Immediately After The Nuclear Explosion


A nuclear explosion is one of the most devastatingly catastrophic incidents imaginable. Our normalcy bias prevents most of us from contemplating such a horrific event and therefore most people have not planned for it in any way.

The reality is that a nuclear explosion could occur, and as time goes on – the probability may be increasing.

Should a nuclear explosion happen, among the many appropriate actions that one should take, there are four immediate questions to ask, assess, and act upon to improve your odds of survival.


What was the location of the bomb when it exploded?

Your first realization that a nuclear explosion took place will either be from your own observation or from a media source. If you observed it, then you are close – and you especially need to quickly assess the answers to the questions posted here.

It will be important to know where the explosion took place so that you can make some educated decisions what to do next. Immediately tune in your media outlets, your AM radio or Public Alert emergency weather radio to discover where the blast took place. You will need to gauge what you do next based on your proximity and direction to the nuclear explosion.


Where is the fallout going?

Near the point of the explosion, and other than the devastating blast and thermal radiation, there is a great intensity of ionizing radiation consisting of neutron and gamma radiation. If you are near the point of explosion, you are likely already non-existent, or are about to be.

However with increasing distance the radiation decreases, and if you are further away, your odds of survival are higher – but the danger is not over.

A nuclear explosion will result in some amount of radioactive fallout which is called residual radiation. Fallout is a mixture of radioactive materials with the pulverized debris from the explosion. The fallout is within the expanding mushroom cloud which then begins to drift with the wind currents as the particles begin to fall to the ground.

The heavier radioactive particles will fall closest to the origin of the explosion. The farther away you are from the point of explosion, the less airborne radioactive material will reach your area.

Since the fallout will be worse along the downwind path, it will be important to know the wind direction. It is generally safe to say that each region of the country has its own predominant prevailing wind direction, although this will vary during weather events.

For example, if you know that the wind in your area usually comes from the West, then you know that the fallout will likely be traveling from West to East from its point of origin. This will enable you to make an educated decision to bug-out North or South – if you are near the potential hot zone.


Where is the perimeter of the hot zone?

The perimeter of the fallout zone will be shaped depending on the size of the explosion coupled with the upper level winds and their direction. The majority of the fallout will follow upper level winds because the explosion will reach tens of thousands of feet into the atmosphere.

If there is little or no wind, the fallout hot zone will be shaped more or less circular as the cloud’s diameter expands while radioactive fallout begins to fall back to the earth.

If there is wind, the fallout hot zone will be shaped somewhat like an oval with an expanding downwind element as it spreads and slowly dissipates while radioactive particles fall back to earth.

Your survival goal will be to stay outside of the hot zone perimeter.


Is there concern about a second nuclear explosion?

If there is one nuclear explosion, it is reasonable to expect that there may have been more that have already occurred or new explosions about to occur.

If you believe that you live within or near a nuclear target area, then your survival may depend on getting away as quickly as possible — at least until you realize whether or not your home region was targeted.


Have a bug-out plan such that you identify several potential destinations which are outside of your metro region or immediate target area. Choose locations in each of four directions from where you are (N-S-E-W) so that you can choose one or two which are perpendicular (90-degree angle) to the nuclear explosion downwind direction. In other words, move sideways to the direction of fallout.

If it is too late for you to escape (you are already caught within the hot zone), and in order to minimize the effects of radiation, remember the following…

If you are in the directly impacted area, stay inside. Building walls, brick, concrete or soil will help protect you from the radioactive material outside.

Radiation levels are extremely dangerous after a nuclear detonation, but the levels decrease rapidly with time, in just hours to a few days.

During the time with the highest radiation levels it is safest to stay inside, sheltered away from the material outside.

Go to the basement or the center of the middle floors of a multi-story building (for example, the center of the 5th floor of a 10 story building, or the 10th to 20th floors of a 30 story building).

Put building walls, brick, concrete or soil between you and the radioactive material outside.

Increase the distance between you and the exterior walls, roofs and ground, where radioactive material is settling.

The longer you stay inside the safer you will be from radiation.


  1. All valid points. Add, if you are outdoors, one must do what is probably impossible and fight the instinct to look at the blast. Blindness (at best temporary) will surely result. Bad way to start.

