The Simple Steps Every American Should Take To Prepare for a Nuclear Attack

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A nuclear attack against America has been a fear ever since the first atomic bomb was detonated in 1945 during a test in New Mexico. After World War II and into the 1980s, nuclear anxiety remained high. Although nuclear anxiety hasn’t reached the peak it saw during the Cold War, people are again concerned about the possibility. In current times, nuclear fears made a comeback when Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022. President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said that Russia is ready for nuclear war, stoking fears of Russia’s use of atomic weaponry.

Although a nuclear attack on Ukraine wouldn’t directly affect America, many fear it could be the start of other countries using nuclear weapons, possibly on an American city. In addition to the fears in Eastern Europe, it’s been speculated that the current conflict between Israel and Hamas could lead the world to enter into World War III. (This is what a nuclear attack would do to America’s 25 largest cities.) 

Air raid sirens designed during World War II remained operable during the Cold War. In the 1950s, the public was made aware of the threat of nuclear attack through frequent public service announcements. A PSA issued by New York State (known as “Duck and Cover”) for school children in the 1950s advised students to hide under their desks during a nuclear attack and cover their heads and necks. The PSA also advised people to go inside, stay away from windows, remove outer clothing, and shower with soap or shampoo to remove radiation from their clothes and skin.

There are currently different types of sirens to alert us to certain dangers. To determine what Americans should do to prepare for nuclear war, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed a list of recommendations from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention on how people can protect themselves and their families before, during, and after a nuclear blast. The 24/7 Wall St. list is more comprehensive, taking you through key steps before, during, and after a nuclear attack. (Here is an example of different types of alert sounds used).

Here is how Americans should prepare for a nuclear attack.

Why This Matters

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Current international conflicts are again raising the public’s awareness of the threat of a nuclear attack on an American city. It pays to be aware of the steps you would need to take if a nuclear alert went out across the country. People in the 1950s were much more aware of what to do in the event of a nuclear threat than most people are today.

1. Gather supplies

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Prepare your emergency supply kit ahead of time. Include necessities such as:

  • flashlight
  • extra batteries
  • battery-operated radio
  • first aid kit
  • food and water
  • can opener
  • medication
  • cash and credit cards
  • sturdy shoes

2. Have a plan

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  • Plan ahead with family and loved ones on a meeting spot or way to contact each other if communications are disabled.

3. Turn away and close and cover your eyes

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  • Turn away from the blast.
  • Close your eyes and cover your head to help prevent damaged eyesight.

4. Drop to the ground

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  •  Lie face down and place your hands under your body.
  • Don’t get up right away but remain flat until the heat and shock waves pass.

5. Cover your mouth and nose

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  • Lie face down.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a handkerchief, scarf, or other cloth to avoid inhaling dangerous fallout pollution.

6. Remove any dust from your clothes

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  •  Keep your mouth and nose covered while you brush, shake, or wipe any dust particles off your skin.
  • Be sure you are in an area with good airflow.

7. Remove clothing

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  • Remove your clothing as it will likely be contaminated with radiation poisoning.
  • Shower and change into fresh clothing before entering a nuclear shelter.

8. Move someplace safe

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  •  Find a fallout shelter or a basement.
  • Face away from the direction the wind is blowing.

9. Seal off the outside

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  •  Once in your shelter, seal the doors and windows and turn off ventilation systems.
  • Once the fallout cloud has passed, you can unseal the doors and windows to permit air circulation.

10. Stay inside

  • Don’t go outside until reliable sources on local radio, TV, or the internet say it’s safe to emerge.
  • When you leave your shelter, keep your mouth and nose covered with a damp towel.

11. Use stored food and drinking water

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  • Avoid local food or open water, which will likely be contaminated.
  • Use the supplies you’ve stockpiled.

12. Prevent infection

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  • Clean and cover any open wounds on your body.
  • This will prevent infection and remove nuclear fallout from affected areas.

13. Listen to the radio or television

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  • Listen for information on evacuation routes, temporary shelters, and recommended procedures on local radio or television stations or check dependable online sources.

14. Take your emergency supplies

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  • When it’s time to leave your shelter, take clean food and water with you.
  • Also bring other necessities such as a first aid kit, flashlight, and battery-operated radio.

15. On your way out, reseal the shelter

  • As you leave your shelter, close and lock windows and doors.
  • Turn off air conditioning, vents, fans, and furnaces.

16. Remember your neighbors

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  • If you are able, see if you can help others, especially the elderly, those with disabilities, and infants or young children.

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