So many of you probably heard about President Trump’s boast on Twitter to North Korea’s Kim Jong Un that Trump has a bigger, better nuclear war button. Well, maybe it’s just coincidence, but the CDC announced just a few days ago that they are moving to prepare health professionals and others on what the public response would be if there was a nuclear detonation. The Centers for Disease Control call their public preparedness sessions “grand rounds.” The last time the CDC offered a grand round on nuclear war was in March 2010.

The latest nuclear grand round will target doctors, nurses, epidemiologists, pharmacists, veterinarians, certified health education specialists, laboratory scientists, and others. The event will be held January 16.

Personally, I’m planning for social breakdowns, electromagnetic attacks leaving the country without a power grid, or a massive earthquake or other natural disaster. Planning for a nuclear devastation seems out of my reach. And personally, I don’t feel that any doctor or nurse, no matter how dedicated they are to their profession, is going to forgo helping themselves or their own family if a massive emergency like that actually takes place. In other words, you’re on your own, IMHO.

But it doesn’t hurt to know what the experts recommend.

Planning for a nuclear detonation

Shelter in Place

First, the CDC recommends sheltering in place for at least the first 24 hours after the event. That step will reduce exposure to radiation. After that 24-hour period, federal, state and local agencies are supposed to mobilize their resources (yeah, right). Go as far underground as you can or into the center of a tall building. Find the nearest brick or concrete building and remain there.

Go Underground, the official preparedness government site, recommends having an underground area such as a basement to offer more protection from nuclear fallout than what most homes have on the first floor of a building.

Shield Yourself

Use heavy, dense material such as concrete, bricks, and earth. It even suggests using books as a shield? I’m sure they don’t mean holding your college copy of “War and Peace” over your head. But really, I guess that means a library is a good place to be?

If you are caught unawares of the nuclear explosion…

Lay Flat

Lay flat on the ground and cover your head. Stay down because it could take several seconds or more for the blast wave to hit. Once you feel that, take shelter immediately.

Clean Yourself

Wash your body and hair and remove the clothing that you were wearing. Interestingly, the recommendation is to avoid using hair conditioner because it will bind radioactive particles to your hair. Sorry ladies!

Place any contaminated clothing as far as away from your shelter as possible.

Stay Sheltered for Two Weeks

Radiation dissipates fairly quickly. says the fallout poses the most danger for the first two weeks. Look on the bright side, if you happen to be in a library when the bomb goes off, you’ll have lots of reading material. Let’s just hope it doesn’t end up like that episode of Twilight Zone where the guy finally has “All the Time in the World” to read and loses his eyeglasses.

Have an Emergency Kit

No matter what happens or whether you have a shelter or bunker or not, you’ll need food and water. Get it together now, before there’s an emergency. This site has numerous articles about what gear to get and what skills you need to survive nearly any scenario.


I’m not ready for chemical warfare. I read something recently that scared me straight. I live in the Pacific Northwest, where the biggest issue, and the one that everyone’s been focused on since this New Yorker Magazine article came out, is earthquakes. When “the big one” hits our area, according to experts, that 72-hour kit the Red Cross recommends will be nowhere near enough for anyone. The state of Oregon published a Resilience Plan for what the state would do in the aftermath of a big earthquake and those results were scary….Electricity is expected to be out for 3 to 6 months along the coast. Drinking water and sewer is expected to be out for 1 to 3 years along the coast. So, yes, that 72-hour kit will be needed, but you’ll have a long way to go from there. But that’s not what I started writing this post to talk about today.

Most of the emergency preparedness material that gets talked about in my area is about earthquakes, but I recently attended an emergency preparedness fair organized by the city where I live. It was a small fair, just a few tables, and pretty much all of what was there I already knew about. But I picked up a publication from Homeland Security that put a new threat into perspective…chemical warfare. This publication, simply called “Preparing Makes Sense. Get Ready Now.” is available as a downloadable PDF. There’s a section about terrorist attacks that might send tiny microscopic “junk” into the air. For example, an explosion that might make air unsuitable to breathe, or a biological attack that might release germs. I know in the back of my mind that these scenarios are possible, but I didn’t really let them in to my conscious before reading this pamphlet. The opening lines say, “Terrorists are working to obtain biological, chemical, nuclear and radiological weapons, and the threat of an attack is very real.” Great. Just what I wanted to start getting worried about on my lunch hour.

Here’s what Homeland Security recommends:
Use dense-weave cotton material to cover your nose and mouth as you breathe. Make sure the material or mask fits snugly so the air you breathe goes through the mask and not around it. Material that might work for this would be a few layers of t-shirt fabric, a handkerchief or a towel. You still need to be able to breathe through it. Obviously, get a mask if you can. And make sure you have a mask that is sized to fit your children.

Have heavyweight garbage bags or plastic sheeting and duct tape and scissors in your kit, and use this to tape off windows, doors and air vents. Precut them and label them so you can apply them quickly in the event that the air is unsafe to breathe.

Look out for public health reports of a wave of unusual sicknesses, as biological warfare might not be immediately apparent.

Signs of a chemical attack might include numerous dead fish or birds, and people coughing, having trouble breathing, or suffering from watery eyes. And we’re not just talking about allergy season. If you think the problem is in the building you’re in, go outside. Vice versa, if the problem is out on the street, stay put and put that plastic sheeting that you precut and labeled to work.

In the event of a radiation bomb or nuclear explosion, try to put distance between yourself and the focus of the event. Shield yourself if you can. Minimize exposure.

I admit that I’m unprepared for things like this to happen, and I’m guessing that lots of other folks are too. If you have already prepared yourself for these events let us know in the comments how you did it. Are gas masks part of your emergency supply kit?