Official advice

What to do in case of a nuclear attack?

Eloise Ogden/MDN This fallout shelter sign is posted on the wall outside a local building. If a nuclear blast would ever occur, taking shelter is absolutely necessary, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Blast shelters and fallout shelters are two kinds of shelters for this type of emergency situation.

Would you know what to do in the event of an incoming nuclear missiles?

Within past days of false alarms of incoming missiles in Hawaii and also in Japan, the Minot Daily News asked Federal Emergency Management Agency officials what advice that agency has for people.

According to FEMA headquarters,, a campaign to educate and empower individuals to prepare for and respond to emergencies, includes safety tips for before, during and after more than 20 natural and man-made disasters, including nuclear preparedness.

Information is located at

“As a standard practice, FEMA plans, exercises and trains for a variety of hazards,” the FEMA headquarters information said. “These preparedness activities include developing national and regional interagency operational plans and exercises for radiological/nuclear and improvised nuclear device scenarios.”

Recent improvised nuclear device national-level exercises include annual events with U.S. Northern Command as follows: Vibrant Response 2014, Indianapolis; Vibrant Response 2015 Kansas City; Ardent Sentry 2016, National Capital Region; and 2017 Ardent Sentry, Vibrant Response, Gotham Shield in New York City.

According to the information at blast:

“A nuclear blast is an explosion with intense light and heat, a damaging pressure wave, and widespread radioactive material that can contaminate the air, water and ground surfaces for miles around. A nuclear device can range from a weapon carried by an intercontinental missile, to a small portable nuclear device transported by an individual. All nuclear devices cause deadly effects when exploded.”

The three factors for protecting oneself from radiation and fallout are distance, shielding and time.

Taking shelter during a nuclear blast is absolute necessary. There are two kinds of shelters:

® Blast shelters are specifically constructed to offer protection against blast pressure, initial radiation, heat and fire. But even a blast shelter cannot withstand a direct hit from a nuclear explosion.

® Fallout shelters do not need to be specially constructed for protecting against fallout. They can be any protected space, provided that the walls and roof are thick and dense enough to absorb the radiation given off by fallout particles.

Remember that any protection, however temporary is better than none at all, and the more shielding distance and time you can take advantage of, the better.

The guidelines for what to do in the event of a nuclear explosion include:

® Listen for official information and follow the instructions provided by emergency response personnel.

® If an attack warning is issued, take cover as quickly as you can, below ground if possible, and stay there until instructed to do otherwise.

® Find the nearest building, preferably built of brick or concrete, and go inside to avoid any radioactive material outside.

® If better shelter, such as a multi-story building or basement can be reached within a few minutes, go there immediately.

® Go as far below ground as possible or in the center of a tall building.

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

® Radiation levels are extremely dangerous after a nuclear detonation but the levels reduce rapidly.

® Expect to stay inside for at least 24 hours unless told otherwise by authorities.

® When evacuating is in your best interest, you will be instructed to do so. All available methods of communication will be used to provide news and/or instructions.

If you are caught outside and unable to get inside immediately:

® Do not look at the flash or fireball – it can blind you.

® Take cover behind anything that might offer protection.

® Lie flat on the ground and cover your head. If the explosion is some distance away, it could take 30 seconds or more for the blast wave to hit.

® Take shelter as soon as you can, even if you are many miles from ground zero where the attack occurred – radioactive fallout can be carried by the winds for hundreds of miles.

® If you were outside during or after the blast, get clean as soon as possible, to remove radioactive material that may have settled on your body.

® Remove your clothing to keep radioactive material from spreading. Removing the outer layer of clothing can remove up to 90 percent of radioactive material.

® If practical, place your contaminated clothing in a plastic bag and seal or tie the bag. Place the bag as far away as possible from humans and animals so that the radiation it gives off does not affect others.

® When possible, take a shower with lots of soap and water to help remove radioactive contamination. Do not scrub or scratch the skin.

® Wash your hair with shampoo or soap and water. Do not use conditioner in your hair because it will bind radioactive material to your hair, keeping it from rinsing out easily.

® Gently blow your nose and wipe your eyelids and eyelashes with a clean wet cloth. Gently wipe your ears.

® If you cannot shower, use a wipe or clean wet cloth to wipe your skin that was not covered by clothing.

The website also provides information on what you can do to protect yourself, your family and your property in the event of a nuclear blast, after a nuclear blast and returning to your home.