What Haven’t I Thought Of For Nuclear Survival?, by D.K.

It’s easy to prepare for a specific disaster and then forget about it. Whether it’s an economic collapse, power grid failure, or nuclear attack, gathering supplies just isn’t enough. There are a spiderweb of choices to be made after each event, and this article will focus on options you may not have thought of yet, if a nuclear strike were to happen. Aside from knowing the foundations to nuclear survival, there are other important topics, such as owning protective suits, location decisions, and community goals. As with most survival situations, nuclear survival is a system of Q/A– questions and action. Here are some of the questions to ask yourself:

  • Should I get disposable or non-disposable radiation protection suits?
  • How many suits do I need?
  • Do I stay where I’m at, or do I leave during a disaster?
  • What am I going to do with waste if the plumbing doesn’t work?
  • Who in my community can I truly count on?
  • Why is bugging-out not always the best option?

Before diving into specific scenarios and trying to figure out everything you need, it’s important to know the basics of nuclear survival. There are endless calculations that go into a nuclear explosion, but there are three basic parts to recap:

  • The Blast: This includes size, burn effects, and the area is immediately affected
  • The Shock: This includes EMP, wind/shockwave, and social structure damage
  • The Fallout: The radiation-emitting dust that travel all over the place

***To give you a better idea of how a nuclear bomb would affect your area, you can use Alex Wellerstein’s NUKEMAP.***


Another foundation to nuclear survival is having a plan but not just any plan– a very specific plan. It’s easy to say, “We’ll just go to the desert or forest and bug out”, but how is that going to be executed? What are the specific steps of action you would have to take to get there?

Survival, in a nuclear conflict, should never be approached with a mind focused on the short term. Knowing what you are going to do after everything you’ve planned for has happened is important. For example, if my family and I make it out to the forest to our super secret bug-out spot and survive for a month or two, then what? What happens when the food runs out, ammo runs out, or fallout is carried to our position via atmospheric travel. Not all of us have a nuclear bunker to run to, but even if we did would we be able to survive the psychological pressures of living underground for so long? These are all things to consider.

The last foundation for nuclear survival is having a backup for everything, just like you would on your computer. If one of your suits gets torn or the road you picked is blocked, having a backup can save you from a lethal situation. Some people even like to have backups for their backups, and that is not such a bad idea!


Deciding what type of radiation protection suit to get for your nuclear survival kit is one of the most important steps towards preparedness. Should I get disposable or non-disposable suits? The important word there is “suits” (in the plural tense), as every person should have at least two of any kind of suit.

Another point to consider, when buying a suit, is how will I eat, drink, and go to the bathroom during extended periods of time within the suit? Even with a good mask that allows you to eat/drink, how can you do that without exposing the edibles. The real answer depends on the scenario and what you are up against. If it’s just alpha and beta-emitting fallout, then a basic suit will suffice and eating, drinking, and relieving yourself could be done under thick cover. If it is significant gamma radiation, then advanced suits and complete decontamination are the only way to complete very short-duration tasks outside of your fallout shelter in relative safety, and not bring hazardous emitters back into your shelter. [ JWR Adds: NO suit will protect you from gamma radiation. If a suit could protect you, then it would be too heavy to move. Read: Many hundreds or even thousands of pounds. The only reliable protection is a proper fallout shelter with multiple halving thicknesses of soil or concrete.] Some protection is better than no protection in any scenario, and knowing how to use the gear you’ve purchased is vital.

Have I practiced breathing and working in my mask? How long do my filters last? Do I have enough? Taking the time to practice using and fully assessing the items we have can prevent a load of problems created by panic during a disaster.

Stay Put or Bug Out?

Do I stay where I’m at or leave during a disaster? This is one of the biggest choices to be made, and the answer varies widely depending on your current location. Here are a few things to consider when making the choice to hunker down or high-tail it:

City (assuming it hasn’t been hit directly)

This will be the toughest area to make a choice, but at one point or another a decision to leave must be made. As we know, traffic will be at a standstill, panic will set in quickly, looters will take advantage of the chaos, and police will have hard time controlling anything. This is one scenario where staying put may be the best idea in the short term. This will give the city time to quiet down after the initial shock and potentially clear out some roads. Staying for too long could be a very bad choice, because over time gangs will form and looters will move from commercial stores to residential areas. Supplies are the driving force behind survival in a nuclear disaster, and cities are going to run out the fastest. For those living in the city, having a remote location to get to is the best goal. Here are the pros and cons of being in a city during this type of disaster:

City Pros:

  • They will be the first places where order is established, if the government still remains
  • Ethnic, religious, and family groups will band together faster
  • Cities will be targeted first for supplies and recovery, if order can be created again

