The face of nuclear terror has changed since the Cold War, but disaster-medicine expert Irwin Redlener reminds us the threat is still real. He looks at some of history's farcical countermeasures and offers practical advice on how to survive an attack.
The concept of using a bunker for shelter during times of disaster is nothing new. However the technologies that affect bunkers have changed radically over the past 20 years!
For the purposes of temporary shelter, most basic underground bunkers will perform as hoped. And when it comes to shelter from a passing tornado, even some homemade bunkers are adequate for the few hours of shelter needed.
There are various types of underground bunkers that are commercially available and potentially affordable by an average American. In most cases these bunkers involve what is essentially a large steel culvert (10-foot diameter pipe) that has been modified to include some amenities, basic entrance and exit, and a very basic air filtration system. Such pre-made bunkers may cost in excess of $50,000.00 plus the costs to transport and bury the bunker in the desired location, with a total cost under $100K. In reality, there are few applications where the owners of such a bunker might receive a reasonable return on the investments made into such an underground bunker. The most logical utilization of such a bunker based upon statistical occurrence of natural disasters would be to escape tornadoes, which are of course short-term events. There are potentially a few other scenarios where a bunker might serve a statistically logical purpose, however the odds of such events are remote. And in any case, there are multiple reasons why the occupants of such bunkers will in most cases be unable to stay underground long-term for more than a couple weeks.
When considering the costs related to any bunker project, it certainly makes sense to have some sort of insurance policy in place to cover the bunker and its contents from loss due to theft or vandalism. However, given the locations of most bunkers, most insurance companies won’t offer any kind of coverage, so the capital investment that is made for the bunker and its contents (which might exceed the costs of the bunker) will not be insured.
Entrance to a deep underground military bunker (‘DUMB’)
Of course if money is no object, you can purchase a sophisticated military-grade bunker costing millions of dollars, which will reliably serve the purposes related to long-term underground habitation during long-term disaster scenarios.
These ‘bunkers’ are designed by experts and incorporate technologically advanced life support systems, as well as various military-grade security measures, also costing hundreds of thousands of dollars and more. They also incorporate sophisticated measures that help to prevent mental issues from developing during such long-term underground stays, where morale can be critically affected leading to serious social and security problems.
Too many people wrongly believe that you can survive long-term underground in the cheaper underground bunkers. As just one simple example; most people don’t realize that a family of four people will produce anywhere from 5-7 gallons of water from respiration and perspiration into their environment every 24 hours.
This moisture will condense on the walls and ceiling of any underground structure and will over time collect on the floor (lowest point in the bunker) of the bunker. After a week or so, the water that has condensed becomes foul with fungus, bacteria and viruses and the smell of this toxic liquid will permeate the environment. The equipment required to prevent this (just one of many problems) from happening is not only expensive, but requires a lot of energy to operate, continuously.
Satellite image showing an underground tunnel 20-feet deep
Another common misconception among survivalists and Preppers is that any bunker will be a secret from other people. I am sorry to break the news to these people but, OPSEC in this and many other matters has been dead for a long time. In regard to bunkers; there are hundreds of advanced satellites that are orbiting the earth which are looking-down all the time. For the past 20 years, some of these satellites have been scanning the ground looking for resources such as oil, water and mineral deposits, and in that mission, they collect and store mountains of data related to the properties of the ground below.
This complex data can and is being re-accessed using re-tooled search algorithms that can be designed to find and catalog any underground facilities, even as small as a car buried underground. And now with the advent of the newest super-computers, conducting a search of the archived date and cataloging (with Latitude & Longitude data) these search results are very simple and easy for any government organization. In fact, much of the satellite data can be purchased by private parties as well as foreign entities and the same searches can be undertaken. Just one aspect of this data (and new data being collected now) is being used to locate small underground tunnels at the U.S. borders where drugs, money and people are being smuggled in and out of the U.S.
Nearly everything we know about the radiation exposure on a trip to Mars we have learned in the past 200 days.
For much longer, we have known that space is a risky place to be, radiation being one of many reasons. We believed that once our explorers safely landed on the surface of Mars, the planet would provide shielding from the ravages of radiation. We didn’t how much, or how little, until very recently. Radiation and its variations impact not only the planning of human and robotic missions, but also the search for life taking place right now.
The first-ever radiation readings from the surface of another planet were published last month in the journal Science. The take-home lesson, as well as the getting-there lesson and the staying-there lesson, is this: don’t forget to pack your shielding. [Mars Radiation Threat to Astronauts Explained (Infographic)]
"Radiation is the one environmental characteristic that we don’t have a lot of experience with on Earth because we’re protected by our magnetosphere and relatively thick atmosphere. But it’s a daily fact of life on Mars," said Don Hassler, the lead author on the paper, "Mars’ Surface Radiation Environment Measured with the Mars Science Laboratory’s Curiosity Rover."
