Surviving Through Deadly Radioactive Fallout

April 06, 2023

Surviving the Aftermath

“There is no safe level of exposure to ionizing radiation, and the search for quantifying such a safe level is in vain” – Rosalie Bertell.

The threat of nuclear explosions has changed over the years.  The concept of mutually assured destruction between two superpowers has given way to several more nuclear-capable countries, tactical bombs, air bursts, surface bursts, hypersonic missiles, high-altitude detonations, improvised nuclear devices, and dirty bombs.  The exact origin of a dirty bomb might not be known, so retaliatory strikes might not be possible.  Nevertheless, the radiological threat could kill you in the days, weeks, and months after detonation.  Even a small nuclear fission bomb can instantly vaporize anything at its center, have a blast radius that collapses most buildings within a 20-mile radius, and a thermal radiation radius of 48 miles even without wind.  After that, prevailing winds can carry radioactive ash hundreds of miles.  

Just one crude 150 kiloton bomb, like one the North Koreans tested in 2017, detonated on a ship in the Long Beach harbor, would spread enough deadly radioactive ash over a 1,800-mile area to give everyone in the affected area ARS – acute radiation syndrome.  Everyone in a 450-mile radius would have serious radiation exposure complications that will likely lead to death within a few hours or days.  If the bomb were equivalent to the largest ever detonated, the deadly ash would spread from Los Angeles, California, to Billings, Montana.  If the blast doesn’t kill you, the resulting fallout could.  You don’t want to survive the initial blast only to die a horrible death from radiation poisoning.  This blog will discuss steps you may take after a nuclear event to increase your odds of survival by reducing your radiation exposure.

Download the Start Preparing Survival Guide To Help You Prepare For Any Disaster.  We’ll post a link below or visit for a free guide to help you get started on your journey of preparedness. 


Stay InsideIf you have some warning of the blast, you will want to immediately get inside the nearest building and stay away from any windows.  The deeper and lower you can get in a building, like an underground parking structure, the more likely you will be to survive.  If you are outdoors when the detonation occurs, lie face down at the lowest point you can find.  If you are in your vehicle, get to the floorboard.  After the shock wave passes, get inside the nearest shelter location.  Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.  If you have a mask, wear it.  If you can cover your mouth with a cloth or a towel when you are outside, do so.  Understand that your clothes are likely contaminated and will need to be disposed of as soon as possible.  You will also need to wash down as quickly as possible to remove any radiation from the skin.  If you have pets that come in after the blast, they will need to be wiped down then washed as soon as possible.

The fallout will be lessened if the detonation is in the air or at a high altitude.  If it is a surface blast, thousands of tons of dirt and debris can be thrown several miles into the atmosphere, substantially increasing the amount of fallout.  As the heat of the blast cools, unstable atoms from nuclear fission will mix with the debris particles from the blast.  These radioactive particles are the fallout that creates the dangerous long-term effect of the blast.  Think of these particles like campfire smoke.  They may be odorless, but have you ever been in the proximity of a campfire and walked away from it without smelling like smoke?  It only takes a few particles to create cell damage.  The harmful ionizing radiation of inhaled particles can result in cell damage and eventually cancer.  Lesions and radiation burns may erupt on the skin in areas where fallout particles have settled.

After the shock wave passes, your goal is to be inside before the fallout reaches you.  The highest radiation levels will come with the fallout.  Once the shockwave passes, you have between ten and fifteen minutes to find shelter or protect yourself from the fallout.  If you plan to move to a safer location after the blast, you must do so within these ten to fifteen minutes.  Assuming you are at home, immediately close and lock all windows.  Turn off all fans and HVAC systems.  Close any fireplace dampers.  You can use plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal off windows and doors and all airway entry points into your building, especially facing the direction of the blast zone.  After a nuclear blast, windows can shatter.  Seal them off, and continue to seal rooms to the middle of your structure, where you will need to hunker down.  If you expect people to come home, seal off an entry room where you can have them strip down and begin the decontamination process by wiping down and light washing before moving to a more thorough shower.  You need to shower off anyone who was outside immediately.  Use soap, but do not use conditioning products as these can bind the radioactive particles to your hair and skin.

Move to the center of the building.  Radiation will settle on the outside of the building, especially on the side facing the known blast area.  If you have a basement, that is the safest place for you to be.  If your structure is damaged or someone’s need for medical attention is great, you ideally want to still stay inside for the first hour.  The more layers of dirt, steel, and concrete between you and the outside world, the less radiation can reach you.  Radiation levels will be at their highest during the first hour.  Listen to the emergency radio for more information.  The likelihood of cell phones, cell towers, and small electronic devices being fried out is very high, but a typical transistor-type radio may still be operational.

