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for Potassium Iodide (KI) tablets, Potasium Iodate (KIO3) pills, and all forms of radiation protection iodine!

  NWSS Contents
Edition Notes
Table of Contents
Book Order Form
About the Author
Ch. 1: The Dangers fr...
Ch. 2: Warnings and C...
Ch. 3: Psychological ...
Ch. 4: Evacuation
Ch. 5: Shelter, the G...
Ch. 6: Ventilation an...
Ch. 7: Protection Aga...
Ch. 8: Water
Ch. 9: Food
Ch. 10: Fallout Radia...
Ch. 11: Light
Ch. 12: Shelter Sanit...
Ch. 13: Surviving Wit...
Ch. 14: Expedient She...
Ch. 15: Improvised Cl...
Ch. 16: Minimum Pre-C...
Ch. 17: Permanent Fam...
Ch. 18: Trans-Pacific...
App. A: Instructions ...
App. A.1: Door-Covere...
App. A.2: Pole-Covere...
App. A.3: Small-Pole ...
App. A.4: Aboveground...
App. A.5: Aboveground...
App. A.6: Above groun...
App. B: How to Make a...
App. C: A Homemade Fa...
App. D: Expedient Bla...
App. E: How to Make a...
App. F: Providing Imp...
Selected References
Selected Index
  Related Sites
Potassium Iodide Info
Robinson Curriculum
Access to Energy
Anti-Global Warming P...
Civil Defense Perspec...
Nuclear War Survival ...
Oregon Institute of S...

Nuclear War Survival Skills
  Email    Home    by Cresson Kearny 



Your best hope of surviving a nuclear war in this century is self-help civil defense - knowing the basic facts about nuclear weapon effects and what you, your family, and small groups can do to protect yourselves. Our Government continues to downgrade war-related survival preparations and spends only a few cents a year to protect each American against possible war dangers. During the 10 years or more before the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars) weapons can be invented, developed and deployed, self-help civil defense will continue to be your main hope of surviving if we suffer a nuclear attack.

Most Americans hope that Star Wars will lead to the deployment of new weapons capable of destroying attacking missiles and warheads in flight. However, no defensive system can be made leak-proof. If Star Wars, presently only a research project, leads to a deployed defensive system, then self-help civil defense will be a vital part of our hoped for, truly defensive system to prevent aggressions and to reduce losses if deterrence fails.


This book is written for the majority of Americans who want to improve their chances of surviving a nuclear war, it brings together field-tested instructions that have enabled untrained Americans to make expedient fallout shelters, air pumps to ventilate and cool shelters, fallout meters, and other expedient life- support equipment. ('"Expedient" as used in civil defense work, describes equipment that can be made by untrained citizens in 48 hours or less, while guided solely by field-tested, written instructions and using only widely available materials and tools.) Also described are expedient ways to remove even dissolved radioiodine from water, and to process and cook whole grains and soybeans, our main food reserves. Successive versions of these instructions have been used successfully by families working under simulated crisis conditions, and have been improved repeatedly by Oak Ridge National Laboratory civil defense researchers and others over a period of 14 years. These improved instructions are the heart of this updated 1987 edition of the original Oak Ridge National Laboratory survival book first published in 1979.

The average American has far too little information that would help him and his family and our country survive a nuclear attack, and many of his beliefs about nuclear war are both false and dangerous. Since the A-bomb blasted Hiroshima and hurled mankind into the Nuclear Age, only during a recognized crisis threatening nuclear war have most Americans been seriously interested in improving their chances of surviving a nuclear attack. Both during and following the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, millions of Americans built fallout shelters or tried to obtain survival information. At that time most of the available survival information was inadequate, and dangerously faulty in some respects as it still is in 1987. Widespread recognition of these civil defense shortcomings has contributed to the acceptance by most Americans of one or both of two false beliefs:

One of these false beliefs is that nuclear war would be such a terrible catastrophe that it is an unthinkable impossibility. If this were true, there would be no logical reason to worry about nuclear war or to make preparations to survive a nuclear attack.

The second false belief is that, if a nuclear war were to break out, it would be the end of mankind. If this were true, a rational person would not try to improve his chances of surviving the unsurvivable.

This book gives facts that show these beliefs are false. History shows that once a weapon is invented it remains ready for use in the arsenals of some nations and in time will be used. Researchers who have spent much time and effort learning the facts about effects of nuclear weapons now know that all-out nuclear war would not be the end of mankind or of civilization. Even if our country remained unprepared and were to be subjected to an all-out nuclear attack, many millions of Americans would survive and could live through the difficult post-attack years.