Measuring radiation on Mars
On Earth, we often associate radiation exposure with fallout from catastrophes such as Chernobyl and Fukushima. We sometimes worry over CAT scans, chest X-rays or transcontinental flights. However, according to the Health Physics Society, the biggest source of radiation for most of us, by far, is inhaled radon. The sky above our heads and the earth beneath our feet are typically the least of our worries.
In open space, human beings continuously contend with intense solar and cosmic background radiation. Solar energetic particles (SEPs) and galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) turn a trip to Mars into a six-month radiation shower.
The Mars rover Curiosity has allowed us to finally calculate an average dose over the 180-day journey. It is approximately 300 mSv, the equivalent of 24 CAT scans. In just getting to Mars, an explorer would be exposed to more than 15 times an annual radiation limit for a worker in a nuclear power plant.
Data from Curiosity also demonstrated that landing only partially solves the problem. Once on the Martian surface, cosmic radiation coming from the far side of the planet is blocked. This cuts down detected GCRs by half. The protection from strong solar particles, though, is shoddy and inconsistent. Substantial variations in SEPs occur as the meager Martian atmosphere is tussled by solar wind.
"The variability [in radiation levels] was much larger than expected," Hassler said. "[This creates] variability in weekly and monthly dose rates. There are also seasonal variations in radiation."
Study co-author Jennifer Eigenbrode, from the Goddard Institute of Space Studies, described how fluxes in radiation are critical in determining the possibility of life on the Red Planet.
"Radiation is probably the key parameter in determining how much alteration organics are experiencing in the rocks on the surface," Eigenbrode said.
Read the rest of this very interesting article and find other worthy stories at space.com
NOTE: What this means to us, in the biggest picture of human survival, is that we need to create and develop technology that protects human beings from the deadly radiation that exists outside our own planet, if we are to eventually conquer long term and long distance space travel. Rich
These are frightening times. Of course, every prepper knows this – which is precisely why the individual in question is a prepper in the first place. However, one of the biggest reasons for the fear is the fact that the world is a place full of uncertainty.
This is a big problem for preppers. Why? Well, what are we going to prepare for? If I’ve prepared for an EMP or solar flare, and we ended up suffering a pandemic, then what good are my preps? Preparing for a bio attack and a chemical attack are two very different procedures. Indeed, preparedness knowledge and supplies will overlap from crisis to crisis. However, where it often matters most, some disasters are unique in the ways to prepare for them.
There is, though, one exception to this rule: preparing for nuclear conflict will actually keep you and your family safe from just about any other catastrophe – by the simple fact that such a conflict is pretty much the worst-case scenario.
Advantage #1: Underground & Out of Sight
Let’s face it, if you intend on surviving a nuclear conflict, it’s important you are able to hold up in a fallout shelter. This fallout shelter needs to have certain aspects already in place, which should still protect you from just about anything else.
First, your fallout shelter will need to be underground, sealed and very difficult to breach. In order for a fallout shelter to protect against radiation, you will need to have earth, cement, sand, etc. in place to protect against the harmful gamma radiation. For a more comprehensive explanation of how fallout shelters are properly constructed and what they do, check out this guide.
In a fallout shelter, you will also have protection against biological attacks and even pandemics. Fallout shelters are supposed to be relatively airtight to keep out radioactive particulates, which is why they need a ventilation pump. With this, you would have no problem keeping out a virus or even a chemical agent. In your fallout shelter, there’s not a whole lot that can get to you.
Your shelter should not be located in a heavily populated area, and should be well-stocked with supplies, ammunition, guns, a self-contained septic system and accommodations for sleeping and eating. This shelter is crucial during just about any type of disaster or conflict.
Advantage #2: Air Protection
You might need to resurface before the fallout and radiation has dissipated to find supplies or to perform other tasks. This means you will need strategies to keep yourself from getting any radioactive particulates into your body. You should have:
A high-quality gas mask (not military surplus, but commercial)
An airtight body suit system (DuPont makes Tyvek suits that should do just fine)
A decontamination shower for reentry into the fallout shelter
Good ol’ duct tape for sealing any holes or gaps between the suit and gloves, boots, mask, etc.
