A serious letter to my dear beloved son, Eric,
It is quite possible that the USA will soon experience a terrorist attack in the form of a nuclear detonation. The city just west of the University you are attending would be a high profile, terrorist “trophy” to attack.
If a nuclear detonation by terrorist occurs in that city, you will notice a bright flash of light and, then feel the blast wave a few seconds after. Although the University is somewhat distant and shielded by terrain from that city, train yourself to not look toward the flash and immediately duck behind a solid barrier. Expect glass to be flying from any windows and plug your ears. Once the blast wave passes note the time. Your goal is to be inside a fallout shelter within 40 minutes and with enough supplies to last 2 weeks. This will only be possible if you prepare in advance.
Given that your location is 25 miles east of that big city, and the prevailing winds blow east, lethal levels of radioactive fallout could begin falling on your campus within 50 minutes.
Right after the blast wave hits, a strong wind will start moving back toward ground zero. Depending on the size of the nuke, the reverse wind could be strong enough to knock down trees and people. If you are outside, you need to decide in the short 15 seconds between the blast wave passing and the reverse wind if, you can make it to a temporary safe place. If you are near a building, get in it. If you are in a building already, stay in it. If you are outside get away from tall trees. Wait for about three minutes for the wind to pass, then start for your dorm to get your packs. If it is a small detonation, the wind will be manageable. By this time you will have only 35 minutes left to shelter “Lock Down”.
To prepare before an event, pack your back pack with things like long lasting candles, matches, Bic [butane] lighters, flashlight with extra batteries, portable radio, first aid kit, basic medications, toilet paper, water bottles, bucket, washcloth, towel, bar soap, dust masks, gloves, duct tape, some basic tools or a mufti-tool, pry bar, hammer, small trash bags for making a toilet, big trash bags to wear as a fallout suit. As for nutrition, pack instant foods like oatmeal, trail mix, beef jerky, nutri-bars, raisins, nuts, dried fruit, vitamins, etc. You should still have the water filter, hatchet and sharp knife in the back pack from our last camping trip. There is already Potassium Iodate in your respirator kit I gave you. Do not pack more than one change of clothes except, underwear and socks. You will only need to change clothes if they get wet. . Get extra dust masks which will help the others who join you at the last minute. Be sure to include a sleeping bag or some warm bedding and something to read. Prepare to be in the shelter for 2 weeks minimum. Since you will be mostly sedentary, you can eat and drink on a small daily ration. Clean water will be more important than food. You will need to drink at least 2 liters a day.
Pack everything in two large trash bags, one inside the other, and keep them packed. You will not have enough time to pack everything and then get to the shelter within the remaining 35 minute window, so it is important to prepare your packs in advance .
Prepare with a team of other people who are of like mind. Keep your team small and, if an event happens, each team member can bring a few other persons with them to the shelter. Evaluate the capacity of the shelter and supplies to accommodate the final number of people. You can expect that number to grow during an event when people see that you have an effective plan in the process of implementation.
If a detonation occurs, there will not be enough time to try to contact each member of the team or to figure out what happened. If You hear a “boom” and all power goes out, assume it is a detonation and, everyone just shows up at the shelter area with their packs. A small detonation is just as deadly with fallout, even if you do not experience much flash, pressure wave or wind.
Inquire at the University Office about the fallout shelters and how well equipped they are. Do they have any windows and are they high up? How deep is it submerged below ground level and how thick are the walls? Are there toilets? Is there a water tap to a storage tank? Does the University have gravity water pressure from an elevated water tank? Usually the boiler rooms are well built and submerged below ground level. Decide which one your team will meet at and, what each team member will bring to it in the event of a detonation.
I would not rely on the Official Plan of Action from the University Administration Office. Even if they have a plan and, assuming they have considered and planned for this kind of situation, the effect of shock, panic and, lack of regular drills will make it non-effective. Remember lethal fallout could reach your area in less than 50 minutes. It may take them that long just to find out what happened and by then, it will be too late.
Evacuating the University in the event of a terrorist nuke is a big mistake. Most fallout at first is invisible. Latter it is mixed with ash that falls like snow. It is carried by upper winds which are faster than surface winds. Roads will be clogged with traffic, and they who are stuck there will not make it ahead of the fallout. The fallout is eventually going to travel down wind for more than 100 miles. Sooner than you think traffic will start getting heavy, so, traveling fast to a shelter will be the best decision depending on the wind direction.