    Best nuke apocalypse book: Swan Song Robert R. McCammon 1988

    1. Funny I’m rereading swansong just started the other day… All Praise Lord Alvin

      1. I have never met another person that has read swansong… Nor have I ever seen the book again… I read it like 6 times then the book got lost in a move a couple decades ago…. It is an awesome book!

  2. While I live no where near what would be a target for a nuke attack,fallout can reach far and wide.My basement is constructed of cinder block,,,and lies surrounded 6 feet of soil.I could,within minutes,cover the basement windows with soil or sandbags,and have a temporary shelter.In my basement are water and food supplies for a short period as well.

    1. I live in a very rural area but Saltville,VA is a very possible nuclear target.

      1. Lucky Americans. In the UK we have no where to run, and no basements.

  3. I remember reading a book in school about a girl who survived (temporarily) one of the WWII bombings in Japan. The only reason she survived the initial blast was that her mother threw herself on top of her daughter covering her with a comforter. The doctors said that comforter blanket was the only thing that kept the girl alive by shielding her from the fallout. She ultimately died of cancer (the book was about her trying to make 100 origami swans so she could get her wish to live but only made it to 99 or something like that – school used it to teach us origami, not WWII history…). But she made it at least that far. I want to say it was based on a true story but can’t remember the name.

  4. Just a quick question. Why would you go to the middle floors of a multi storey building (for example, the center of the 5th floor of a 10 story building, or the 10th to 20th floors of a 30 story building)

    1. Putting yourself at the center, both laterally and longitudinally of any building, puts you farthest from contamination that will result from radioactive fallout.

    2. I would be looking for something below ground. A sub or sub-sub basement. Basements in commercial buildings are normally made of reinforced concrete. The shielding below ground will be far better than above ground.

      Buildings will collapse in a nuclear detonation. Might be a ‘G’ ticket ride from several floors up.

      Some people did survive the World Trade Tower thing. They were off premise or in the basement.

      1. The fallout zone covers a much wider area than the blast zone. Hence you can be in a building in the fallout zone and not in the blast zone.

        The reason you should go to the “middle floors” of a tall building is that puts you furthest from the fallout on the roof, and the fallout on the ground outside the building. That is, assuming, that there is no deep basement which will get you “further” from the fallout.

        Rule of thumb – you want 110 pounds per square foot between you and any radiation source to get 90% attenuation. Doesn’t matter what that 110 pounds is – air, glass, lead, concrete, back issues of the New York Times, dead mutants – put enough between you and the fallout, and you get some protection.

        1. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen a tall building that didn’t have at least one basement floor. Usually a *lot* of reinforced concrete for structural reasons.

          Thanks for the third paragraph. Good info.


    4. More materials between you and the fallout if there’s no basement. Most is gonna settle on the ground making ground level most radioactive and the roof will have plenty of material layered on it as well. The middle is literally the farthest away you can get from the radiation. I’m no scientist, but it makes sense to me.

  5. I’ve often wondered what I’d do with my dog crap. It’s not like you can just send them outside. Sounds petty, but you may be trapped inside for a long time.

    On the same topic check out the movie Right Outside Your Door if you haven’t seen it. Same

    1. Get a composter for dog poop. For extra credit get a model that will work for your poop.

      A live dog is an alarm system. Unless, of course, you believe that a nuke will kill all of the zombie candidates.

    2. I took a two week course on Nuke warfare at Fort Lewis, WA back in the 80’s and I remember one of the instructor stating that dogs do not survive as well as humans do with radiation exposure. If your dog is small enough you may be able to build a pet carrier or cage with tin lead shielding made from melted down wheel weights. Lead is at the top of the list for material that protects from radiation. Just a thought.

  6. Three points to remember with radiation-Time-Distance-Shielding. Time in effected area, distance from source, and adequate shielding from source.

  7. whether it’s a radiation situation, bio plague or a pandemic a basic decontamination suit and gear should be in everyone’s stores …

  8. If a nuke goes off and you are aware of it by sight, sound or effect then you are too close and need to get far away right now, not five minutes from now, not after your husband gets home but right now. If you are far enough away that you didn’t and couldn’t detect it you need to figure out if you are downwind. There are plenty of maps that will tell you that. If this is one bomb and not an attack then get away from it moving upwind if possible and laterally if you cannot go upwind. If this is a nuclear attack it is too late. No matter where you are duck and cover in place. This is it you will live or die based on pure luck and circumstance. There is no place to run to and no time to run, you are better off staying where you are.

