How Real is a Nuclear Disaster?

Early last month, North Korea claimed it tested a hydrogen bomb, a thermonuclear bomb so powerful that it uses an atom bomb as a trigger, a feat that only five countries have been known to accomplish. This isn’t quite to atomic bomb territory — only a couple of countries have achieved that so far — but North Korea is certainly well on its way to deploying this type of technology, which could spell trouble for countries like Japan, South Korea, and the United States.

Atom Bombs are Just One Radiation Worry

There are more types of radiation-related disasters to prepare for beyond  atomic bombs, and they’re not all caused purposefully. Those that are include atomic bombs and dirty bombs, but also radiological exposure devices, which are radiation sources that have been hidden by someone.

Of course, we all know accidents do happen, as we’ve seen with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster that occurred in Japan after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.  Other accidents such as those involving workplace radiation or transportation can also occur, all of which can cause serious harm if adequate preparations are not made beforehand.

First of all, it’s important that you have made proper evacuation procedures. This includes having a shelter to evacuate to, preferably one that’s far enough away from the source or strong enough to limit your exposure to the radiation — a basement, room, or building made of concrete, lead, or even water will keep the radiation at bay. That being said, unless the radiation emergency is a pinpoint source, or unless you’re told to evacuate during a radiation emergency, you will likely be asked to shelter in place, so it’s important to have some adequate protection with you in your vehicle or other areas at all times.

An emergency kit would be a very good idea to pack and keep with you for this type of situation, as it contains food, water, an AM/FM radio with batteries, a rechargeable squeeze flashlight, and even waterproof matches. Of course, you can never be too prepared, so you might also want to include a first aid kit, plastic sheeting, duct tape and scissors. These supplies can assist you in making sure any lodgings you’re able to find are sealed.

How Radiation can Affect You From a Distance

In the U.S., nuclear power plant officials use two emergency planning zones — one within a 10 mile radius and the other within up to a 50 mile radius. The first is especially dangerous, because in this zone, you can be exposed to radiation directly, while the second can still be dangerous as the radiation can contaminate food and water. Even living things can be contaminated at this distance. In all of these situations, it’s always a very good idea to keep a portable emergency kit in your vehicle.

Beyond radiation, a nuclear explosion also produces an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that can affect the power grid for up to 11 miles in any direction, causing blackouts and power outages that can potentially affect millions. In these cases, you’ll want to make sure you have a way to charge your devices or are carrying extra batteries to keep safe and stay in the know about any updates on the situation. You might even consider getting an off-grid power source to prevent being left in the dark and cold in these types of situations.