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Unknown to most Americans, our Government lacks the defense capabilities that would enable the United States to stop being dependent on a uniquely American strategic policy called Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). MAD maintains that if both the United States and Russia do not or can not adequately protect their people and essential industries, then neither will attack the other.

An influential minority of Americans still believe that protecting our citizens and our vital industries would accelerate the arms race and increase the risk of war. No wonder that President Reagan's advocacy of the Strategic Defense Initiative, derisively called Star Wars, is subjected to impassioned opposition by those who believe that peace is threatened even by research to develop new weapons designed to destroy weapons launched against us or our allies! No wonder that even a proposed small increase in funding for civil defense to save lives if deterrence fails arouses stronger opposition from MAD supporters than do most much larger expenditures for weapons to kill people!


No nation other than the United States has advocated or adopted a strategy that purposely leaves its citizens unprotected hostages to its enemies. The rulers of the Soviet Union never have adopted a MAD strategy and continue to prepare the Russians to fight, survive, and win all types of wars. Almost all Russians have compulsory instruction to teach them about the effects of nuclear and other mass-destruction weapons, and what they can do to improve their chances of surviving. Comprehensive preparations have been made for the crisis evacuation of urban Russians to rural areas, where they and rural Russians would make high-protection- factor expedient fallout shelters. Blast shelters to protect millions have been built in the cities and near factories where essential workers would continue production during a crisis. Wheat reserves and other foods for war survivors have been stored outside target areas. About 100,000 civil defense troops are maintained for control, rescue, and post-attack recovery duties, The annual per capita cost of Russian civil defense preparations, if made at costs equivalent to those in the United States, is variously estimated to be between $8 and $20.

Switzerland has the best civil defense system, one that already includes blast shelters for over 85 percent of all its citizens. Swiss investment in this most effective kind of war-risk insurance has continued steadily for decades. According to Dr. Fritz Sager, the Vice Director of Switzerland's civil defense, in 1984 the cost was the equivalent of $12.60 per capita.

In contrast, our Federal Emergency Management Agency, that includes nuclear attack preparedness among its many responsibilities, will receive only about $126 million in fiscal 1987. This will amount to about 55 cents for each American. And only a small fraction of this pittance will be available for nuclear attack preparedness! Getting out better self-help survival instructions is about all that FEMA could afford to do to improve Americans' chances of surviving a nuclear war, unless FEMA's funding for war-related civil defense is greatly increased.


The emphasis in this book is on survival preparations that can be made in the last few days of a worsening crisis. However, the measures put into effect during such a crisis can be very much more effective if plans and some preparations are completed well in advance. It is hoped that persons who read this book will be motivated at least to make the preparations outlined in Chapter 16, Minimum Pre-Crisis Preparations.

Well-informed persons realize that a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union is unlikely to be a Pearl-Harbor-type of attack, launched without warning. Strategists agree that a nuclear war most likely would begin after a period of days to- months of worsening crisis. The most realistic of the extensive Russian plans and preparations to survive a nuclear war are based on using at least several days during an escalating crisis to get most urban dwellers out of the cities and other high risk areas, to build or improve shelters in all parts of the Soviet Union, and to protect essential machinery and the like. The Russians know that if they are able to complete evacuation and sheltering plans before the outbreak of nuclear war, the number of their people killed would be a small fraction of those who otherwise would die. Our satellites and other sources of intelligence would reveal such massive movements within a day; therefore, under the most likely circumstances Americans would have several days in which to make life-saving preparations.

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The Russians have learned from the devastating wars they have survived that people are the most important asset to be saved. Russian civil defense publications emphasize Lenin's justly famous statement: 'The primary productive factor of all humanity is the laboring man, the worker. If he survives, we can save everything and restore everything. . . but we shall perish if we are not able to save him." Strategists conclude that those in power in the Soviet Union are very unlikely to launch a nuclear attack until they have protected most of their people.

The reassurance of having at least a few days of pre-attack warning, however, is lessening. The increasing numbers of Soviet blast shelters and of first-strike offensive weapons capable of destroying our undefended retaliatory weapons will reduce the importance of pre-attack city evacuation as a means of saving Russian lives. These ongoing developments will make it less likely that Americans will have a few days' warning before a Soviet attack, and therefore should motivate our Government both to deploy truly defensive Star Wars weapons and to build blast shelters to protect urban Americans.

