Posted tagged ‘nuclear attack’

Will I survive a nuke? Assessing the risk

April 4, 2008

I live and work near a known terrorist target so I’m anxious to answer the question: Will I survive a nuclear blast just three miles from ground zero?

I’m not a nuclear scientist or a ballistics expert or military strategist, but I’m surfing the web looking for those guys. This exercise is more back-of-the-napkin than doctorial thesis as I don’t think even a room full of Noble laureates could guarantee an answer. I’m simply looking at probabilities to help me define my risk.

In the next post I estimate the most likely bomb size.

In the post that follows the next post I’ll get started on estimating the risk of death and injury from both the blast and the radiation. I’ll come to a partial conclusion but there are many variables to check so I’ll be fleshing out this answer over time.

Eventually, I’ll look into the probability of an attack, weighing the specific risk to my local target, which will help me decide if I should move to safer ground. Even if I can survive a nuke in good health, I have no doubt that the post-apocalyptic quality of life will suck for a long, long time, so that too will affect my decision to stay or split. I’ll also consider the possibility that a nuclear attack anywhere in the U.S. may create a nationwide syndrome of fear of future attacks.

If you live or work near a target and want to assess your risk, sorry to be glib but I believe a nuke is most likely to explode during business hours, 9AM to 5PM. Not only will there be maximum amounts of people near the target, the most likely bombers are media savvy and want good press coverage. Planning for a potential nuke attack needs to consider both work and home, but the emphasis should probably be on where you work.

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Surviving a nuclear terrorist attack on New York City (video: 7 min., 20 sec.)

February 20, 2008

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I do this blog largely because nuclear terrorism gets little coverage in the mainstream press. I taped this ABC News piece, which aired in Sept. 2005 as part of a post-Katrina program on disasters, and find it informative and well-balanced. It speculates on the fate of New Yorkers after a 10 kiloton bomb explodes in Times Square.

I captured it on VHS and I want to get it in the archives of this blog before the tape disintegrates (I crudely converted it to digital so, bear with me, the quality is poor). The segment is from ABC Primetime and is reported by Chris Cuomo. (Here’s a link to the transcript, which is titled, “Experts’ Keys to Surviving a Nuclear Terror Attack.”)

Here are some important points:

  1. There will be several hundred thousand immediate deaths. Most people will survive and most buildings will remain intact.
  2. Radioactive nuclear fallout will begin within 15 minutes and the fallout will drift with the wind. Nuclear fallout could be dangerous for as long as two weeks.
  3. The government will be tracking the deadly plume with sophisticated software. “Officials should be able to tell you which direction is safe and that is the direction to go…. First responders will use available communication to inform you where the danger is and then evacuate people out of the path of the fallout.” (See my comment below.)
  4. Your initial instincts of what to do could be wrong. Instead of evacuating your best bet may be to shelter in place.
  5. Duct tape and plastic can be helpful in sealing your shelter from radioactive dust. (I’m reminiscing about the Duct Tape and Plastic Panic of 2003…)
  6. While decontamination centers will be operational, no city is prepared for the hundreds of thousands of people who will need decontamination and medical care.
  7. You can decontaminate yourself by quickly shedding contaminated clothing and taking a shower with soap.
  8. A recent survey, reports BusinessWeek magazine, found that “just 57% of healthcare workers in the region would report for work during a radiological event.” (Wow.)
  9. “And so far the government doesn’t seem to have educated citizens about what they can do to protect themselves if a bomb goes off in the city.” (Yup.)

As I speculated in my post of 9/27/07 (Nuclear Fallout: Which Way is the Wind Blowing?), I think point #3 above could be a serious problem—and deadly if anybody screws-up. First, note that points #3 and #4 are contradictory. It means that, depending upon the situation, you may have to either shelter in place or evacuate. If you’re close to the blast I think that decision will have to be made in less than 15 minutes.

Second, the quote in point #3 above is vague (“available communication”) in describing how you’ll get evacuation information. By what method should you try first (TV, radio, email, telephone, cell phone, text-messaging, loudspeaker, talking to a first responder, etc.) and in what form will you get the information (i.e., will you understand it)? Will you get the information within 15 minutes of the blast or should you have a back-up plan?

I’d like to know now so I can do some prep, plan a response and not be prone to panic.