First, let’s take care of some basic terminology.
Fallout can be the result of any nuclear event, meaning it could be from a weapon or a nuclear plant meltdown.
Nuclear fallout is produced when a nuclear burst takes place sufficiently near the Earth's surface that dirt and dust are ejected high into the atmosphere and become mixed with the nuclear fireball.
Generally, depending upon the weapon yield, this includes bursts below 5,000-foot elevation. The debris lifted by the nuclear burst drifts with local wind and the "fallout" is a visible return of this plume to the Earth’s surface.
Fallout particles are generally large and visible to the eye and literally have the appearance of snow or ash. They are coated or fused with radioactive material and emit penetrating gamma radiation, less penetrating beta particle, and some non-penetrating but very dangerous alpha particles (mostly associated with residual plutonium). This penetrating radioactivity (gamma radiation) will continue to be emitted in large amounts for several weeks.
A second type of nuclear contamination is associated with radioactive material that is gaseous or highly volatile. This includes radioactive tritium, iodine species, and krypton. The tritium is not a major threat and the radioactive krypton will disperse rapidly into the air. However, the radioactive iodine is a major threat and will be rapidly adsorbed by animals eating contaminated forage or humans consuming milk or meat from these animals. To control the adsorption of radioactive iodine, survivors should consume stable potassium iodate pills for several weeks following exposure to fallout. The body will flush all of the excess iodide ions out, including any radioactive iodine/iodide.
We’ve discussed the threat of a nuclear-weapon produced EMP before. We’ve posted links to those discussions at the end of this article. But it’s important to note that fallout and EMP effects may be conversely related. If my understanding is correct, a high-altitude detonation would produce the most powerful EMP, with more scattered fallout. A ground detonation would produce an EMP, but its effects would be less far-reaching, while fallout would be dense.
I believe we’ve covered a good enough definition of fallout. Suffice to say that it’s not something you want to mess with.
So how do you plan to avoid and/or survive fallout?
Here are our tips, as collected from our team of preparedness advisors.
There are currently 99 commercially active nuclear reactors in the United States, spanning 30 states, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
You can see a map of the plants and reactors here. If there is a reactor within a few hundred miles of you, staying aware and alert is critical.
However, a nuclear weapon could strike anywhere. So, no one gets off the hook here.
Make sure your emergency alerts are turned on in your phone.
There are also numerous other ways to stay alert – apps, police and emergency radio scanners and more.
In short, communication is key because the sooner you know fallout danger is imminent, the more distance you can put between yourself and the epicenter of the disaster.
Also, find out if there are buildings designated as fallout shelters in your community. Chances are there are a few.
We also recommend having an emergency radio in your car, home and place of work. This will be indispensable to take wherever you shelter, so you know when it’s safe to come out.
That’s why we built the Colonial Concepts 4-in-1 Radio and LED Flashlight. It’s crank and solar operated, and even charges USB devices. It was designed for situations just like these.
Plan an Escape Route/ Shelter Plan
After gathering intel and staying aware, you’ll want to generate several plans based on where you live. If there are fallout shelters in your area, plan routes to get there from home and work, at the minimum. Plan routes you can take by foot, bike or ATV, if possible. Of course, time will be of the essence, so you shouldn’t go on foot if it’s not necessary in an actual event. But you don’t want to be stuck in a traffic jam either.
Prepare Your Body
Once you know that a nuclear event has happened or is imminent, you’ll want to protect your thyroid against radioactive iodide. Emergency broadcasts may instruct you to take potassium iodide or iodate, and you are best to heed their warning. If you know that fallout is imminent but haven’t been alerted to take KI03, you should still take it. Emergency communications may have been interrupted or wiped out.
You’ll want to take these pills for 2-15 days, the typical range of time it takes for immediate fallout to dissipate. Again, emergency broadcasts should let you know when it is safe, but you should keep track yourself too.
For dosage, this is what the manufacturer of our Potassium Iodate states:
"Adults 12 years and older - 1 tablet daily for 3 to 14 days. If need be... children 3 to 12 years, 1/2 tablet for 3 to 14 days. Children month to 3 years, 1/4 tablet for 1 to 3 days. Newborn to 1 month, 1/8 to 1/4 tablet for 1 to 3 days."
We’ve been told that animals or pets can take KI03 too. Base your animal’s dosage on their weight relative to the recommendations above. Large animals like horses may not be worth it, however, if you only have a limited supply. Follow the directions on the bottle.
Finally, you’ll need to make sure the water you’re drinking during fallout is safe.
The designer of the Alexapure Pro filter assures us that:
“Our gravity-flow filter will intercept all such [radioactive] particles at extremely high efficiency (generally >99.9999%).” - Dr. Evan E. Koslow
However, it should be noted that some radioactive particles are stronger than others. In some cases, after such particles have fallen into local surface water, they may leach soluble radioactive material such as radioactive cesium or iodine. The iodine will be intercepted by the filter, but if this iodine is converted to iodide ion, only a portion will be intercepted. Soluble radioactive cesium will not be adsorbed by the filter. To defeat this threat, it is best to obtain water not from a surface source (river or pond), but from spring water or well water where the water has had an opportunity to percolate into the ground at least to some degree. While percolating through the ground, these radioactive materials are rapidly adsorbed by the local soil and do not pose a further threat.
Most radioactive material associated with fallout cannot be leached from the particles because the particles have melted and fused the radioactive material permanently into the particle structure. Only small amounts might be leached. However, there are two populations of fallout particle. There are those that passed into the nuclear fireball and the radiative material is melted into the particle and mostly impossible to leach. There is a second population of particles that are coated with radioactive material and this material is more susceptible to leaching. How much of each particle is created depends upon the specifics of how the weapon interacted with local soils, height of burst, and other factors.
Overall, the use of a gravity-powered filter should intercept > 99.9% of the radioactivity with a small amount of some very specific materials being able to penetrate the filter. After filtering water from a radioactive event, it is advised that the filter be replaced.
That concludes our first-ever primer on nuclear fallout.
What did you think? Any tips we missed (I’m sure there are plenty – we will try to get to all). Let us know by email or on our social media accounts. We may produce a follow-up on this topic soon.
And remember: plan, prepare and stay aware.
Have a great weekend, friends!
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply