As you can see, coming through a nuclear emergency unscathed is unlikely to be accomplished by simple chance. You stand a much better chance of protecting yourself and your family if you are prepared and have a plan before hand. In addition to planning for a bomb shelter, you should plan for shortages. You can avoid problems with shortages by preparing ahead of time and keeping some basics on hand.
- Stock up on Food. If panic breaks out, you can expect shortages similar to those before a blizzard strikes an area or during a hurricane warning. That means many staple items – such as milk, bread, bottled water, flashlights, batteries, gasoline and ammunition — will be purchased by people who are concerned that there may be shortages in a few days. Their panicked buying will, of course, cause prices to rise and create the very shortages they fear.We suggest having plenty of these items stored at home prior to the emergency, as well as foods that can be safely stored without refrigeration for some time such as rice, dried beans, pasta, breakfast cereals, oatmeal, peanut butter, crackers, canned goods, powdered milk, pancake mix, flour, sugar, dried soups, powdered milk, powdered drink mixes, hard candy, etc. In addition to store bought foods, MREs are good to have on hand, as are special foods designed to store 10, 12 or even 15 years, such as the long term storage food we sell. These items are available in special units designed to feed a person, a couple or a family of four for three months, six months, a year, or longer.
Worse than the immediate panic are possible long-term effects of radiation on crops and even animal proteins. Will you still want to eat vegetables grown in the San Fernando Valley if a nuclear weapon went off in Asia? What about corn that was exposed to fallout when it was in the field. Is it safe to eat bread made from flour that came from wheat that was planted on ground that had fallout on it? Can you eat a steak from a cow that ate cantaminated corn or grass? What about eggs from a chicken fed corn or other grain that was exposed? And if the government tells you that it is safe, what happens if 10 or 20 years down the road, they decide they made a mistake?These are difficult questions to answer, but having a large supply of food that you know is radiation-free can make you feel better and may well protect you and your family in the long term. Food grown a year after nuclear fallout will be far safer than food picked immediately following it. Your emergency pantry gives you this grace period.The ultimate survival food is grain, which you can buy and store yourself, or buy pre-packed for long term storage. Rice is a staple in the diets of billions of people and a 5-gallon plastic pail can hold close to 50 pounds. The plastic pail will keep fallout out of your food, an protect it from rodents. Wheat is one of the best food storage products. It can be ground for flour, sprouted for greens, cracked or broken to make wheat pilaf, or boiled and eaten as porridge. A 50-pound bag of rice at the warehouse club or a bushel of grain can feed your family for weeks. Wheat is not as easily available as rice, but you can buy it from feed stores and farmers. Just make sure your wheat is dry and is not treated with pesticides or other chemicals. (Read the Food Storage FAQ for information on how to put up wheat or rice yourself.)
- Stock up on Essentials. If you or your family rely on medications, try to have at least a month’s supply on hand. To be safe, get your key prescription(s) filled as soon as things calm down or in the lull between the news of an attack and the arrival of the fallout. If you have young children, stock diapers and formula. If you have pets, make sure you have ample pet food.What you consider essential may be different than what I consider essential. People with addictions, for example, should have coffee, cigarettes or whatever they are addicted to available so they can weather tough times more easily.
- Stock up on Items from the Far East and South Asia. What if our government bans imports from the Far East for six months or a year after bombs explode there? Not only will imports have to be screened to prevent radiation from entering the country, but also sanctions against any country that uses nuclear weapons will immediately go into effect. So anything from India or Korea or wherever may suddenly be in short supply. There could also be massive disruption of international commerce. So while these are not critical items, you might be well served to buy toys, clothing, computer memory, spices and consumer electronics before such shortages take place.
- Stock up on Cash and Pay down Debt. Nuclear war will play havoc with not only our economy, but with the global economy. Expect the stock market to crash, imports and exports to be disrupted, and to experience unpredictable swings in currency values. Consumer confidence will probably plunge and we could be sent into a recession or depression. Will your job survive? Will you be able to pay your rent or mortgage? The best way to survive financially is to avoid debt and stash some extra cash for a rainy day. Outside of long-term storage food, we believe gold, silver and real estate are the best investments in such a scenario.
Survivalists who believe the world as we know will come to an end stock up on everything from beans and bullion to Bibles and bullets. They store extra laundry detergent, nails, chains for the chainsaw, automotive fluids and spare parts, extra boots and just about anything else they can think of. In the event of a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan or Iran and Israel, you probably won’t need all that because while our world will be changed, no one expects the electrical power grid to be disrupted in the U.S. (although the flow of oil to our tanks could be disrupted.) But there will be changes, and anything you can do to prepare for the change is worth while. So stock up on anything you think you might need.What you decide to store should work hand in hand with your plan, so let’s take a look at planning.
- Plan Where to Go Under What Circumstances and How to Get There. You should make a plan with your immediate family members on where to go in the event of a nuclear war, and it should include alternate locations and transportation modes. So if you decide you will meet at home (a logical choice unless you have reason to believe you could be at ground zero) then you should have several plans on how everyone will get there. And if you cannot meet at home for some unknown reason, then there should be alternate meeting spots.
- Inventory what Resources You Have on Hand and Identify What You Need. Inventory what survival needs are already filled. For example, you might have camping gear that includes a water filter. Or perhaps your larder is well stocked because you grow and can your own vegetables. Maybe you always buy on sale and have 20 rolls of toilet paper in the linen closet. All of these items should go on your list.You should also look at what you have and do not have under these primary categories:
- Food: Enough to feed your family for a minimum of three weeks and preferably three months or, ideally, a year.
- Water: A way to store it and filter or purify it, plus a list of local natural water sources.
- Nuclear protection: Potassium Iodate or Iodide, gas masks and a basement in which to shelter. Make a list of ways you could improve your basement’s ability to block radiation. Consider adding to it before a fallout shelter is needed.
- Self defense: Traditionally firearms, but could include keeping a low profile and avoiding conflict.
- Communications gear: cell phones, portable AM/FM and short wave radios to monitor world news, spare batteries, lists of people to call.
- Household goods, such as toiletries and cleaning supplies.
Again, perhaps you can use items you already own to fill in some blanks on your list. For example, maybe your hunting rifle or target pistol will be sufficient for self defense, but you should add some extra ammo, just to be safe, because it will be difficult to find afterwards. (When 9/11 hit, stores like K-Mart stopped selling guns and ammo. Of course, K-Mart later went bankrupt – Hmm, I wonder if there is a connection? In any case, flags and ammunition were two of the biggest sellers post 9/11.)
Preparing for the unknown of a nuclear exchange isn’t an easy topic that can quickly be covered. Entire books have been written on it. Many of the general topics on this site can help.