether it will be safe to drink. Prep as though you won’t have access to these utilities and if you do, then it’ll be a pleasant surprise.

  • Stock up on emergency food. (Get Non-GMO Emergency Food in bulk HERE) In our current home, all of my emergency cooking methods rely on me being able to go outdoors. Because of this, I have stocked a one month supply of no-cook foods that do not require refrigeration. Canned vegetables and fruits, canned beans, pouches of rice and quinoa, crackers, peanut butter, dried fruit. You get the idea. The eating may not be exciting, but we won’t starve to death. You can find a more thorough list of no-cook foods here.
  • Have a supply of water for all family members and pets that will last throughout the 9-day waiting period that you need to remain indoors. (Or longer, which is what we’re planning.)
  • Get paper plates and cutlery in the event that the water isn’t running so you don’t have to waste your precious supply washing dishes.
  • Don’t forget a supply of pet food.
  • Make certain you have a potassium iodide supplement on hand to protect your thyroid gland. (Here’s how to use it.) And here’s another source for it – supplies are going fast.
  • Be prepared for the potential of a power outage.
  • If you have pets, have supplies on hand for their sanitation – you can’t let them go outside because not only would they be exposed, they would bring radiation in with them. So, pee pads, cat litter, etc, are all necessary. Solid waste can probably be flushed.
  • Have the supplies to create an emergency toilet. (This one is cheap and simple.)
  • Make sure to have a supply of any necessary prescription medications that will last through the time that you hunker down.
  • Have a well-stocked first aid kit. It’s entirely likely that medical assistance will not be available, and if it is, you’ll put yourself at risk by going out to seek it.
  • Have a way to get the news from the outside world. An emergency radio is a must.

Learn everything you can.

This is an overview but there is much more to learn about a nuclear event and the more knowledge you have, the more likely you are to survive without any ill effects.

For some free additions to your nuclear library, you can print out this manual from the US government about surviving a nuclear emergency. It was written with first responders in mind, but much of the information would be applicable for us, too. The book, Nuclear War Survival Skills, by Cresson Kearney, is also available for free online.

The more you know, the better your chances are of unscathed survival.

You CAN survive if you prepare for a nuclear attack.

The only part of your survival that is in the hands of fate is whether or not you are at Ground Zero. The rest is up to you. You can’t expect the government to save you. You can only save yourself.

Get prepared. Today. Because we just don’t know what’s about to happen.


Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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22 Responses

  1. I was thinking about this yesterday and have the materials and plans for sealing off my bedroom with 4 mil plastic sheeting and duct tape. BUT, I have window AC units. And last night I looked at the weather forecast for the next week, and it will remain about the same through the rest of August. They are forecasting at or near 100 degrees for the rest of the month, with heat index around 104-110. In a totally sealed up house I seriously doubt I could survive the heat. I live at least 100 miles from the closest likely target, and I’m 70 years old. I am trying to figure whether it would be worse to take a chance on cancer years down the road from exposure to radioactivity or to take a higher chance on heat stroke trying to avoid the radiation. I have fans and battery operated fans but also know when it is that hot, you really do not want to use fans, they feel more like blowing furnaces. I honestly think that if the nuclear attack was far enough away, I would seal off most of the house, but probably spend as much time on the covered patio as I could to keep from dying of heat stroke. And would probably not turn off the AC units until there was significant radioactivity in my area. I did buy a somewhat inexpensive Geiger counter from Amazon and other means to determine that level of radiation in the area where I am. I have also read some people saying that for people my age that we might want to consider skipping the potassium pills since we are probably not going to live long enough to get cancer from the radiation and old people have much more likelihood of allergic reactions to the iodine part of those pills. I have had allergic reactions to iodine in the past so will probably skip taking them, although I have plenty in stock for me and any others who might seek refuge here. Would probably use the Water Bob or whatever you call it in the only tub, but have battery operated shower sprayer and solar showers, which could be set up elsewhere for decontamination. Even if the power goes out the toilet will work as we are on a septic system and you can flush with a bucket of water if necessary. I recently bought some of those cooling hats, vests and towels which would greatly help. You can stand extreme heat by soaking you and your clothes with water, drops the perception of the heat by 15-20 degrees at least. And if you have pets, you need to spray them now and then as well.
    Daisy, you might try getting one of those sterno stoves. Cheap on Amazon and probably at Wallie World and supposedly safe for use inside. Be sure to have a carbon monoxide detector in the area you use even the sterno in.