Nuclear weapons that could strike the United States continue to increase in accuracy as well as numbers; the most modern warheads usually can hit within a few hundred feet of their precise targets. The Soviet Union already has enough warheads to target all militarily important fixed site objectives. These include our fixed-site weapons, command and control centers, military installations, oil refineries and other industrial plants that produce war essentials, long runways, and major electric generating plants. Many of these are either in or near cities. Because most Americans live in cities that contain strategically important targets, urban Americans' best chance of surviving a heavy nuclear attack is to get out of cities during a worsening crisis and into fallout shelters away from probable targets.

Most American civil defense advocates believe that it would be desirable for our Government to build and stock permanent blast shelters. However, such permanent shelters would cost many tens of billions of dollars and are not likely to be undertaken as a national objective. Therefore, field-tested instructions and plans are needed to enable both urban evacuees and rural Americans to build expedient shelters and life-support equipment during a crisis.


Many strategists believe that the United States is more likely to suffer a relatively small nuclear attack than an all-out Soviet onslaught. These possible smaller nuclear attacks include:

° A limited Soviet attack that might result if Russia's rulers were to conclude that an American President would be likely to capitulate rather than retaliate if a partially disarming first strike knocked out most of our fixed-site and retaliatory weapons, but spared the great majority of our cities. Then tens of millions of people living away from missile silos and Strategic Air Force bases would need only fallout protection. Even Americans who live in large metropolitan areas and doubt that they could successfully evacuate during a nuclear crisis should realize that in the event of such a limited attack they would have great need for nuclear war survival skills.

° An accidental or unauthorized launching of one or several nuclear weapons that would explode on America. Complex computerized weapon systems and/or their human operators are capable of making lethal errors.

° A small attack on the United States by the fanatical ruler of an unstable country that may acquire small nuclear weapons and a primitive delivery system.

° A terrorist attack, that will be a more likely possibility once nuclear weapons become available in unstable nations. Fallout dangers could extend clear across America. For example, a single small nuclear weapon exploded in a West Coast city would cause lethal fallout hazards to unsheltered persons for several miles downwind from the part of the city devastated by blast and fire. It also would result in deposition of fallout in downwind localities up to hundreds of miles away, with radiation dose rates hundreds of times higher than the normal background. Fallout would be especially heavy in areas of rain- out; pregnant women and small children in those areas, following peacetime standards for radiation protection, might need to stay sheltered for weeks. Furthermore, in localities spotted across the United States, milk would be contaminated by radioiodine.

Surely in future years nuclear survival know-how will become an increasingly important part of every prudent person's education.

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This updated and augmented edition is needed to give you:

° Information on how changes since 1979 in the Soviet nuclear arsenal - especially the great reductions in the sizes of Russian warheads and increases in their accuracy and number - both decrease and increase the dangers we all face. You need this information to make logical decisions regarding essentials of your survival planning, including whether you should evacuate during a worsening crisis or build or improvise shelter at or near your home.

° Instructions for making and using self-help survival items that have been rediscovered, invented or improved since 1979. These do-it- yourself items include: (1) Directional Fanning, the simplest way to ventilate shelters through large openings; (2) the Plywood Double-Action Piston Pump, to ventilate shelters through pipes; and (3) the improved KFM, the best homemakeable fallout meter.

° Facts that refute two demoralizing anti- defense myths that have been conceived and propagandized since 1979: the myth of blinding post-attack ultra-violet radiation and the myth of unsurvivable "nuclear winter"

° Current information on advantages and disadvantages, prices, and sources of some manufactured survival items for which there is greatest need.

° Updated facts on low cost survival foods and on expedient means for processing and cooking whole-kernel grains, soybeans, and other over- produced basic foods. Our Government stores no food as a war reserve and has not given even civil defense workers the instructions needed to enable survivors to make good use of America's unplanned, poorly distributed, large stocks of unprocessed foods.

° Updated information on how to obtain and use prophylactic potassium iodide to protect your thyroid against injury both from war fallout, and also from peacetime fallout if the United States suffers its first commercial nuclear power reactor accident releasing life endangering radiation.

° Instructions for building, furnishing, and stocking economical, permanent home fallout shelters designed for dual use-in a new chapter.