With a compass, map and looking up at the clouds for a few minutes, you can tell if the wind is blowing from ground zero toward your location. To evacuate the area you would need to travel in a direction at a right angle of the wind direction blowing from ground zero. In your case, since you have large natural barriers north and south of the University, and you will not be able to outrun a fallout cloud going east, you should plan to head for the shelter.
Who has the keys to the shelters? If phones and radios do not work, how will you contact them? If the key cannot be found in time after a detonation, break the lock and get in. You will need the pry bar and hammer. Maybe you can use the selected shelter for a student film project. In that case you can get the keys and covertly make some copies of it for a few members of the group.
What do you think it will be like with several hundred people, most of them sick and dying in one crowded room, with little or no water, no bathroom, not enough air, no ma tresses, no lighting, and no effective leadership or medical care for two weeks? Any of the larger shelters that are easily access able to the greater population will be over crowded, under equipped and, they will probably let everyone in no matter how late and contaminated they are. Living in this condition may not be survivable, so, be somewhere else.
Select the smaller shelter like a boiler room or a more distant building basement and equip it yourselves. These more distant buildings will be less crowded and more manageable for your team. Locate and check the water spigots but, be aware that unless the system is gravity fed from a water tower, the water pressure will be decreasing to zero very quickly. If no water tower or if the tower is damaged from the blast, the water coming out of the tap will only be the amount that is still left in the pipes. If there are water spigots in the shelter area, you can stock up empty water bottles in a big plastic trash bag and fill them immediately upon arriving at the shelter. You should also keep four liters in one of your packs ready to go.
Look for any hot water tanks that supply showers or sinks, they usually have a drain tap at the bottom or on the pipe coming from the bottom of the tank. If you find one of these you will have plenty of drinking water. At first the water from this lower tap may be a rusty color. It is still okay to drink, it is just Iron which, you can let settle to the bottom of the water jug. Avoid using water from hot water heating systems for institutional building radiators or fire sprinkler systems that may contain antifreeze which, is poisonous. These pipes are usually labeled.
If the fallout shelter does not have a water tap, you should consider stocking it in advance with some water jugs. This will lessen the weight of your packs and reduce your tasks within the remaining 35 minute time window. You also do not want to be making more than one trip after a detonation to the shelter if, it is distant from your dorm. If the shelter is close to your dorm, you will be able to make a few trips. Practice now by timing these trips.
You can also establish an alternative location for a shelter. Maybe a basement area that can be barricaded easily. It needs to have at least 14 inches of solid masonry or concrete structure between you and the fallout that will be settling on the flat surfaces outside. Your shelter should be below ground level as much as possible. Radiation is also dampened by distance, especially when there are right angle corners between you and the radiation source outside. The more right angle corners consisting of solid masonry between you and the radiation source, the better. Select alternative shelter areas now, so, it does not have to become a panic decision latter.
You should have a few drills with your group. From the time the group leader calls everyone on the Mobile phone, how long does it take for everyone to go to their dorm, get stuff and go to the shelter?
Make sure group members keep the plan secret. Refer to shelter locations by a code name or letter. Before leaving your dorm for the shelter place a note on your door stating that the group is meeting at location “Alpha” . In this way, only members of your preparation group will know where to show up with the pre selected number of people.
The travel route to your selected shelter should not be a direct route so, people cannot figure out where you are going. If possible, take some detours around barrier objects like buildings and landscaping, keeping in mind the elapsed time since detonation.
For the shelter, if possible establish two separate areas; one primary area for those who show up on time and, a secondary area for those who show up late and who are contaminated. A slightly contaminated person will survive but, be sick. and, the more contaminated person will not live very long. Those who show up late, should not be admitted inside the primary shelter because of contaminating the healthy survivors. A secondary area within the building which is well shielded from the primary area like around the corner of a masonry wall or, a separate room should be used for contaminated people arriving late. If the shelter room is large enough, you can place them at one end of the room. In a boiler room they can be placed on the opposite side of the boiler. Boilers are made of thick, heavy iron and make a good radiation barrier. Consider how you can barricade the primary and secondary shelter entrances after everyone is in.
