"Putin spokesman refuses to rule out use of nuclear weapons if Russia faced an 'existential threat' — CNN 3/23/22
"Putin ally warns of nuclear dystopia due to United States" — Reuters 3/24/22
"U.S. Makes Contingency Plans in Case Russia Uses Its Most Powerful Weapons" — The New York Times 3/23/22
These are just some of the headlines assaulting Americans in March as the war in Ukraine rages on. They raise the questions for many of our members of "How do I prepare my family for what may lie ahead?" and even, "What kind of insurance coverage do I have to help us recover in the event of a nuclear attack?"
Anyone who grew up in America in the decades following WWII through the fall of the USSR knows what a nuclear drill entails: dropping to the floor to sit under the desk, covering your eyes and turning away from any windows, then waiting for the all-clear alarm to sound. Terms like duck and cover, fallout shelter, and nuclear winter were part of everyone's vernacular.
No one would have believed in 2022 that we would be forced to resurrect these terms and consider preparing again for the unimaginable.
Whether a nuclear threat or severe Spring storm, it is best to, as Benjamin Disraeli wrote, "Prepare for the worst but hope for the best" and ready ourselves for disaster.
In the event of a nuclear disaster, suffice it to say, insurance will probably be the least of your worries. As it hasn't been considered a real possibility, many policyholders don't realize that a nuclear explosion is not covered in most homeowners policies.
The best insurance you can provide your family is to be prepared. If Russia launched a nuclear warhead from the Continent toward the United States, people would have approximately 30 minutes to find shelter. If launched from a submarine, however, that time drops to 10 minutes. The trouble with these times, however, is that the United States does not have a sufficient warning system for nuclear threats, so it is likely many would never know to seek shelter.
How to Survive
There are many articles on how a bomb can be detonated (on the ground, above ground, etc.) and what happens from there. Here's a quick graph from FEMA that outlines an event:
In every scenario, there are basic initial steps to follow that can greatly increase your chances of survival and recovery:
Avert your eyes from the flash/fireball
After the explosion, you have 15 minutes to find shelter before fallout reaches the ground. This is where exposure to radiation occurs most for those not inside a “blast zone.”
Find shelter that is in the opposite direction of the wind to limit fallout exposure. Inside buildings or schools with few or no windows, or a basement work best.
Shelter in place for at least 24 hours (though 72 hours is best) and have a plan to reunite with family after that.
What Happens Next
You should prepare not to leave your shelter for 14 days. This is the time it will take to make venturing outside as safe from fallout and radiation as possible. Of course, you’ll have other factors to consider, but the nuclear threat, at this stage, will have waned to a survivable level.
Here’s what you can expect while you are sheltering and after you emerge:
Communication systems will be down. A hand-crank radio, 2-way radio, walkie-talkie, or standard emergency radio may still work to learn what is transpiring in your area.
Electricity will be out. Grids will be down and our infrastructure has seen grids blown from overloading even without a nuclear explosion, so don’t count on getting it back any time soon. Have the following on hand to weather the outages: multi-tools, multi-plier, axe, fire-starting kit, compass, flares, flashlights, fully charged battery charger.
Water coming to your house will be stopped or interrupted. Plan to have 1 gallon of water per person per day for various needs, though 1.5 gallons per person is what is needed for drinking over 14 days. A measuring cup will help avoid confusion on daily allocations. Water purification tablets or portable water filters will be needed for longer periods.
Grocery stores will be closed, so have up to six months of food (canned, emergency food supplies), pet supplies, toiletry items, all-purpose soaps, and sanitary wipes on hand.
Gas masks for everyone are advised.
Emergency medical treatment books, supplies, respirators, medications, and potassium iodide should be part of your emergency kit. You’ll probably have to rely on yourself for any treatments, so have paper instructions available.
Self-defense isn’t something everyone is prepared to do, but you can have minimum deterrents such as solar lights and alarms to ward off intruders. Tasers, paintball guns, and pepper spray are non-lethal ways of protecting yourself. Wasp spray is also a great deterrent as it shoots up to 15 feet and acts like pepper spray.
Coordinate a plan with family and friends for reuniting before any disaster strikes, whether weather or nuclear.
The above paints a picture of doom and gloom, but we have history on our side. The United States is the only country to deploy a nuclear weapon since they were developed in 1945. The concept of mutually assured destruction has kept world leaders restrained. Preparing for any disaster is important, and once done can provide peace of mind that you are ready – much like your insurance provides peace of mind that recovery is possible.
Sources: Chris Tidbal, NU Property Casualty 360°, ready.gov