This list is only basic, and you should certainly do more research into how to comprehensively set up a ‘scout-kit’ to resurface while the fallout is still emitting dangerous and/or lethal doses of radiation. In addition, it’s important to know how many rads you have absorbed over what period of time (so you’ll need to bring just a cheap Casio watch along). The lethality of your radiation dose depends on how much you’ve absorbed over time. The Tyvek suit doesn’t protect against radiation, but it is designed to keep out airborne chemicals and viruses, which would keep radioactive dust particles from landing on your skin, getting in your eyes, etc.
The nice part about setting your preps up with this system is that you would still maintain your protection and ability to temporarily resurface in the event of a bio or chemical attack.
In this scenario, terrorist members of the Universal Adversary (UA) group assemble a gun-type nuclear device using highly enriched uranium (HEU) - used here to mean weapons-grade uranium - stolen from a nuclear facility located in the former Soviet Union. The nuclear device components are smuggled into the United States. The 10-kiloton nuclear device is assembled near a major metropolitan center. Using a delivery van, terrorists transport the device to the central business district of a large city and detonate it. Most buildings within 1,000 meters (~ 3,200 feet) of the detonation are severely damaged. Injuries from flying debris (missiles) may occur out to 6 kilometers (~ 3.7 miles). An Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) damages many electronic devices within about 5 kilometers (~ 3 miles). A mushroom cloud rises above the city and begins to drift east-northeast.
Geographical Considerations/Description - This scenario postulates a 10-kiloton nuclear detonation in a large metropolitan area. The effects of the damage from the blast, thermal radiation, prompt radiation, and the subsequent radioactive fallout have been calculated, based on a detonation in Washington, D.C. (details are not provided in this executive summary but are presented in the full-text version in Appendix 1-A). However, the calculation is general enough that most major cities in the United States can be substituted in a relatively straightforward manner. If the incident happened near the U.S. border, there would be a need for cooperation between the two border governments. Additionally, the IND attack may warrant the closure of U.S. borders for some period of time. If the detonation occurs in a coastal city, the fallout plume may be carried out over the water, causing a subsequent reduction in casualties. On the other hand, the surrounding water will likely restrict the zones that are suitable for evacuation. Bridges and tunnels that generally accompany coastal cities will restrict the evacuation, causing delay and an increase in the radioactive dose that evacuees receive. This delay may be substantial and the resulting dose increase may drive a decision to shelter-in-place or evacuate-in-stages.
Timeline/Event Dynamics - The response timeline will begin the instant the detonation occurs. Initially, only survivors in the immediate area will conduct rescue and lifesaving activities. Later (minutes to hours), rescue teams will begin to arrive and provide assistance. With the current state of education, training, and equipment, it is likely that many of these responders will subject themselves to very large (perhaps incapacitating or fatal) doses of radiation. As various command posts are setup (which may take hours to days), the response will become more coordinated.
For a nuclear detonation, the actual occurrence of injuries does not stop when the immediate blast effects have subsided. The most critical components of the post-detonation response may not be the lifesaving efforts that assist the victims directly injured by the detonation. Instead, it is likely that the most effective lifesaving activities will be those that address the evacuation or sheltering-in-place decisions for the potential victims in the immediate fallout path, the effective communication of instructions to the affected population, and the efficient decontamination of the evacuated population.
Secondary Hazards/Events - The detonation will cause many secondary hazards. The intense heat of the nuclear explosion and other subsequent causes will produce numerous fires located throughout the immediate blast zone. Damaged buildings, downed power and phone lines, leaking gas lines, broken water mains, and weakened bridges and tunnels are just some of the hazardous conditions that will need to be assessed. Depending on the type of industries present (such as chemical or petroleum production, industrial storage facilities, and manufacturing operations), there could be significant releases of hazardous materials.
Another secondary effect of a nuclear explosion is the EMP that will be produced by the ionization and subsequent acceleration of electrons from the air and other materials by the intense radiation of the detonation. This EMP is a sharp, high-voltage spike that radiates out from the detonation site. It has the potential to disrupt the communication network, other electronic equipment, and associated systems within approximately a 5-kilometer (~ 3-mile) range from the 10-kiloton ground blast.
There likely will be significant damage to the general public support infrastructure with potentially cascading effects. These systems include transportation lines and nodes (e.g., air, water, rail, highway); power generation and distribution systems; communications systems; food distribution; and fuel storage and distribution. There will be concerns about the safety and reliability of many structures (e.g., dams, levees, nuclear power plants, hazardous material storage facilities). Structures may be damaged that are used to provide essential services (e.g., hospitals, schools).