    1. Gena, I think, given your proximity, your plan is wise. Just continue to check the radiation levels and be ready to shut things down if you need to. In your situation, I’d also skip the iodine pills. I will check out those stoves – thank you for the tip. I haven’t needed one at any of my other homes, so it’s a prep I haven’t gotten yet.

  2. i’m 3 miles from MacDill AFB in Tampa, home to ContComm and SOComm. no planning will help me. i accept my fate.

    1. @Maggi – Not as near as you but close enough to know that my husband and I share your fate. There are precautions we’ll take and preps we’ll have, smart for anyone to do so. However, I place myself completely in the hands of my Lord and Savior. God’s will be done.

      @Daisy Luther – THANK YOU for providing this information for all of us. It is invaluable and I am grateful to you for providing it gratis as some of us are just completely without means at this time. God Bless you and keep you and your family safe in these chaotic days to come.

      1. Lorelei, you’re very welcome. I feel extremely fortunate that I’m able to help. I’ve been in that financial situation myself, more than once. I’m just returning the favors that others did for me. 🙂

    2. Maggi, hang in there. You don’t know that MacDill will be the target hit (assuming an attack actually does occur.) Should another place close enough to affect you but not close enough to kill you be hit, you’ll want to be prepared for that.

      If you survived, how awful would it be not to be prepared?

  3. Daisy –

    Thanks for the article. I thought of you on Wednesday when I was out topping off my preps. Thanks again.

    I added to my food storage with just the things you mentioned. Food that doesn’t require cooking. I also added some extra flour and baking ingredients, some rice and dried beans for when I can go outside to cook.

    We live pretty far away from any probable target, so I think I could go outside. My biggest concern is the disruption of all types of commerce if this does happen. So, I’m prepared to shelter in place here for a very long time.

    Here’s hoping nothing comes of this craziness. My son is in S. Korea until sometime next June. I’m not able to talk to him very much and even when I do, he really can’t tell me much about what’s going on.

    Keeping him in my prayers.

    1. I hope your son stays out of harm’s way and comes home to you safely, TC. I was thinking of him the other day, too. And all of the others stationed in South Korea.

  4. Lots of great advice in this article and the comments.

    Daisy, I’d like the hear your thoughts on how the months following an event such as you’ve described might go? Understand you lack a crystal ball, and there are so many variables.

    EMP is my greatest fear, but putting that aside, and thinking what a strike on a major US city could look like beyond surviving impact. I’m thinking of Katrina, resources being diverted, etc. but on a wider scale, longer duration?

    And, like many here, from the POV of a concerned mom who lacks a bunker or an unlimited budget. Live in a small town, so not likely a direct target, but being East Coast, within a drive of 2-8 hours of several large cities.

    I’ve had a bit of preparedness burnout, so fighting the temptation to overcorrect.

    Love to hear what people think is likely say 1-3 months after an attack.

    1. It would certainly depend on what type of attack, bombs or EMP, what areas might be hit, and so on. It would make a real difference, for example, if NYC was hit than it would other cities due to the nature of things that come out of NYC, such as the financial hub of the nation, the media hub of the nation, and so forth. Also, another factor would be how many areas in which parts of the nation were hit. And at this point, those are all unknowns, so any speculation is purely that – speculation. My understanding is that NKorea has a somewhat limited number of nukes and missiles capable of carrying them all the way to America. And the nukes that they do have are more of the level used by the US on Japan at the end of WWII, considerably weaker than what most nuclear powers how have. As can be seen from the aftermath of the bombings in Japan, the damage is livable if you are not in the kill zone. And if you take the advice people like Daisy have put out and sheltering in during the period of greatest radioactive dispersal, you should be able to get through it and start rebuilding. Japan sure came back pretty quickly, albeit, with a lot of help from the US.

  5. Daisy, thank you for all this great info! I live in the desert southwest, near a potential target. Hopefully, more than five miles away – if it’s on target. Homes here don’t have basements and are made of cheap stucco. And, with the heat, we need the air conditioning, for sure. Don’t know how to overcome that. I have food and some water and potassium iodide tablets, plus emergency lights and hand crank radio. I’m not sure if the house is enough shelter. Any suggestions for a single story house or condo would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Hi, Rose!

      Thank you for reading.