Anyone, including you, who enters your home after the blast has occurred should strip off their outer layer of clothing and shoes outside and immediately shower with a thorough cleansing.  Avoid over-scrubbing, which could lead to scratching yourself and introducing radioactive material directly into your system.  The clothes should be placed in a plastic bag and put far away from your structure.  Do not bring it indoors with you.  If no shower is available, careful use of wet wipes and copious amounts of water can wash all skin surfaces exposed to fallout.  Blow your nose and wipe your eyelids, eyelashes, and ears with a moist wipe, clean wet cloth, or damp paper towel.  When helping others, wear waterproof gloves, eye protection, and a dust mask.  You are dealing with dust-like particles.

Simply removing your clothes outside can reduce almost 90% of radioactive materials from you.  The human gut is sensitive to radiation.  If a person has been exposed and they are already vomiting, the probability of them having acute radiation poisoning is exceptionally high.  The likelihood of their death within the next few hours is also very high.  You will want to bring any preps with you to the middle area of your home or basement.  Any food outside, like fruit trees or a garden, will no longer be safe to consume.  You should stop using municipal water sources as soon as possible.  Even though the pipes may be underground and the water safe for this reason for a little while, radioactive fallout will make it into the system.  Being inside is your best protection from fallout.  The more concrete, steel, and packed dirt between you and the outside world, the lower your exposure to radiation will be.


Man InsideThe radiation can have a half-life of several thousand years, but the fallout gamma radiation levels are highest the first 24-hours after the initial blast.  Gamma radiation decays very rapidly.  Fallout will give off half its energy in the first hour and 80% of its energy in the first day.  After this, further dispersing of the ash will further reduce levels.  After 2-weeks, 99% of the fallout radiation has dispersed.  That remaining 1%, however, can still be dangerous.  Like snowdrifts, accumulation points can stay fatally high in radiation.  Precipitation and wind can reduce levels even further.  You must begin to estimate and track wind direction and speed from the moment of the initial blast.  Based upon the estimated bomb yield, which will eventually be announced on the news or can be generally surmised by the area of the blast zone, and the wind speed and direction, you can use a Nuke Map calculator like the one I will link to in the comments below to determine if leaving the area is essential and can be safely done.  Staying inside for at least 24-hours after the initial blast can protect you from the most harmful exposure levels.  Staying locked down for several days or weeks, after rain has come and gone, and wind has blown and shifted directions for several days can reduce the levels to dangerous but not fatal levels.  If you are anywhere near the estimated fallout zone, your best option is to hunker down indoors for as long as you possibly can.  If you can visibly see the ash on the ground or raining down from the sky, you absolutely cannot be outside and move through the ash safely without a radiation suit and an NBC or CBRN gas mask.

The most hazardous fallout particles are also the heaviest.  They will fall to Earth the fastest and coat rooftops and other flat surfaces.  If you see this occurring, your safest bet is to stay inside until those heavy particles have been blown or washed away.  If you estimate that you are within the fallout zone or see smoke or ash in the air or falling from the sky, you must stay inside.  The radioactive levels will be too high to leave the zone.  If you see the smoke and ash in the distance, and it isn’t coming directly towards you, evaluate wind speed and direction from the estimated detonation point.  If the winds can shift to blow the fallout field in your direction and the possibility of additional detonations is low, you need to determine if leaving the area is your best long-term survival option.  If you are relatively safe from the fallout area but live within the region of the blast, at some point, radiation will spread to your location.  Whether that is from shifting winds or precipitation runoff, the radioactive particles are small and will eventually spread to all areas in the radius of the blast.

Know your typical weather patterns.  If storms usually blow in from the west and the nuclear event is anywhere to the west of you, radiation will eventually reach your area.  If you are west of the blast and weather typically blows in from the west, meaning the blast was east of you and the fallout is blowing further east and away from your position, shifting winds and precipitation runoff may eventually bring radioactive fallout to your area. Still, most of it will be moving further west and away from you.  Your goal is to stay inside and as far from outside air sources as possible.  You should assess if the attack is over or if a second strike is possible.  Monitor all news channels if you still have electronic monitoring capabilities, as EMPs are part of the initial nuclear fission blast.