All backpacks for gear should be sealed in a trash bag for the trip to your shelter. If you get to the shelter late, before entering the primary shelter remove the trash bag cover from your gear which is inside another trash bag, then throw the clean bag with your stuff inside the shelter and discard the outer bag outside. This procedure keeps the inner bag from being contaminated by fallout. Then remove the trash bag covers from your pack and yourself and also discard the bags outside. Wash thoroughly all exposed skin with soap and water.
Be sure to wear the full face respirator I gave you beginning at about the 30 minute mark. You should be at the shelter by then. Wearing it too soon could draw attention from “wrong doers” who might want to take it from you. Remember that desperate people will do desperate things.
Anyone showing up late without wearing protective bags, and contaminated, strips off all outer clothing and cuts off as much of their hair that was exposed as possible. They do this inside the building but outside the primary shelter entrance. Carefully throw the contaminated cloths and dust mask outside. They are to wash down previously exposed skin with soap and water if, water is plentiful and, discard the towel outside. Then they can change into the extra clothes that you brought along in your sealed trash bags.
Once inside everyone should wear a fresh clean dust mask or respirator for at least three days, and after three days when briefly visiting the secondary area. Make a dust masks using cloth and duct tape if necessary. As people show up to the shelter, dispense the potassium iodate; first come, first served. Dosages are on the bottle I gave you in the respirator bag.
All contaminated people should be segregated from each other by some distance and according to their exposure i.e. the lateness of their arrival.. This procedure limits unnecessary exposure to the less contaminated people who are more likely to survive. Slightly contaminated people if, they are still alive in a few hours can wash down thoroughly again and, be integrated into the primary shelter area.
Consider what your fresh air needs will be. Fallout settles down toward the ground so, you can open a window or crack a door open after 48 hours has past, as long as it is not windy. Minimize your exposure to the outside radiation by staying away from windows, exterior doors and thin exterior walls. After two days it is permissible to open some more ventilation. The further away from the opening you are, the better. If the shelter is small or crowded, do not use candles for the first two days unless you can establish filtered ventilation. Using candles in enclosed spaces uses up your oxygen along with normal breathing so, you will need to consider this in balancing your ventilation needs with exposure to the fallout outside. It is better to suffer for 48 hours and wait than to risk unnecessary exposure.
The best situation apart from filtered ventilation, is a fallout shelter entrance which is located within a larger building like a gym or an auditorium. The larger building space acts as a secondary area outside the primary shelter and allows the fallout to settle far away from the shelter entrance. This makes it possible to open the shelter door for ventilation if the building glass remained intact during the blast wave. Many school gyms and auditoriums do not even have glass windows so check for this when selecting your shelter.
After two weeks you can carefully venture out beyond the shelter to set up an S.O.S. message for the military who will be looking for survivors. Before going outside, place plastic bags on your feet and tape securely with the duct tape. Use curtains or white sheets to spell out S.O.S. on the ground large enough to be seen from the air. Secure them from the wind with rocks or wood stakes you make with the hatchet. Make a white flag using a sheet and hang another white sheet out of an upper window facing the approaching road. Listen for rescue trucks or helicopters. Remember that a distress signal is to wave only one arm or a single white flag. Limit your exposure outside to only short and necessary visits. Remove the bags from your feet before reentering the shelter. Be careful not to respond to just anyone, make sure they are government rescue.
If a helicopter lands do not run out to meet it. The prop wash will be kicking up a lot of dust with some fallout into the air. Signal them from inside the building and let them come to you. Once rescued, you will be taken thru decontamination, given a physical and given new clothes to wear. The rescue unit will probably not allow you to bring your packs so, take anything valuable out with you in your pockets.
After all these years of camping and discussing survival scenarios with you and your brother, I’ve tried to prepare you the best way I know how. Now that you’re both adults, living independently, I hope some of it stuck.
You may not need to use any of this information and I hope it never becomes necessary but, it is better to be prepared now. You will not have time to prepare after an event if, it happens. You will only have time to act quickly. If it is never needed, you will all have learned and practiced survival skills that very few people in this world know. I