Civil Defense In The Uncertain Future

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ICBM launch

ICBM launch

With nuclear buttons on more and more desks these days, one thing that’s clear is that the future is anything but. With trials, tribulations, and rogue nations all about, even the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is concerned about preparedness in the face of a nuclear threat.

As such, the CDC is planning a teaching session about nuclear war after officials took part in radiation drills last Spring. This time, they are planning to target medical professionals, including veterinarians, and the local agencies that would lead immediate responses to a nuclear event.

The Jan. 16 event, titled “Public Health Response to a Nuclear Detonation“, is thought by many to be in response to recent saber-rattling by North Korea and other countries with interests in the region (including the US).

This from the CDC: “Despite the fear surrounding [a nuclear] event, planning and preparation can lessen deaths and illness. For instance, most people don’t realize that sheltering in place for at least 24 hours is crucial to saving lives and reducing exposure to radiation.” (more on why later in this article)


exploding nuclear blast from the ground with a fireball explosion up into the sky

Nuclear blast

The classic image of a nuclear attack is the detonation of a nuclear bomb on a heavily populated city, as was done to Japanese cities during World War II. The age of long-range bombers approaching a country’s air space with intents to drop the Big One may be over, but nuclear submarines and container ships have the capability to launch missiles with much shorter notice.

In addition to the classic image of cities demolished by nuclear explosions, there is the possibility of an electromagnetic pulse event (EMP) caused by a nuclear detonation high up in the atmosphere. This wouldn’t cause massive devastation (at first), but could knock out the electrical grid we depend on for just about everything. In short order, the citizens would be causing the massive devastation as food becomes unavailable and the rule of law collapses.


Stay in place or hit the road?

Stay in place or hit the road?

You might consider a nuclear attack to be hazardous to your health. Indeed, if anywhere near ground zero, you’re probably right. However, a suburbanite’s chances of surviving a blast that hits downtown might be better than you think.

In Shane Connor’s excellent article “The Good News About Nuclear Destruction”, he says that the vast majority of families will survive, especially if they makes some basic preparations before the event.

In his article, he takes 2004 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) calculations using a 10 kiloton bomb detonation at ground level in Washington, D.C. The DHS estimates 15000 immediate deaths from those close to ground zero, and another 15000 from explosion and thermal effects and massive radiation exposure. While this seems like a lot of deaths, it only represents 1% of the city’s population. Of course, the rest of the city (hundreds of thousands) would be at risk from radioactive fallout.


Duck and cover

Duck and cover

You may have seen old films showing children hiding under school desks to escape the wrath of a nuclear explosion. Like me, you may have found these “Duck and Cover” films quaint (and perhaps silly) to think that you can survive a blast by just getting down and covering yourself with, in this case, some wood and metal. Yet, placing a shield between you and the effects of the detonation is the basis for the “bomb shelter”.

Although “Duck and Cover” won’t prevent incineration for those very close to ground zero, it can prevent severe injuries from broken glass. In the Chelyabinsk meteor explosion incident in 2013, 1500 people suffered from lacerations due to flying glass from the shock wave. If those people had hit the deck as soon as they heard the meteor explode instead of going to the window to have a look, much fewer casualties would have been recorded.

Chelyabinsk meteor event

Chelyabinsk meteor event



In the DHS’s Washington, D.C. scenario, hundreds of thousands were at risk for radiation sickness. Yet, fallout drops 99% by 48 hours after a blast. If citizens would just remain inside or, better, in a planned-out bomb shelter, the chances for survival are much greater. Having four walls and a roof is helpful, but more can be done to enhance the protective effects of a shelter, both against radiation and blast effects.

The more material that you can use to separate yourself from fallout, the less likely you’ll suffer ill effects. Barrier effectiveness is measured as “halving thickness”. This is the thickness of a particular shield material that will reduce gamma radiation (the most dangerous kind) by one half.  When you multiply the halving thickness, you multiply your protection.

For example, the halving thickness of concrete is 2.4 inches or 6 centimeters.  A barrier of 2.4 inches of concrete will drop radiation exposure by one half.  Doubling the thickness of the barrier again (4.8 inches of concrete) drops it to one fourth (1/2 x 1/2) and tripling it (7.2 inches) will drop it to one eighth (1/2 x 1/2 x 1/2), etc.  You’re shooting for ten halving thicknesses (24 inches of concrete), which would drop the total radiation exposure to 1/1024th that of being out in the open.