A full description of the fatalities and injuries for a nuclear detonation is difficult and complicated. There will be casualties directly associated with the blast, which will cause "translation/tumbling" (the human body being thrown) and subsequent impacts of people and other objects. A nuclear detonation will also produce a great deal of thermal (heat) energy that will cause burns to exposed skin (and eyes). There are two general "categories" of nuclear radiation produced in a detonation. First is the so-called "prompt" nuclear radiation, arbitrarily defined as being emitted within the first minute - it is actually produced as the device detonates or shortly thereafter.
For a 10-kiloton blast, this radiation may expose unprotected people within a distance of a few kilometers (a couple of miles) to extremely large gamma ray and/or neutron doses. In addition, a detonation of a nuclear device near the surface of the ground will result in a great deal of fallout (in the form of dirt particles) that is radioactively contaminated. This fallout will settle out of the radioactive cloud over a period of minutes to weeks. By far, the most dangerously radioactive fallout will be deposited near the detonation site and will happen within the first couple of hours after detonation. Radioactive fallout will exponentially decay with time, but may expose many people to large doses and will certainly contaminate large areas of land for years. Many fatalities and injuries will result from a combination of these various effects.
The largest radiation concerns following an IND incident will be the "prompt" radiation (gamma ray and neutron) and the gamma dose received from the "ground shine" (radioactive particles deposited on the ground) as people are evacuated from the fallout areas. These effects are likely to have significantly larger impacts on the population than internal doses. Internal doses tend to expose the body to relatively small radiation doses over a long period of time, which produces different effects than large radiation doses received during a short period of time.
As the distance from ground zero increases past 20 kilometers (~ 12 miles), the injuries due to acute radiation exposure (from prompt radiation and the subsequent fallout) will decrease, and lower level contamination, evacuation, and sheltering issues will become the major concern. In general, at distances greater than 250 kilometers (~ 150 miles) from ground zero of a 10 kiloton nuclear detonation, acute health concerns will not be a significant issue. However, contamination of people and the environment will still be a concern.
Years later, there will still be health consequences in the form of increased probabilities of cancers in the exposed population. The number of these cancers will likely run into the thousands and will extract a large human, social, and financial cost.
It is likely that the blast and subsequent fires will destroy all buildings in the immediate area of the detonation. Historically, decontamination of sites involves the removal of all affected material, so most buildings in the immediate downwind fallout path will likely have to be destroyed in the decontamination effort. As the distance from the detonation site increases, the contamination level will decrease. At some distance, the buildings will not have to be destroyed and removed but will still require decontamination of all affected surfaces. This decontamination process will take years and will be extremely expensive. The decontamination will produce a far greater challenge and cost much more than the actual rebuilding of the destroyed structures. Approximately 8,000 square kilometers (~ 3,000 square miles) of land will have to undergo varying degrees of decontamination. This effort will last for many years and will cost many billions of dollars to complete.
Service disruption will be extensive in the area near ground zero and in the fallout path for several miles downwind. Services in these areas will not be restored for years because the land affected will not be returned to use until the decontamination is complete and the structures rebuilt. Service disruption will be much less dramatic in areas that are less severely contaminated or not contaminated at all.
The electrical power grid is likely to be damaged by transients produced by the destruction of substations, as well as other power production and distribution installations, and perhaps by the EMP of the detonation. It is likely that the grid damage may cause power outages over wide areas, perhaps over several states, but these outages should be repaired within several days to a couple of weeks. The communication systems in the area will suffer similar damage and will likely be repaired within similar timeframes.
City water mains will likely survive without major damage. The city water supply is unlikely to become substantially contaminated with radiation via water main breaks, but it is possible that some small amount of radioactive and non-radioactive contamination may enter the lines.
To varying degrees, all government services will be impacted over some geographical area. The national economy will be significantly impacted. Decontamination, disposal, and replacement of lost infrastructure will cost many billions of dollars. Replacement of lost private property and goods could add billions more to the cost. Additionally, an overall national economic downturn, if not recession, is probable in the wake of the attack.
Mission Areas Activated:
Prevention/Deterrence/Protection - Law enforcement attempts will be made to prevent development and detonation of the device. Site boundaries must be protected and surveyed after the detonation. Officers must respond to any additional threats or looting/theft issues.
Emergency Assessment/Diagnosis - The detonation will be easily recognized as nuclear. Actions required include dispatching response units; making incident scene reports; detecting and identifying the source; establishing a perimeter; collecting information; making hazard assessments and predictions; coordinating hospital and urgent care facilities; coordinating county and state response requests; and coordinating monitoring, surveying, and sampling operations.
Emergency Management/Response - Evacuation/shelter-in-place decisions must be made immediately. Required actions include alerting the public, providing traffic and access control, protecting at-risk and special populations, supporting requests for assistance, directing and controlling critical infrastructure assets, and directing pubic information activities. Location and removal of injured and disabled people will be a significant undertaking that will be greatly complicated by the need to keep the radiation dose of the individual workers as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA). Initial emergency workers will likely receive high doses of radiation and must be trained on how to avoid as much as possible.