° Information on what you can do to prevent sickness if fallout from an overseas nuclear war in which the United States is not a belligerent is blown across the Pacific and deposited on America - in a new chapter.


Chemical and biological weapons and neutron warheads are called "exotic weapons". Protective measures against these weapons are not emphasized in this book, because its purpose is to help Americans improve their chances of surviving what is by far the most likely type of attack on the United States: a nuclear attack directed against war-related strategic targets.

Chemical Weapons are inefficient killing agents compared to typical nuclear warheads and bombs. Even if exterminating the unprepared population of a specified large area were an enemy's objective, this would require a delivered payload of deadly chemical weapons many hundreds of times heavier than if large nuclear weapons were employed.

Biological Weapons are more effective but less reliable than chemical weapons. They are more dependent on favorable meteorological conditions, and could destroy neither our retaliatory weapons nor our war-supporting installations. They could not kill or incapacitate well protected military personnel manning our retaliatory weapons. And a biological attack could not prevent, but would invite, U.S. nuclear retaliatory strikes.

Neutron Warheads are small, yet extremely expensive. A 1-kiloton neutron warhead costs about as much as a I-megaton ordinary warhead, but the ordinary warhead not only has 1000 times the explosive power but also can be surface-burst to cover a very large area with deadly fallout.


My greatest reward for writing Nuclear War Survival Skills is the realization that the hundreds of thousands of copies of the original edition which have been sold since 1979 already have provided many thousands of people with survival information that may save their lives. Especially rewarding have been the thanks of readers - particularly mothers with small children - for having given them hope of surviving a nuclear war. Rekindled, realistic hope has caused some readers to work to improve their and their families' chances of surviving, ranging from making preparations to evacuate high risk areas during an all too possible worsening crisis, to building and stocking permanent shelters.

Because I wrote the original Nuclear War Survival Skills while working at Oak Ridge National Laboratory at the American taxpayers

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expense, I have no proprietary interest either in the original 1979 Government edition or in any of the privately printed reproductions. I have gotten nothing but satisfaction from the reported sales of over 400,000 copies privately printed and sold between 1979 and 1987. Nor will I receive any monetary reward in the future from my efforts to give better survival instructions to people who want to improve their chances of surviving a nuclear attack.


None of the material that appeared in the original Oak Ridge National Laboratory un- copyrighted 1979 edition can be covered by a legitimate copyright; it can be reproduced by anyone, without receiving permission. Much new material, which I have written since my retirement in 1979 from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, has been added, and is printed in a different type. To assure that this new material also can be made widely available to the public at low cost, without getting permission from or paying anyone, I have copyrighted my new material in the unusual way specified by this 1987 edition's copyright notice.


Work to persuade the President, your Congressmen, your Senators, and other leaders to support improved nuclear war survival preparations, starting with increased funding for war- related civil defense. Urge them to approve and fund the early deployment of truly defensive weapons that tests already have proven capable of destroying some warheads in flight. (Attempts to develop perfect defenses postpone or prevent the attainment of improved defenses.)

Obtain and study the best survival instructions available long before a crisis occurs. Better yet, also make preparations, such as the ones described in this book, to increase your and your family's chances of surviving.

During a crisis threatening nuclear attack, present uncertainties regarding the distribution of reliable survival information seem likely to continue. Thoroughly field-tested survival instructions are not likely to be available to most Americans. Furthermore, even a highly intelligent citizen, if given excellent instructions during a crisis, would not have time to learn basic facts about nuclear dangers and the reasons for various survival preparations. Without this understanding, no one can do his best at following any type of survival instructions.

By following the instructions in this book, you and your family can increase the odds favoring your survival. If such instructions were made widely available from official sources, and if our Government urged all Americans to follow them during a worsening crisis lasting at least several days, additional millions would survive an attack. And the danger of an attack, even the threat of an attack, could be decreased if an enemy nation knew that we had significantly improved our defenses in this way.

Book Page: 11

Copyright 1999 Nuclear War Survival Skills

Comprehensive Potassium Iodide Anti-Radiation Pill FAQ with up-to-date iodine sources listed & prices
for Potassium Iodide (KI) tablets, Potasium Iodate (KIO3) pills, and all forms of radiation protection iodine!

Civil Defense Radiation Detection Survey Meters, Geiger Counters and Dosimeters FAQ!
Straight FAQ's on FEMA Surplus Civil Defense Meters with Retail and Wholesale Sources Listed!