City Cons:

  • There is not a strong sense of community
  • High population meaning more looters, chaos, and congestion
  • Pre-established gangs can quickly take advantage of the situation

City Final Thoughts:

  • Plan to leave 1-3 weeks after an attack, when streets are clear
  • Have many pre-planned routes out of the city to avoid major roads and highways
  • Community is extremely important here, so band together with neighbors
  • Have a destination goal with supplies pre-planted for your mid- to long-term survival


The suburbs are where most of us will be during a nuclear strike, and it’s better than being in the city. Supplies will dwindle slower, but that doesn’t mean it’s a great choice to stay for long. Once a city is ravaged, the suburbs will be the next staging area for crime, wanderers, and the search for supplies. Here are some points to consider about a suburb after a nuclear attack:

Suburb Pros:

  • Less congestion, which means more mobility and time to react
  • There are established communities
  • It won’t be the first priority for looting, until cities are empty

Suburb Cons:

  • Generally located very close to cities
  • Long-term survival is not an option here, due to lack of supplies
  • Infrastructure will not be repaired until the nearby cities are under control

Suburb Final Thoughts:

  • Leave immediately or when supplies get low, but don’t stay for more than 2 months
  • Will you be able to handle neighbors requesting supplies and help?
  • A weapon is essential for survival in an area longer than a couple weeks

Rural Town

This is where everyone wants to be during a disaster, and in the end most people will end up here. Once cities and suburbs have run their course, people will move further away and into rural areas. Even though these small towns are great for short- to mid-term survival, it’s got a share of problems, too. Here are some pros and cons when considering a rural town during a disaster:

Rural Town Pros:

  • Less likely to be targeted, due to there not being a large population or military bases
  • Lots of reaction time and preparation for mid- to long-term survival
  • Community can quickly come together from it’s established social connections

Rural Town Cons:

  • Will be the last place to receive aid from outside sources
  • Will attract gangs or looters who can outnumber or outgun a small town
  • Must be self-sustaining or it will quickly disperse and collapse on itself

Rural Town Final Thoughts:

  • This could be a great place to stay long term, as long as the community is strong
  • Community defense and supplies are crucial to maintaining infrastructure
  • Taking in wanderers and/or turning them away will be an important town decision

Your Community

Lastly, one of the most crucial things to consider when planning for a nuclear strike is what type of community you will be a part of. Will you be a lone ranger? Will you have a small group (3-25 people)? Or will you even be a part of a town’s group (25+ people)? Each has a list of pros and cons that must be weighed, while also recognizing that a person’s community is greatly affected by their location.

Going Solo

Going Solo Pros:

  • Only responsible for yourself
  • Easier to remain hidden
  • Moving locations is quicker and easier
  • Decisions can be made much faster

Going Solo Cons:

  • An easy target, if found by any bad group
  • Doing things with one person is harder than doing it with five
  • It’s proven to be a mental and psychological challenge

Small Group

Small Group Pros:

  • Bonds and trust are held together better than in a large group
  • Defense and concealment from other groups is possible
  • Jobs can be diversified
  • There is a larger skill pallet

Small Group Cons:

  • Can quickly be snuffed out by a larger group
  • Will have a hard time making decisions, if someone isn’t the “final say”
  • If someone gets sick or hurt, it will affect the entire group much more than a larger one

Large Group

Large Group Pros:

  • An even bigger skill pool to work with
  • Can split to cover more area and create a formidable defense
  • Will be the first to establish long-term survival communities

Large Group Cons:

  • Making group decisions is not an easy process, unless everyone’s goals are aligned
  • “Compromise” is a word everyone in a larger group must know well
  • It’s much more susceptible to conflict, which can lead to the collapse of a community

Every person is a part of a community in one way or another and when something like a nuclear attack happens, it will either strengthen the community or erase it completely, due to dispersement. Planning and communicating with your community beforehand about what actions will be taken after a disaster is extremely important. Obviously, this is not possible 100% of the time, because not everyone has a community of like-minded people. In this case, it might be best to go solo during a disaster, in an attempt to join a small/large group by providing value.

This guide is not meant to be an all-inclusive step-by-step handbook to any survival situation, but rather it’s here to spark ideas and put people in the right mindset when thinking of preparedness. Asking a question like “where are we going to put the waste” is important, because it’s not something we would normally think about. Having a long term and specific approach to nuclear preparedness will increase chances of survival and put you 1,000 steps ahead of the average person. Asking the right questions and taking the appropriate actions are essential to nuclear survival. Take the time to sit down and evaluate your plan, while going through every possible scenario to not only give you a physical preparedness advantage but also a mental one.