Is the Nuclear Pamphlet “Protect and Survive” Still Relevant?

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By the author of The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications and Zombie Choices.

A few people within the prepper blogosphere have posted links to an old nuclear war survival manual quite a bit of late that I would hazard a guess that many have never heard of. It’s called Protect and Survive and was published by the British government in 1980.

Everybody knows of Cresson Kearny’s Nuclear War Survival Skills, but it is most certainly a big book filled with tiny font. If you are looking for something pamphlet-sized that’s about as easy to read and understand as it gets, I think that Protect and Survive does a fantastic job of communicating the essentials.

If you are looking for more modern information, please check out our on-demand webinar in which Daisy talks with an Army NBC Specialist about how to protect yourself and your property from fallout.

That being said, the pamphlet has faced a rather tumultuous history.

For starters, it was never intended to be released to the public until a nuclear disaster was imminent. It was Harold Wilson’s British government that created Protect and Survive, wanting a clear and easy-to-read means of communicating to the British people what they were to do should there be a nuclear attack on the way.

The thought was that stockpiles of the pamphlet would be laid aside in storage, somehow, for a magical rapid dispersal across all of Great Britain in the moments before a nuclear attack was to take place. I’m not entirely sure how the British government thought they were going to accomplish this mystical feat, but that’s what the plan was.

The problem was that in January 1980The Times published a series analyzing what England’s preparedness measures were against a nuclear attack. Keep in mind that this was in the midst of The Cold War, so there was a lot of angst and public fear over just what a nuclear attack could entail. The threat of nuclear Armageddon was constantly on the public’s mind as well.

A massive nuclear arms race was present, the Soviet Union was strategically positioning SS-20 missiles throughout eastern Europe, and the Cuban Missile Crisis was fresh on everybody’s minds.

People were scared.

And then came The Times’ piece, with an image of the front cover of the Protect and Survive pamphlet. It appears that the British government decided they needed to save face with a rapid release to the public, which is exactly what happened.

And then the critics came.

It seems that everybody had something negative to say about Protect and Survive. Personally, I think this is due to two factors: people were terrified, and there was a huge anti-nuke movement amongst grown-up hippies from the 1960s.

I’m not a nuclear physicist (wouldn’t that paycheck be nice), but when I compare notes with Cresson Kearny’s Nuclear War Survival Skills, I don’t see where the criticism of this pamphlet comes from. I think it has some pretty solid advice despite having poor taste in including a realistic picture of a mushroom cloud on the inside cover for no other reason than to show, “See? This is scary!”

You have the stock information on what buildings are safe, what buildings are not, what part of a building is safe, what you need to stock in your shelter, etc.

I suppose, if anything, the notion of building an ad hoc fallout shelter inside of a home is where most people would find a reason to resort to mockery. If you’ve ever seen the movie Threads, where a nuclear strike hits England, the at-home fallout shelter the parents create (and die in) is very similar to what is discussed in Protect and Survive.

(How much food do you need to store in your house? Check out our free QUICKSTART Guide to building a 3-layer food storage plan.)

England’s nuclear attack plan?

Perhaps the most interesting part of Protect and Survive to me, though, was how it details England’s response to a nuclear attack. When a missile is detected inbound – if the policy is the same – a rising and falling air raid siren will go off across the entire island nation.

If radioactive fallout is detected, three loud bangs or whistles in quick succession will be heard throughout the country (provided these systems still work/are in place). This is the signal for people to (hopefully) quickly build a fallout shelter.

When all of the threat of fallout or a nuclear attack has dissipated, the British people will be notified by a long and steady siren playing the same note.

If we play the “What If” game, I do think that there’s a lot of wishful thinking involved with this pamphlet in that it wouldn’t have gotten into the British people’s hands in time to do any good. I also think that an at-home ad hoc fallout shelter is a last-hope solution, though it does bear mentioning that Cresson Kearny outlined how to make one in his fantastic book as well.

There’s a reason that the uber-rich are building fallout shelters throughout the world. They work wayyyyyyyyyy better than a door, soil, and book collection that you’ve created a hobbit hole out of. I also don’t think that people would have enough food and water to last for the minimum two weeks that the pamphlet recommends staying in the hobbit hole. According to the American Red Cross, the average American only has three days of food in his home. I doubt that the English are much different there.