Eventually, you will need to leave your structure if you are near the blast zone.  When that time is will depend upon the size, the number of blasts, and weather patterns.  Ideally, you want to wait for at least 3-days.  At that point, the outside fallout radiation will have lessened to a degree where you can flee the area without too much risk.  This is another reason to monitor the outside world, weather, and emergency broadcasts.  You don’t want to leave one nuclear zone only to head into another.  The longer you can remain indoors, the safer it will be.  If you can stay in your basement for 3-weeks, the levels of radiation from fallout outside will drop from fatal levels to survivable levels with limited exposure.


Nuclear EffectAnything planted in the ground in a fallout zone will be inedible, as it can absorb nuclear radiation.  Even burning firewood can release radiation that was absorbed into it after the fallout event.  You should treat the whole area as poisoned and seek a safe place from both the initial blast and the significant fallout.  If that isn’t an option, rebuilding and creating a safe zone with reduced radiation levels will be difficult but not impossible.  Removing the top layer of dirt can provide you with a reduced radiological area for growing.  Planting sunflowers and then pulling the mature plants up by the root and disposing them away from your site will remove radiation from the water, earth, and air and sequester it in the plant biomass.  That’s also why you don’t want to eat the seeds or burn the stalks.

Food in your home that is sealed and away from visible fallout will be safe to consume, so long as it was not also part of the first radiological shockwaves.  You should wipe off all containers with a clean and damp cloth before opening them.  Put the used cloth in a plastic bag and dispose of it away from your structure.  Scientists and government officials will test municipal drinking water to determine when it is safe for consumption.  Until then, only your stored water is safe to drink.  Any water harvested from rain and stored outside your structure will not be safe to consume or even use on your lawn.  It should be dumped directly into the sewer system.  Though the tap water may be too contaminated to drink, the government indicates that it can be used to wash and decontaminate surfaces.  We would avoid using it in this manner unless a true emergency exists, as radiation levels in the water supply will continue to decrease over time.

The blast zone may remain unlivable for many lifetimes.  In some cases, cleanup can reduce the amount of radiation over time.  Over time, radiation particles will be washed away and dispersed.  This can be encouraged by washing down buildings and removing top layers of soil.  Some exposure to heightened radiation is still possible.  Over time, increased exposure to radiation can result in sickness or even death.  If the entire area is a radioactive zone and minimal clean-up efforts can be implemented, you should avoid exposure to the outside world unless you are directly moving to a known safe location.  

Radiation poisoning is one of the worst ways to die.  Potassium Iodide tablets at a dosage specific for radiation emergencies can block the Thyroid’s absorption of radiation.  The pills can be crushed and mixed with liquids.  The iodine in salt or foods rich in iodine may help a little but typically do not contain enough iodine to block radioactive iodine from getting into your thyroid.  It works because taking the potassium iodide fills up the thyroid with stable iodine.  This then stops the absorption of radioactive iodine.  Wearing a protective suit and an NBC or CBRN gas mask outdoors can also reduce exposure to harmful radiation.  In general, alpha, beta, gamma, and x-ray radiation can be reduced by minimizing exposure, maintaining distance from known areas of high concentration, remaining indoors, and wearing protective clothing.  

Think of that radiation out there like that campfire smoke.  If it permeates your clothes and hair, you are too exposed to the source.  The more distance between you and the campfire, the less likely you will be exposed to the smoke.  Still, if you can smell the campfire, you are taking the particles of its smoke into your body.  We use this comparison fully aware that radiation doesn’t have a signature smell.  You can be exposed to lethally high doses of radiation and be completely unaware of it until it is too late.  When dealing with the fallout, your best option is to shelter away from it and then wait for as long as you can before venturing out into the world.  Even then, get to somewhere safer if your area is significantly tainted.


If you are fortunate to survive the blast zone of a nuclear fission bomb or an improvised nuclear device, the fallout and radiation can still be enough to kill you.  If you can make it indoors and seal yourself in with your preps within the first quarter-hour, your odds of surviving and not receiving a lethal dose of radiation go way up, as does your survivability.  Over time, radiation levels will drop significantly.  Eventually, the fallout zone will even become re-inhabitable.  Chernobyl, Fukushima, Nagasaki, and Hiroshima demonstrate that the fall-out zone can become inhabitable again.  You can survive nuclear fallout if you take the safety measures outlined here.  If you found this blog helpful, please give it a thumbs-up.  Consider subscribing to the channel if you’d like to be notified when we release a video.


As always, stay safe out there.



Calculate a hypothetical nuclear blast in your area with this calculator to understand how the fallout might impact you:  

Potassium Iodide Tablets for Radiation Emergencies only: 

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