Incident/Hazard Mitigation - Self-evacuation should occur in the short-term, and the greatest factor impacting the reduction of the effects of the detonation on the general population will remain the speed and appropriateness of the decisions that are made and the effectiveness of the dissemination of this information (e.g., evacuation/shelter-in-place instructions).Evacuees must be promptly decontaminated.
Public Protection - Actions should include making and communicating protective action decisions, monitoring and decontaminating evacuees, implementing decisions to administer prophylaxis to the affected populations, protecting special populations, protecting schools and day care facilities, and providing shelter/reception facilities.
Victim Care - Tens of thousands will require decontamination and both short-term and long-term treatment. Due to a high number of casualties, the level of care may be significantly lower than normally expected. When overwhelmed with victims who need care, decisions must be made based on the fact that the sooner the onset of the symptoms, the higher the dose received and the less likely the victim is to survive (even with medical intervention).
Investigation/Apprehension - Attribution activities at the detonation site will rely largely on scientific forensic techniques and will be provided by specialized national teams. Actions of incident-site personnel will include site control and criminal investigation. Federal authorities or the military will probably conduct "apprehension" activities.
Recovery/Remediation - Expected radiation levels will limit the total time workers can spend in the affected area, quickly leading to a shortage of willing, qualified, and trained workers. The volume of contaminated material that will be removed will overwhelm the national hazardous waste disposal facilities and will severely challenge the nation's ability to transport the material. This effort will be the most expensive and time-consuming part of recovery and will likely cost many billions of dollars and take many years.
With the Sochi Olympics less than a week away, there has been growing anxiety about the security of the athletes, Olympic personnel, and spectators attending the Games. Security has been stepped up in recent weeks following the double suicide attacks in Volgograd that killed over 34 people. Reporting in recent weeks has bordered on the frantic, as Russian authorities continue to receive new names and photographs of would-be female suicide bombers, dubbed “black widows.”
Russia’s Olympic Organizing Committee Chief Dmitry Chernyshenko assured journalists that Sochi is the “most secure venue at the moment on the planet.” President Vladimir Putin has promised a 60-mile long and 25-mile deep “ring of steel” around Sochi, with a security cordon guarded by almost 100,000 security personnel— including 40,000 police at the Games, 30,000 military personnel in the Sochi area, 10,000 troops in the surrounding mountainous belt, Russia’s 58th Army guarding the Georgian border, and more than 400 Cossacks in full traditional uniform. (Cossacks are descendants of nomadic settlers in the southern parts of Russia and Ukraine with a long military tradition, best known as an informal horse-borne border guard, dating back to at least the 15thcentury.)
In addition, unmanned drones, bomb sniffing dogs and robots, metal detectors, S-400 and Pantsir-S anti-aircraft missile systems, patrol boats with teams of divers, and Russia’s GLONASS satellites will be deployed at the Olympic Games.
Although much attention has recently been paid to security at the Sochi Olympics, threats are anything but new. As early as February 2007, Jamaat Shariat, a Dagestan-based terrorist group, promised to “attack any of so-called participants of Olympiad who represents the countries at war against Islam and Muslims.”
Doku Umarov, leader of the Caucasus Emirate, the umbrella organization that leads and coordinates attacks across the North Caucasus, followed up on these threats in July 2013, urging his followers to use “any means possible” to ensure that the Games do not take place.
More recently, in January 2014, two would-be suicide bombers promised a “surprise package” for Russia and for Olympic spectators.
The reference to a “surprise package” is particularly troubling, considering the pattern of seizures of radioactive material across the Caucasus over the past two decades. It is possible that one of the groups in the North Caucasus might possess small amounts of radioactive material, and that the surprise is a radiological dispersal device, commonly referred to as a ‘dirty bomb.’
Read more of this article and find other worthy stories here at thebulletin.org
China is set to deploy submarines sometime this year armed with nuclear tipped missiles capable of striking Alaska or Hawaii, according to a January assessment from the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI).
The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Jin-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine is set to begin patrols in 2014 — armed with the PLAN’s new Ju Lang 2 (JL2), ONI Senior Intelligence Officer Jesse Karotkin told the U.S. China Economic and Security Review Commission in late January.
“With a range in excess of 4000 [nautical miles], the JL-2 submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM), will enable the JIN to strike Hawaii, Alaska and possibly western portions of CONUS from East Asian waters,” Karotkin said in written testimony to the commission.