Here are the halving thicknesses of some common materials:

  • Lead: 4 inches or 1.02 centimeter
  • Steel: 1 inch or 2.54 centimeters
  • Concrete: 2.4 inches or 6.09 centimeters
  • Soil (packed): 3.6 inches or 9.14 centimeters
  • Water: 2 inches or 18.28 centimeters
  • Wood: 11 inches or 27.94 centimeters

By looking at the list above, you can see 1 centimeter of lead gives the same radiation protection as 6 centimeters of concrete.


You might consider the 1950’s “Duck and Cover” to be pretty anemic as a civil defense measure, but it’s more than is practiced today with regards to preparing people for nuclear attacks. So little emphasis is placed on this kind of preparedness that few citizens have even thought about it, or even understand the term.

Civil defense is the organized effort to protect the citizens of a state from military attack. We don’t even have a nuclear civil defense agency, as it is now the purview of the Department of Homeland Security. Lately, “civil defense” efforts have instead been targeting natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, and the like.

We certainly need to plan for natural disasters, which will occur much more commonly in the future than nuclear explosions (I hope). Utilities are considering what to do about rogue squirrels more than they are considering rogue nations.

We need, however, to put together a national plan for nuclear attacks that don’t just include the protection of high-level government officials. We need to formulate a strategy that will give the average citizen the best chance of surviving the aftermath as well.

Despite the risks, we are doing less today to counter the consequences of nuclear attacks than before, especially when it comes to EMPs. The Department of Defense recently allowed the funding for the national EMP commission, headed by Dr. William Graham and Dr. Peter Pry, to lapse. This effectively disbanded the only body that was responsible for advising the government on how to protect the populace against nuclear electromagnetic pulse attacks.

There’s still time to harden the grid and encourage Americans to put together a plan of action in case of nuclear attack. Hostile actions by the world’s bad actors can easily hit home, and every citizen is at risk. If we put together a national strategy to cope with the consequences, we’ll be better prepared to deal with whatever challenges face us in the uncertain future.

Joe Alton MD

Dr. Alton

Dr. Alton

Find out more about nuclear events and 150 other topics in the 2017 Book Excellence Award winner in medicine “The Survival Medicine Handbook: The Essential Guide For When Medical Help Is Not On The Way”.

Do You Need That to Survive: An Underground Bunker

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Fallout shelters were fairly common in the 50’s and 60’s, or the concept was anyway. It’s hard to tell just exactly how many families had one in their backyard. If they claimed to have had one, then were they simply a root cellar or something more sophisticated? Today, however, fallout shelters have given way to […]

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Is Their Something About to Happen? Luxury Bunker Sales Going Through the Roof

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bomb shelter fallout shelterWhen ordinary people begin to accumulate survival gear and build bunkers in their back yards, it’s a sign of the times. It’s what ordinary people did throughout the Cold War, and it’s what a lot of ordinary people have been doing since 9/11. But when rich people start building bunkers and stockpiling food and weapons, it’s not just a sign of the times. It’s a sign that something may be about to go down.

That’s because the wealthy know and understand things that the rest of us often miss. If something bad were coming down the pike, they’d probably know it before we do. I’m not implying some grand conspiracy when I say that. I don’t rule out that there are elites in the world who would conspire against us, but I doubt that every single millionaire in the world is in cahoots to screw us over and leave us behind when things get ugly. The wealthy of the world are not a monolith.

But what they are is smart. With the exception of trust fund babies, no one gets rich by being simpleminded. Even the folks who get rich by leaching off of corrupt governments need to be cunning and savvy. Most however are entrepreneurs, and to be a successful entrepreneur you have to be sharp, and you must have a strong sense of cultural, geopolitical, and economic trends. And if you have a strong sense of where those winds are blowing, then you probably know if our world is on the cusp of something terrible. So when the rich start ducking for cover, so should you.

Which is alarming when you hear stories like this one from Kansas City, where a man is turning an abandoned nuclear silo into luxury bunkers:

Larry Hall, project manager and owner of the Luxury Survival Condo Project, says he feels safer with the doors closed.

