Important Considerations for a Nuclear Event
Contributed by Rob Hanus
The antics of North Korea and its leader have grasped the attention of the American people in a way we have not experienced since the Cold War. Though it remains unclear as to what their real capability is, the potential of a nuclear strike is a very real threat.
When planning for a nuclear event, it is prudent to have supplies available for sheltering in place, as well as for evacuating to a safer location. Sometimes, the solutions might be the same, other times a lighter, expedient option is necessary during travel. For both, it’s always a good idea to start with the basics: food, water, shelter, warmth, tools and protection.
Nuclear explosions are scary and intimidating, not only because of their massive explosion, but also for the other effects. Learning more about what these will help you react swiftly and properly, should this event happen. Let’s look at some of the effects from a nuclear explosion.
The first noticeable effect is the flash or thermal pulse. This immensely bright light is hot enough to start fires, cause blindness and char the skin. At night, the flash can cause blindness over 50 miles away. Luckily, most of the blindness caused is only temporary. However, if you’re caught in the thermal pulse of a nuclear explosion, immediately shield your eyes and get behind something to limit your exposure.
The next significant effect is the blast or overpressure wave. This is the high winds rushing outward from the explosion. The closer to the detonation, the stronger the winds will be and are strong enough to completely destroy buildings and houses. The bigger the yield of the bomb, the farther out these devastating winds can reach. Once the bright flash has diminished, immediately seek better shelter in preparation for these winds. Depending on your distance from the explosion, it may take up to a minute for the blast wave to arrive.
All nuclear explosions have an EMP, or electromagnetic pulse that occurs at the time of detonation. This EMP is limited to a relatively local area, unlike the EMP caused when a nuclear device goes off in the upper atmosphere. The effects of this localized EMP aren’t something we need to be too concerned with, as the area affected will have bigger concerns than which devices have been affected by this EMP.
Another significant effect from a nuclear explosion is radiation. The initial radiation caused by the detonation is significant, though most of this occurs in and around the blast area. The residual radiation, better known as fallout, is of greatest concern, as it can affect a very large area downwind from ground zero. The closer you are to ground zero, the higher the levels of radioactive fallout.
Fallout can have long lasting and far-ranging effects. Areas tens of miles downwind can become irradiated with levels high enough to cause both short and long term health effects. Worse yet, radiation is undetectable to humans without special equipment.
Fallout is comprised of radioactive isotopes, many of which have a half-life measured in tens or hundreds of years. One of these isotopes is radioactive iodine, I-131, which has a half life of only 8 days. This is significant, as Iodine-131 is readily absorbed by the thyroid, causing damage, which in turn creates lifelong health effects.
By taking potassium-iodine (KI) or potassium iodate (KIO3), before the fallout reaches your location, you can saturate your thyroid and prevent the absorption of I-131. This is especially important for children, because they are more susceptible to thyroid damage. Even small amounts of I-131 can cause thyroid cancer.
When taking KI or KIO3 tablets, it’s important to take the correct dosage. Here is the dosage for potassium iodide (KI):
- Birth to 1 month of age - 16 mg (¼ of a 65 mg tablet).
- Children between 1 month and 3 years of age - 32 mg (½ of a 65 mg tablet).
- Children between 3 and 18 years of age - 65 mg (one 65 mg tablet). Children who are 150 pounds or more should take the full adult dose, regardless of their age.
- Adults - 130 mg (one 130 mg tablet OR two 65 mg tablets), including women who are breastfeeding.
Be sure to check the CDC website for precautions on taking KI. (link: https://emergency.cdc.gov/radiation/ki.asp)
An alternative to KI is KIO3, which is more shelf stable and has a longer expiration date then KI tablets. Here is the dosage for potassium iodate (KIO3):
- Birth to 1 month of age - ¼ to ½ of a 85 mg tablet.
- Children between 1 month and 3 years of age - ½ of a 85 mg tablet.
- Children between 3 and 12 years of age - 1 tablet, or 85 mg.
- Adults - 2 tablets, or 170 mg.
Taking either KI or KIO3 will provide protection from radioactive iodine-131, if taken before radioactive fallout arrives. This includes nuclear emergencies from nuclear power plants. How long you need to take these pills depends on the emergency. While you may only need to take them two weeks in the case of a power plant crisis, you’ll need 100 days worth for a nuclear explosion.
Remember, the most important aspect is having these pills before they’re needed. Trying to order these after the radiation is in the environment is too late!