    If you want to plan ahead then get far away from prime targets. However this may well be false security. The plan that Russia had for a nuclear attack on the U.S. was for 2000-4000 nukes on the first strike with two nukes targeted for each prime target. 4000 nukes will blanket the country and in the fog of a nuclear attack nukes will go off course and even hit remote locations.

    Post nuclear war if you are not in a hot spot surviving the fallout is indeed possible. Contrary to what we have been told most of the Japanese who survived the first few weeks after the two nuclear bombs lived long lives. Scientists followed the effects of radiation in these two blasts and were genuinely surprised at the survival rate. Having said that it is important to point out that both of these were air blasts which minimize fallout and both were by todays standards “tiny” nuclear weapons. The mix of nuclear weapons that would be used in an attack on this country would range from 100 times to 5000 times larger then the two bombs used in Japan. So it is likely that after a nuclear exchange between two nuclear super powers that neither country will be able to pull itself out of the ruble and survive above the lowest 3rd world level. In other words surviving a nuclear war may really simply be a longer dying and not survival at all.

    1. “rule of seven”, but it’s a factor of ten decrease, not half. 7 hours after the blast, 90% less radiation. 49 hours later, 90% less than that. 2 weeks later, 90% less than that again. Old school survivalism info makes a comeback :)

  9. I can see Al Gore now WISHING for global warming in the face of nuclear winter. That much firepower, this little landmass? There really would be no safe place after a full on nuclear war

  10. If I’m underground when the blast occurs, how many days do I have to wait to come out and not suffer the effects of radiation?

    Radiation dissipates after how long?

    1. About two weeks if you are not downwind. It really depends how far away you are from the blast.

    2. A lot of what becomes radioactive begins to decay immediately at a very fast rate. That is most of the dirt, water, and other material picked up by the explosion and radiated by the nuclear bomb decays very quickly and will become relatively safe to be around. There will be many isotopes that will remain radioactive for decades and even centuries but these will be present in very small amounts. That is a single nuke might irradiate a million tons of dirt and stuff but in all that there might be 5 pounds of isotopes that will be dangerous for a very long time. And there will be a slightly larger amount of material that will be moderately dangerous for more then a few years.

      But as a general rule you could come out of a nuclear shelter after 49 days. The 49 days is a reflection of the fact that most of the radioactive debris has a half life of 7 days. So at the end of 7 days the fallout is half as dangerous as it was right after the event. At the end of the next 7 days it is 1/4th as dangerous and so on until at 49 days it is considered safe enough to walk on, be around, etc. You still don’t want to breath it in or ingest it but it is “relatively” safe. If you are an adult it probably won’t cause you a life threatening situation and if you are older then 60 it will be even less of a problem for you. If you are young or worse in the womb then it may have an effect on your life eventually.

      Time is your friend in that the longer you can stay in a shelter the safer you will be when you do come out. However if you must come out of the shelter for food or water or any reason then every minute you are exposed to radiation the effect of it accumulates on your body. The biggest risk is what you ingest and breath. If you get radioactive material inside your body it increases the risk to you. That is a handful of radioactive fallout in your hand for a few minutes and then dropped and washed off is nothing, but a spoonfull ingested and inside your body for 24-48 hours (not to mentions some of it makes it’s way into your blood stream) will have 100 or even 1000 times the effect.

      The big concern is hot spots. Close to the nuclear event and sporadically downwind there will be some material that is very radioactive and may have a half life of decades. You cannot know this without a geiger counter. You could sit next to a highly radioactive glob of material and never now it without a geiger counter to identify it.

    3. The 7-10 rule every 7 hrs reduces the levels to 1/10th for radiation concerns. As for fall out look at half lifes of potentially activated debris, you’ll have to look those up yourself based on whats around you and know that after 5 half lifes the material is considered to be in insignificant concentrations. An example would be a material with a half life of 2.5 days, 5 half lifes means its no longer present in significant concentrations after 12.5 days. If its half life is measured in hours youll wait less if its half life is measured in years it’ll be there a hot minute but most activated materials decay rapidly its the naturally occurring isotopes we use for fuel that have the longer ones. Typically in a nuclear reactor you expect after shut down levels to drop off to their minimums after just a couple days depending on power history but a bomb has higher levels and so it could take a week or two for fallout to cease to be but by then rad levels are back to almost normal.