He says he’s sold all 12 luxury condos in the former Atlas missile silo — which once housed a nuclear warhead — not far from Concordia, about two hours north of Wichita. He’s working on a second silo.

A full-floor unit is 1,820 square feet and costs $3 million. A half-floor unit, at 900 square feet, costs $1.5 million.

Survival is a unifying cause. Hall said his owners come from a variety of political beliefs and include people in international business, architecture, law and medicine. He said the owners don’t do interviews; efforts to reach them were unsuccessful.

The facility is 15 stories deep, contains multiple generators and air scrubbers for a wide variety of contaminants, a remote-controlled sniper post on the surface, and three armories which contain weapons and body armor. But it’s luxurious too. There are fireplaces, hardwood floors, walk-in closets, televisions that stream images of the outdoors, and a climate controlled swimming pool.

However, that’s not the only luxury bunker that’s being built. Last year the Hollywood Reporter revealed that the rich, famous, and powerful including Bill Gates have been building bunkers all over the country. Some of these facilities are multi-million dollar endeavors.

Gary Lynch, GM at Rising S Bunkers, a Texas-based company that specializes in underground bunkers and services scores of Los Angeles residences, says that sales at the most upscale end of the market — mainly to actors, pro athletes and politicians (who require signed NDAs) — have increased 700 percent this year compared with 2015, and overall sales have risen 150 percent. “Any time there is a turbulent political landscape, we see a spike in our sales. Given this election is as turbulent as it is, we are gearing up for an even bigger spike,” says marketing director Brad Roberson of sales of bunkers that start at $39,000 and can run $8.35 million or more (FYI, a 12-stall horse shelter is $98,500).

Adds Mike Peters, owner of Utah-based Ultimate Bunker, which builds high-end versions in California, Texas and Minnesota: “People are going for luxury [to] live underground because they see the future is going to be rough. Everyone I’ve talked to thinks we are doomed, no matter who is elected.” Robert Vicino, founder of Del Mar, Calif.-based Vivos, which constructs upscale community bunkers in Indiana (he believes coastal flooding scenarios preclude bunkers being safely built west of the Rockies), says, “Bill Gates has huge shelters under every one of his homes, in Rancho Santa Fe and Washington. His head of security visited with us a couple years ago, and for these multibillionaires, a few million is nothing. It’s really just the newest form of insurance.”

Meanwhile, another Texas company is trying to build a survival retreat for 1,600 people that will include 400 condos, an equestrian center, a golf course, and even helipads. It’s expected to cost $300 million. And this US company is building earthship bunkers that range in cost from $100,000 to $1.5 million.

All of these different companies offer different explanations for why their wealthy clients want these shelters. They’ve been given reasons that range from terrorism to pandemics to civil unrest. However, if you go through all of the sources that I’ve mentioned, you’ll find that the rich seem to fear nuclear war and another world war the most.

And that should give one pause. If the rich tend to have a good sense of where the world is going, and they’re so worried about nuclear war that they’re building multi-million dollar shelters, then we should take note. They know that something bad is coming and they’re not taking it lightly. Neither should the rest of us.


Additional Resources:

Are You Ready Series: Nuclear Disaster Preparedness

What You Need to Know About Nuclear Attacks

How to Survive When a Nuke Is Dropped

Joshua Krause was born and raised in the Bay Area. He is a writer and researcher focused on principles of self-sufficiency and liberty at Ready Nutrition. You can follow Joshua’s work at our Facebook page or on his personal Twitter.

Joshua’s website is Strange Danger

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

SurvivalRing Radio Talk -Survival, Preparedness, and Self Reliance – 02/10/2017

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Here’s today’s episode of SurvivalRing Radio. Today’s Topic?  The Basics of Self Defense Techniques, What a nuclear attack on the USA might look like, FREE fallout shelter plans, putting in your own well, News & more…all things you need to consider in building YOUR situational awareness lifestyle. Survival…what it takes, what you need, and how to become […]

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Doomsday Preppers? You’ve GOT to be kidding me…

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This post was written exactly 4 years ago, on my Facebook page. I still stand by it. Rich Fleetwood – February 7, 2012 · Riverton · Watching “Doomsday Preppers” on NGC this evening, with an as objective as possible viewpoint. I’ve been doing this stuff myself for 20 years, and in my position and experience, with the […]

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