Past generations lived under the specter of nuclear annihilation and needed to learn and rehearse all the best practices during a nuclear incident to ensure their survival. However, as the decades passed and the Berlin Wall fell, this brand of apocalyptic preparation became less of a worldwide priority - but in the late 2010s, the Doomsday Clock is once again ticking closer to midnight and it’s suddenly looking like a great idea to Google “how to avoid fallout.”
American scientists - as part of the Manhattan Project and later endeavors - have long studied the effects of nuclear exposure on humans. Past experiments have even gone as far as to construct fake towns for nuclear research.
This research - combined with the devastating results of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - has given humanity a decent understanding of how to increase one’s odds of survival in the event of a nuclear blast. Of course, this knowledge only applies if one is lucky enough to live through the initial strike in the first place - which is far from a guarantee.
Don’t Get Inside A Vehicle, And Definitely Don’t Drive One
If experts agree on one thing about surviving a nuclear event, it’s that you should never attempt to ride out the event in a vehicle. While cars can provide mobility, they also offer next-to-nothing in terms of fallout protection - which is necessary minutes after a nuclear event - and it’s impossible to predict the paths of 100 MPH nuclear winds, so the mobility is pointless anyway.
Anyone trying to outrace a nuclear blast stands a good chance of being blinded by the initial blast, which would make the roads chaotic and dangerous to navigate, to say nothing of the debris caused by the shockwave.
Get Indoors And Stay Indoors As Quickly As Possible
The most basic advice the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) gives to Americans about surviving a nearby nuclear detonation is “GET INSIDE” and “STAY INSIDE” - and that’s actually a pretty fair summary. Assuming there’s a legitimate fallout shelter available, go for that, but any building will offer some protection from the myriad effects of a nuclear event.
If an impending nuclear event is announced, you should get inside the nearest building as quickly as possible. However, keep in mind not all buildings are created equal.
Put As Many Walls And As Few Windows Between You And Outside As Possible
Aside from properly-built-and-maintained fallout shelters, no building is going to provide impeccable protection from nuclear fallout, but certain architectural attributes can increase one’s odds of surviving.
You’ll want to put as many strong walls between you and the blast as possible by moving to the middle of a building. At the same time, avoid windows - which often break during the initial shockwave exposing anyone inside to the effects of fallout. Another obvious but important tip is to eschew objects that might hit you in the head as a result of the shockwave, including ceiling tiles.
Stairwells And Basements Are Ideal Hiding Spots
In general, larger buildings offer greater protection than smaller ones. Anything with a basement is ideal, as basements often don’t have windows and are at least partially underground - which makes for several more layers of separation between you and the outside world.
If a basement isn’t available but you’re in a large building, try the stairwell - preferably near the middle floors, as far as possible from the roof and ground. According to health physicist and nuclear expert Brooke Buddemeier:
It's actually in the core of the building, so it has concrete walls, and it doesn't have a lot of junk in it... So that would be an ideal place to go.