Letter Re: Maintaining the Nuclear Survival Mindset

I won’t mention my name because of the privacy concerns you so eloquently pointed out in your blog, but here’s an example of what you were asking about in regards to preparations for a new cold/hot war.

I was in the USAF in Security Police from 1980 to 1989, the height of the Cold War, when President Reagan was stepping up the pressure on the then Soviet Union. I served in ICBMs (Minuteman III’s and the Peacekeeper) at Warren AFB in Wyoming and overseas in Ground Launched Cruise Missiles (GLCMs) at Florennes Air Base, Belgium. One of the things we were constantly aware of during our duty in the missile fields stateside was that on-duty Security Police were not allowed to go into shelters in the event of a nuclear attack.

Knowing that, we were constantly aware of our position in the missile field, the current weather forecast, and planned escape routes in the event of the “unthinkable” (yet we were always thinking about it, so go figure). The two primary concerns were surviving the initial attack and surviving subsequent fallout. Surviving the initial attack would have involved making the best speed possible in the 25-to-30 minutes you had to get out of the missile field(distance and shielding are your friends). Given the distances involved, there would have been no time to dither and look at a map trying to figure out a route, so we reconnoitered all our routes in advance, particularly looking for likely areas of shelter such as culverts, highway overpasses, etc. should we fail to get out in time. We had our survival kits, weapons, and NBC gear with us (by regulation) so we were constantly ready.

The other consideration was where to go in the event we survived the initial attack. This would involve avoiding the initial fallout, thus making it necessary to be aware of prevailing weather conditions. We had pre-planned reassembly points where we were to report after an attack, so we had to know a variety of routes from any particular point to get to them.

How does that translate to survival preparedness now? God forbid that we should ever have to prepare for an attack on that scale now, but the basic elements are these:

1. Know likely targets in your area. If you happen to live in an area free of likely targets, count your blessings. If you happen to be away from that area for any extended period of time, have several plans and routes for getting back there planned in advance. There won’t be time to dither, and while everyone else is looking for an escape route, you should be halfway home. It also goes without saying that you should have equipment and supplies sufficient to enable you to get home without having to stop for anything except fuel. Have cash on hand to pay for fuel.

If you live in close proximity to a target area such that you would be affected by the blast, plan your immediate escape route(s) with the primary considerations of speed and shelter possibilities. Avoid cities and towns if possible and look for areas where you can shelter from immediate blast effects if that should happen. Fortunately, you won’t be prohibited from entering a shelter like we were, so having adequate shelter in the first place should be one of your preps. However, most of us have to work and we all have to get away from home sometime, so we can’t guarantee that we’ll be there when something bad happens. Have an escape/shelter plan for work, office and for the kids in school if that’s your situation.

Keep an eye on the news (for readers of this blog I don’t think that will be a problem) and know about rising tensions. You won’t have immediate notification of an attack like we did, but there should hopefully be some kind of warning (even over the Emergency Broadcast System) so have a plan to use those precious minutes before the “unthinkable” (to most people) happens. Get in the habit of listening to the radio while driving instead of listening to CDs or MPEG files. If you have 15 minutes and a clear route planned, then you could make 10-20 miles in that time, depending on traffic. That amount of distance might make the difference between surviving the initial attack or not.

2. Have a variety of post attack routes to your assembly point (bug out location) planned in advance (did I say that once before?) based on weather, traffic and road conditions. What looks like a nice, scenic route in good weather could become closed by winter conditions or flooded in the spring. Know where to go and what to do if the route you choose should happen to be blocked (even if blocked by authorities). Know what your route looks like in daylight and darkness. The unexpected can happen at any time.

3. If you’re not familiar with the roads in any particular area, get a map and study it. Learn how to read a topo map so that if you have to choose a route you haven’t reconnoitered you can at least tell where the steep hills, valleys, bridges, etc. are.

Hope this level of planning doesn’t sound too paranoid, but I lived with it for ten years, so it’s become more or less habit by now. The preparations you make involving equipment and supplies are all for naught if you don’t survive or can’t get to them. S o I would say that all of the aforementioned preparations are as important or more important than having every last piece of cool gear available. Software trumps hardware every time. Furthermore, it doesn’t cost very much. – A Former SAC Troop