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All that being said, I do recommend giving Protect and Survive a read.

I want to check out England’s Nuclear Weapons mentioned on the back cover of the pamphlet now as well but it appears impossible to find. Check out Protect and Survive, though, and then tell us what you think in the comment section below.

About Aden

Aden Tate is a regular contributor to and Aden runs a micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has four published books, What School Should Have Taught You, The Faithful Prepper An Arm and a Leg, The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications, and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.

Aden Tate

Aden Tate

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  • Thanks for making this available. For the people I know that still have their heads in the sand I will give to them. Also making copies for family, friends & our church. I am sure this can help many people if they take what is happening in the world seriously and ACT now.

  • With nuclear missile subs, the warning is less than 2 min before impact, not enough time to build a shelter. If the initial blast does not kill you, the fallout probably will.
    Homes are notorious for their lack of insulation and air gaps, So fallout will get in. Not only the gaps around windows or doors, but every air vent, kitchen vent, plumbing vent, HVAC vents, etc. are also a problem. Most homes have attic and or eave vents that will allow contamination to concentrate over your head.
    Short of having a specially built NBC room with a self-contained HVAC system, you efforts will be futile. These efforts/remedies are for civilian pacification and to make you feel safe, even though you won’t be.

    Assuming this is a nation wide attack and not an isolated incident, They have no way to rescue people and transport them to a “safe” zone. A city that has its infrastructure destroyed (roads, freeways, bridges trains, etc.,) by a blast would be nearly impossible to get troops into, just to check for survivors. Then there is no way to transport “survivors” in mass, except in open air trucks and they will not be providing NBC gear to you, as they will only have enough for the military’s needs. So you will be exposed to all the fallout dust in the air.
    Now since the military will be the main targets, exactly how many of them will be left alive to play rescuer, to all those civilians who survived?

    Lets get real. If half the US population died in the initial attack, How do you relocate, house, feed and care for the other 160 million people? Just trying to relocate them to a “safe zone”, if they can locate one, would be an astronomical undertaking, if we had all our normal transportation methods available. Then trying to get uncontaminated food and water to those masses as well as some sort of housing and medical help is also astronomical in scale. So much so that it is a impossible undertaking. Plainly the government won’t be able manage this. (This is the myth behind radiation shelters and the government rescuing you.).
    Once the land and water is contaminated no one will be able to grow or raise more food in any large quantities to feed a large number of survivors. Can you imagine spending a winter in the Plains states, living in military tents? Not much wood for heat, as much of it is all radioactive. The grid is down and there is no heating oil. Freezing to death could become a reality.

    It would be years before it was safe enough to even try farming. If it was WW3, the radioactive dust could circle the earth for years, so all the rain would be radioactive. The government does not have enough protected and secured supplies to feed the general population, maybe not even enough for all the Military personnel.

    So the government will probably retreat to its bunkers and let you try to survive on your own. Most people would survive a few weeks until starvation or dehydration sets in. Assuming you did not eat, drink or breath in anything that was contaminated. Then it is a toss up of which will kill you first.

    Now against all the odds some people will still survive. There are some people who did not evacuate during the Chernobyl disaster and are still alive, still farming and living off the land. But some of those who evacuated, still got cancer and died a few years later.
    So you just never know about these things.

    • So, should we assume you’re not making any preps for such an incident?

      Facts are unless you’re in the strike zone or unluckily enough to be under the wind driven heavy fallout patterns a bit of effort can indeed protect you and yours.

      You did point out what I’ve learned and prepared for, the need for a quick plastic sheeting/duct tape closing up of the house as much as possible (But not a plastic bag effect over your head) to keep as much out as you can. Tums and iodine to protect yourself from the smaller dose’s effects and food and water to wait out the worst.

      Farming after the bomb again if you’re not under the heavy fallout it’s not that horrific. Nasty but studies have shown chickens for example are 10X as resistant to radiation damage as we are. Maybe because they don’t live long enough for long term issues? Who knows.

      So, Mic03 since you’re on a prepping website what ARE you prepping for?

      Yes, I’m curious. Myself economic collapse, social unrest, and even a nuclear exchange.

      In the final analysis get yourself a good relationship with your creator because sooner or later you will meet Him.