  11. Any outbreak of hostilities will include an EMP nuke. An emp will destroy a country without all the contamination. So forget about any electronics working unless you have it heavily shielded. Also keep a big roll of plastic ready and immediately cover your garden area to prevent fallout from contaminating the soil and giving you cancer.

    1. People are so narrow in their thinking.
      Another point, IF a EMP is used remember there are over 104 operating nuclear plants in the USA.
      I doubt that includes all the research, university and military units currently operating.

      Their backups are only so good and will not last forever.
      So after a real EMP if even 2 go the way of Fukushima on the
      west coast the entire country is screwed literally to death.

      There will be no last minute saves, just mass death over the
      following weeks/months around the entire globe.

      In fact if an EMP is used here in the USA to great affect that will be the dooms day weapon for the world, there will be no stopping it ever.

      Dr Strangelove comes to mind.

      1. Fukishima happened because the emergency diesels that were needed to run the systems required to safely shut the reactor down while keeping it cooled with water were inside the flood wall that was breached by the tsunami instead of miles away on a hill. An EMP(which always accompanies a nuclear weapons detonation) will shut down main systems and backup diesels would kick on and our reactors would be safely shut down. Though nuclear war spells mass death and destruction our nuclear power plants won’t contribute unless directly targeted with a surface detonation and even then their contribution would be minimal on the form of higher fallout levels.

  12. The predominate winds in the US are from the West.
    Figure accordingly

  13. That’s what I was thinking ROB!

    Iodine Tablets?

    If you choose to come out of a secure area wouldn’t it help to cover up with a 3M suit or something?
    Put a piece of clothing between your mouth and the air you breathe?

    Wouldn’t you want to turn off you AC or Heat in your house to not pump the room full of contaminated air?

    Wouldn’t you want to duct tape around your doors and windows if they are not 100% sealed?

  14. Much of the discussion of Nuclear war often seems to speak of thousands of nukes and global destruction/fallout/nuclear winter, with few long-term survivors. But the fact is, it might well be limited to several EMP strikes, a few dozen major military installations, 25 of so of the largest metro areas. This would permanently end the USA as we know it, while minimizing the ecological effects on other parts of the world. There could be a great many potential survivors of an event like this, providing they are in the right kind of areas and of the right mind. It’s not necessarily all or nothing. Just saying…..

    1. Both the US and Russia possess missile defense systems so those few em strikes, bases, and 25 metro areas would require significantly more missiles than targets to strike if NORAD and its Russian equivalent do their jobs right. Now keeping in mind the US is not the only nation being targeted. China gets its share of strikes, Russia theirs, Europe theirs, India and Pakistan fire at each other etc. You end up with enough of em reaching destination to throw up enough dirt and debris to effect the global climate, imagine hundreds of small volcanoes erupting all over the earth at around the same time. However these volcanoes have a percentage of radioactive debris mixed into their dust and debris shot into the atmosphere. We could see a man made ice age as a result of nuclear war if it happened.

  15. So, ran across this..
    It speaks to huge numbers of nuclear tests in Russia, etc… but goes on to say, Russia got the idea from the U.S., and based their nuclear testing program on the U.S..

    What I’m getting from this all, is, guess that means there are scads of radioactive lakes/holes/etc all over North America from Nuclear Tests?…

    Lake Chagan, The Atomic Lake Filled With Radioactive Water By Kaushik Saturday, March 22, 2014

    “During the hey days of Cold War, the Soviet started blowing up nukes all over northeastern Kazakhstan to investigate the possibility of using nuclear power for peaceful construction purposes such as moving earth, creating canals and reservoirs, drilling for oil and so on. The tests were carried out under the banner of “Nuclear Explosions for the National Economy”. This was the Soviet version of “Operation Plowshare” – a similar program devised by the U.S.”
    “Having borrowed the terrible idea from the U.S.,”

    1. Do a wiki on Kyshtym disaster sometime. I heard many years ago that the US *almost* had a similar incident at Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project.

