Can I survive nuclear war in my basement?

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ext topic on our website is not ideally positive, and we had a long thought before touching it. And decided to discuss the issue anyways, as its as topical as it was 50 years ago, during the peak of the cold war. During 2022 we have received multiple questions on the same, so here are the answers.

Can you survive a nuclear war in a basement?

A basement is a safe shelter for a nuclear war as long as it is outside the immediate blast zone.

In an unlikely event of a nuclear war, those in the blast area won’t survive. However, the blast itself isn’t the only threat. It is followed by fallout of radioactive dust and dirt that will settle down 15 minutes after the blast.

The explosion will create a bright flash which can result in blindness. The blast wave can cause damage and death several miles around the blast area. In addition, the electromagnetic pulse can damage electronics.

1. Can one survive a nuclear blast hiding in a basement?

The basement is the safest place to hide for this type of emergency. The radioactive dust will settle over the roof and outer walls when the fallout occurs. The belowground position of the basement provides protection, thanks to the solid-packed earth around it. Dense materials such as lead and concrete can block radiation.

1.1 What type of basement will NOT protect you and your household members from nuke aftermath

Vehicles, outdoor areas, and mobile homes won’t protect you from the nuke aftermath. As per the basements – any basement with walls / ceiling above the ground is exposed for radiation following the blast. So if your basement is “walkout” type with a glass door and large windows, it won’t work. If you live in a “bungalow” and have one level above the basement (and no concrete layer in-between), you shouldn’t count on it for a hideout; check your local alternatives like large underground parkings or schools with insulated rooms in the center of the buildings. Basements and the center of large multi-story buildings are considered safe in these cases. A deep basement with a thick concrete ceiling will protect you from radiation.

1.2 What basement setup is the safest for staying after a nuclear blast?

Thick concrete and packed earth offer natural protection from radiation. To provide protection, a basement must be 7 to 8 feet below the ground. Thick concrete will also block the rays and can be between 20 to 30 inches.

2. What should I do in case of a nuclear blast?

According to the official government site, getting inside the nearest building is the first thing you must do in a nuclear blast event. Brick and concrete buildings provide maximum protection. Staying protected from the fallout is your utmost priority, as it has the highest radiation a few hours after a blast. It will take more than 15 minutes for the fallout to reach the ground, so hiding in a safe structure is crucial.

If you come in touch with the fallout, it is essential to decontaminate yourself. This can be done by removing the clothing. Take a shower and rinse your skin and hair to remove any particles. Alternatively, wipe the skin that was exposed. Make sure not to scrub too vigorously since it can damage the natural protective barrier of your skin. Put on clean clothes that have been in a closed drawer. Seal the contaminated clothes and put them out of reach.

Also, minimizing the amount of outdoor air entering your home is crucial. The radioactive particles can enter through the windows or ducts, so it is vital to turn off HVAC units. Close the doors and windows to maintain a clean area.

Make sure to stay away from the outer walls and roof and head to the center of the building or the basement. Go away from the windows since the shockwave can break windows 10 miles away from the initial explosion zone. Stay in your shelter for 24 hours unless instructed otherwise by the authorities. Listen to the radio for instructions from the authorities to know when it is safe to leave your hideout.

3. What should I have inside my basement hideout?

It is recommended to have an emergency supply kit ready in the basement hideout. You and your family will have to stay there until it is safe to come out if not instructed otherwise by the authorities. Therefore, you need to have enough supplies for a few days. 

Some of the basic necessities to include in your kit are water, non-perishable food, medicines, a flashlight, and a battery-operated radio. In the case of a nuclear blast, the powerful electromagnetic pulse will disrupt the power, telephone, and internet lines. However, it is less likely that the radio waves will be interrupted. Since authorities will have no other way to broadcast information, a radio will be helpful.

Always have non-perishable food and water supplies that you can rely on for a few days. Build your emergency supplies over time, and check them often to replace expired products.

Additional batteries for your phones will also be helpful. And don’t forget to assess your specific needs and ensure every family member has what they need (pets, elderly, kids).

4. Can I modify part of my basement to be more protected against radiation and contamination?

And now that we know more about nuclear blast dangers, let’s go back to basements. An ordinary basement will provide some degree of protection. However, you can improve your basement to make it more secure in case of nuclear war. Thick concrete is dense enough to block the radiation from penetrating your basement. The more materials are there, the more protected it will be. Therefore, you can add additional protection using sacks with earth or concrete bricks above.

The main threat in case of a nuclear blast comes from the ceiling. Since a thin wood layer won’t stop the radiation, you need to reinforce the ceiling with concrete. The shockwave will cause structural damage. If your house doesn’t stand the shockwave, the basement ceiling should be sturdy enough to support that. We already explained that the radioactive dust would settle on the roof. In case the house collapses, the radioactive dust is a threat.
Talk to your basement contractor about the concrete ceiling in the basement for maximum safety.

In addition, don’t forget about the door. A wooden door can blow up due to the shockwave. A solid door with more robust hinges will stay in place and protect the household from outside treats.

If you have windows, they should be secured too. It would be best to cover the windows with plywood or stack sacks filled with earth from the outside.

In the unlikely event of nuclear war, your basement is the best hideout spot. Implement a few basement improvements to enhance safety. Also, stack the essential supplies in a case of shelter-in-place order.

A safe room is another option to consider. This room is sealed by concrete from 6 sides to prevent the radiation from penetrating. Also, it includes essential life-supporting utilities.

Any Questions?

Do you have any questions about your basement? Get in touch with the experienced team at LevelUp and feel free to ask them!

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