      • Oh I do prep and I would take reasonable precautions if we are nuked. But I am also a Realist.
        According to the EPA fallout can circle the World and would continue to fall for several years. Including in precipitation. Too many people think it is a short term thing, it isn’t. In a WW3 scenario there would be so much material thrown up into the atmosphere as to cause other problems. Like Ozone holes, Nuclear Winter/ Ice age, changes to weather patterns, changes to the Earth’s orbit, etc.
        None of which can you do much about.
        Many people would also expect to be rescued by the Government, but that is not likely to happen in a WW3 scenario. Look at the governments response to Katrina, and they knew it was coming. Then multiply that kind of devastation or worse, in every city in America.

        Without being able to ride WW3 out in a specially designed NBC bunker for at least 5 years, your chances of long term survival are not real good.
        After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, many US military personnel got sick from the radiation they were exposed to, even after following all the current radiation protocols. Even with all the decontamination and NBC equipment they had, it still was not enough protection. So I don’t believe that some improvised plastic shield, will offer much protection. Let alone all the dramatic Global changes a WW3 scenario would create.

        • There are also a few more possible results of a WW3 scenario. With multiple nukes going off in the continental US, there is the possibility of it triggering the Yellowstone Super Volcano, the
          New Madrid fault, or a 10.0 West Coast earthquake or all of them at the same time.
          Any of which by themselves, without WW3 going on, would be catastrophic events.
          It could set off the Pacific Ring of Fire volcanoes, it could create an Ozone hole over one of the poles, melt the Polar Ice cap and create massive flooding or any number of other world wide impacting events.
          None of these things can be proved or disproved as consequences of a WW3 nuke event, but are reasonable possibilities. There is so much more to prep for, more than just radiation.
          So I tend to concentrate my efforts on more survivable scenarios such as; Economic collapse, Civil war and Conventional war.

  • Nuclear War Survival Skills: Lifesaving Nuclear Facts and Self-Help Instructions Paperback – January 19, 2016 — 336 pages
    by Cresson H. Kearny (Author), & 3 more

    $1.99 Kindle, $10.19 paperback, + misc used editions

    However, this review was notable even if not quite accurate on the updating issue:
    2.0 out of 5 stars NOT revised in 2001
    Reviewed in the United States ???????? on September 29, 2017
    Verified Purchase
    Advertised as being updated in 2001 but it has NOT been updated since 1986. The 1986 edition is available free on internet as a PDF copy, though if an EMP pulse goes off you might want it printed or at least downloaded to a PC that isn’t connected.

    See the free download link on this website:

    The resulting 906 page PDF download is an English language version that says it was updated in 1987.

    [There are other such free download links online as well.]


  • I worked in radiation protection at nuclear power plants for over 30 years so I have dealt with radiation and contamination a lot. I read the booklet and I would say it has some good advice but it isn’t exactly correct for all situations. The bad thing is that without radiation detecting instruments people won’t know what they should do, so using the booklet as a fall back isn’t a bad idea. For example, after a rain storm the fallout will be washed off of the roof and then an upper floor might be a better place to stay than the ground floor. If you survive the first week you will probably survive for several years. Should you decide to get a radiation detecting meter, don’t buy an ion chamber that you can get relatively cheap on ebay. Get a Geiger counter, sometimes called a count rate meter with a GM tube detector. Ion chambers are used to measure higher dose rates and require calibration or repair quite often, six months or less. Count rate meters are calibrated yearly and usually don’t need it that often. They last years without needing repair. With a meter you can measure where the best place to stay in your house will be after an attack. You could also tell where the ground is the least radioactive and plant your veggies there. Don’t forget we are all exposed to radiation every day. Naturally occurring radiation is all around us. We just want to avoid getting too much.

    • My uncle was a USAF helicopter pilot at the recovery site of a B-52 nuke bomber that crashed thru the ice off Greenland in the ‘60s. During the op at the crash site, somebody stepped on his pilot seat with a dirty, radioactive boot. When he returned to base he lit up like a light bulb on the Geiger counters. A thorough showering and decontamination took care of it.

  • What you might find interesting is the Panorama documentary from 1980 called If the bomb drops. It’s on Youtube. Shows that the best thing the public could do was die as the UK government didn’t have the resources to come to their aid

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