      1. I guess I have been living under a rock. I had no idea. I am middle aged, and cannot believe I never read/heard about this …. guess that rates me as sheeple. I have read/researched a fair bit. However, obviously missed much.

        1. Information like this hasn’t been public for all that long. Even maps were state secrets in the USSR.

  16. If your media devices still function there is a good chance you were far enough away to be fine, since the EM blast didn’t shut all your electronics down and drop your electrical grid. If you didn’t see the blinding flash(hopefully indirectly otherwise your blind for a good long while), hear the explosion or feel the shaking you are probably good. If the initial compression wave didn’t knock out all your windows and draw a vacuum that made it hard to breath before making its pull back in to the epicenter you likely don’t have too much to worry about. If a nuke went off and you are in a place youd need to worry about this stuff you’ll know it and you wont have any outside resources to help you through it. If you are in an undamaged building that has a basement go there and stay there as long as it is physically safe to do so. If you are in a house head for an internal windowless room bathrooms being great because the water filled pipes add shielding basically do what you’d do if there were a tornado on the ground nearby. After a certain amount of time it may become safe enough outside to evacuate. If you found out about the nuke on tv or the radio the only thing you should be listening for is where it was and if it was an air detonation or surface detonation. If it wasn’t a surface detonation and the news isn’t telling you to do anything extra carry on smartly. If its a surface detonation they will likely be telling people in range of the activated debris falling from the sky to shelter in place and you’ll be told if you need to or not. But if you aren’t sure if you need to or not determine which direction it was how far it was and what direction the wind is blowing. If you are greater than 100 miles away no concerns, if you aren’t in the wind path your concern fades as close 40 miles away. After 7 hours 90% of the radiation levels will have dissipated leaving levels at 1/10 their original value. a standard one story home has a protection factor of 3(reduces levels to 1/3) buildings made of brick or concrete have higher protection factors basements under large skyscrapers have a protection factor of 200(levels become 1/200th), a basement under a two story suburban home is around 20(levels become 1/20th). Due to the presence of local fallout it is safer to remain indoors once you have taken shelter to avoid accumulating the radioactive debris on yourself which will increase your dose and the dose of those around you not to mention unless the better shelter is immediately accessible the time spent outside in higher levels will most likely result in gaining more exposure than the time in the better shelter will spare you. However it is important to be aware of the condition of your shelter if the building may collapse or is on fire or is flooding due to sprinkler systems you’ll want to move to a safer shelter when you can and the nearest shelter would be best.

    1. “If your media devices still function there is a good chance you were far enough away to be fine”

      Oh yeah. Everything will be fine. Uh huh. No problemo. No sir. It’s just a little ol’ nuclear detonation. Pfffft….

  17. “Your first realization that a nuclear explosion took place will either be from your own observation or from a media source. If you observed it, then you are close”

    If you ARE close enough to actually SEE a nuclear detonation, I suggest you run…towards it.

  18. Some of ya’ll

    1. If you are in a building over 5 stories tall – the chances of you surviving the blast is ZERO. The odds of you surviving the percussion is ZERO. Especially if it is in a city.

    2. If you are 35 miles out of the center of the blast radius – you have a chance of making it out – unless they detonated a nuke in the stratosphere, then anything 200+ miles will be toast – so the sheeple will try to get into their cars and find out No-Bueno.

    3. If you are that close to a nuclear explosion to see it and not look up at it – chances are you don’t have to go any further in the blog as you won’t exist you will be a shadow.

    4. Outside of Military Bases, Major Financial areas in cities and strategic oil reserves/energy reserves – you are looking at a limited strikes as human war versus the Terminators are two different things. one is set in wiping out the enemy infrastructure, and defense – the other is set to eliminate humans.

    5.Snowflakes will probably die as they go into a deep anti-connected dark world in which their i-diot thing won’t connect and they can’t get their meterosexual porn or their latest bull from CNN. But my wife, friends, and our kids won’t have a problem. Thank God for Boy Scouts.

    This weekend, I am going out with the kids this weekend with the theme is “Apocalypse Protocol” Bring it on Kim Jung Dum.

Comments are closed.