'Stay in your car,' plan ahead, and other tips for surviving a nuclear blast

Staying 'nimble' is key to preparing for disastrous but low-probability events, like a nuclear bomb detonation, or less-disastrous but more likely events, like rising sea levels.

Stefan Wermuth / Reuters
A face is scrawled on a car windscreen covered with snow after snowfall in London Dec. 17. Climate change or nuclear blast, we need to be able to face what may come, and make preparations.

If a nuclear bomb goes off in your city, go inside or stay in your car. This article offers some survival tips.

"Suppose the unthinkable happened, and terrorists struck New York or another big city with an atom bomb. What should people there do? The government has a surprising new message: Do not flee. Get inside any stable building and don’t come out till officials say it’s safe.

The advice is based on recent scientific analyses showing that a nuclear attack is much more survivable if you immediately shield yourself from the lethal radiation that follows a blast, a simple tactic seen as saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Even staying in a car, the studies show, would reduce casualties by more than 50 percent; hunkering down in a basement would be better by far.

But a problem for the Obama administration is how to spread the word without seeming alarmist about a subject that few politicians care to consider, let alone discuss. So officials are proceeding gingerly in a campaign to educate the public.

Over the years, Washington has sought to prevent nuclear terrorism and limit its harm, mainly by governmental means. It has spent tens of billions of dollars on everything from intelligence and securing nuclear materials to equipping local authorities with radiation detectors. The new wave is citizen preparedness. For people who survive the initial blast, the main advice is to fight the impulse to run and instead seek shelter from lethal radioactivity."

Note the theme here, self interested people taking pro-active actions to protect themselves from a terrible shock. And, the confidence that through such choices we can reduce our exposure to risk.

Now, the article places government front and center for protecting us. In Climatopolis, I tackle a similar risk issue (gradual climate change) but I place markets and individual choice as the key for protecting us against the risks of climate change.

It remains an open question of "how nimble are we in responding to change?" Are we passive victims (like a bunch of babies) or do we anticipate challenges and take steps to have options ready if and when nasty scenarios play out. I am optimistic about our ability to plan, think ahead and be ready. In fact, all of us don't need to be Spock -- we just need a few forward looking entrepreneurs to anticipate these challenges and be ready to help us cope when the "days of pain" arrive.


The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best economy-related bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. This post originally ran on greeneconomics.blogspot.com.

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