      According to the expert who we interviewed for our nuclear preparedness intensive course, it’s still survivable if you don’t have a basement. Take shelter in the most central part of your home or apartment and put up as many barriers as possible between your sheltered area, the walls, and the windows. Lean mattresses and furniture against openings, hang tarps and put as much surface between yourself and the outside world as possible. If you have a room without any exterior walls, that’s your best choice. Your second best choice is a room that faces away from the prevailing winds – this means the bulk of your apartment will be somewhat shielding the room where you are sheltering.

      I know it would be miserable without it, but running the air conditioner could be a death sentence, depending on how close you are to the blast. You would literally be sucking in the radioactive particulate and blowing it into your home. Look into battery operated fans and if you have a big enough supply of water, wet yourself down and use evaporative cooling techniques.

      Hardly anyone has a perfect set up. If this terrible situation was to occur, we must make the best of what we have.

  6. Here’s what I don’t get about sealing yourself in. If you have to block all the incoming/outgoing air from inside your house for an extended duration of time, doesn’t carbon monoxide build up and create a problem of it’s own. Really, if it’s a problem with day to day life where people are sometimes going in and out of the house and windows (and other potential air leaking areas) aren’t sealed up, then if they all were wouldn’t it quickly build up. Personally I don’t see it being an issue for a couple of days but if we all have to stay sealed up for 1-3 weeks, I don’t understand how that would work.

  7. Daisy,

    Thanks for all this information. It has been invaluable to me in our planning.

    I had two questions about sealing off the house so that the radioactive dust doesn’t get it. (1) Would it be safe for us to go out to seal the house off once a nuke has detonated? Our nearest potential target is about 250 miles away. If winds aren’t even blowing in our direction if a nuke struck that far away, do we need to seal things off? (2) Do we seal off from the outside or inside of the house?

    1. Hi, Karen!

      My personal plan is sealing from the inside of the house. There are so many variables that I can only give general information. I would at the very least stay indoors if you’re that far away, but you should tune into emergency broadcasts to learn information like the size of the detonation, the radius of the expected fallout, etc. I hope this helps some with your planning.

  8. As I don’t live in the US (or within 100 miles of a potential target), I don’t really feal threatened. But I do know some items about ICBMs.

    An attacker needs a 20% success rate for their missiles getting through defence systems in order to succeed at reaching 1 target. Meaning, if North Korea wants to nuke Los Angeles, they would need an average of 5 missiles to guarantee a hit. With an approximate 60 working ICBMs, this gives North Korea the potential to hit 12 to 120 cities (as ICBMs can carry up to 10 individual warheads).

    North Korea might be serious or just trying for self defence. But we cannot let ourselves be lulled into security by a “might”.

  9. Please don’t spread false data. Do your research once again. 10kT nuke will not produce 600mph winds in 10-20 miles area. Such a wind speed may be reached in 0.3 miles radius.

  10. Hi,
    Has anyone thought about if we seal the room with plastic and duct tape completely so no air comes in or out. How are we to breathe? because if its really sealed there is no air, and if we are breathing its because the room, house, or apt is not seal right. If air coming in so is radiation. So what can we do for this?

    Thanks you

  11. Something I’ve heard nothing about and which may become the biggest possible source of a wild nuclear exchange could arise merely by anyone (from N. Korea to China to Russia to Iran) merely sneaking a missile into US waters and causing massive devastation from an EMP pulse. This could even be done from a freighter bringing cargo in. EMP is frequently discussed, but just whom do we retaliate against when we don’t even know who attacked us? Will this be Iraq all over again, but on a massive, nuclear scale? Or will we just all die from the consequences without even being able to blame anyone. Of course, the answer to that question is clear: politicians always blame their favorite enemy-of-the-moment no matter whether they know what they are talking about or not. That, in turn, could indeed lead to massive nuclear war, and quite likely laughter in the headquarters of the unidentified aggressor who might not even be targeted in such an exchange.

  12. great info! ok, since animals suffer too, can we give them the same medicine, and if so, how much and when?
    what do you do if you have a house, no basement, no “mass” walls, lots of windows/doors…I cant close up everything in time. even my walkin closets have windows! garage too.
    I’m prepared with most everything I need per your lists for stockpiling, but trying to close up the house, hmmm, not hardly if needed to be done in a hurry. and making it look unlived in when the shtf, that either….I’m in my 70s, can only do so much….oh well. prepared as much as I’m able for the worst, meantime I’ll pray hard for the best… your articles Daisy!

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