The Doomsday Handbook: How to Survive a Nuclear Attack

Decades after the first atomic weapon was launched, the horror stories surrounding the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings continue to haunt us.

From these bombings emerged monsters like Godzilla and the horde of mutant villains that have since become an integral part of comic book lore. And yet, despite the lessons history taught us, the threat of nuclear war still hovers above us like a dark cloud. Preppers know it’s not a matter of if, but when. 

In this blog, we’ll share tips and strategies on how to survive nuclear war. From creating a nuclear attack survival kit to building an underground bunker, we’ll cover it all. 

But first, which countries pose a nuclear threat?

Who Are the Nuclear Powers?

If you want to know how to survive a nuclear attack, it’s vital to keep a close eye on the politics surrounding the nuclear powers of the world. The nuclear powers refer to the countries with a sizable nuclear arsenal, i.e., the countries you don’t wanna mess with. Currently, these are the heavy hitters in the world of nuclear warfare:

  • United States
  • Russia
  • China
  • France 
  • United Kingdom
  • India
  • Pakistan
  • North Korea
  • Israel

Nuclear attacks can devastate any country in the world, but it’s important to take extra caution if you live near an important military base, airport, financial district, or any major industry. In warfare, nuclear weapons are deployed strategically to maximize impact, so beware of important landmarks that could make possible targets.

What Countries Are Most Likely to Survive a Nuclear Attack?

While there are big kahunas in the world of nuclear warfare, there are also nations equipped to withstand a nuclear strike. These are the places to consider if you want to avoid being caught in the crossfire of two nuclear titans:

  1. Switzerland – Switzerland has one of the world’s most comprehensive civil defense systems, including blast shelters and an extensive network of fallout shelters.
  1. Finland – Finland’s civil defense system includes over 5,500 bunkers built in the 1980s to protect the Finnish people from a potential nuclear attack. The country’s hard shelters can also accommodate its entire urban population.
  1. New Zealand – New Zealand is geographically isolated and has a low population density, which could reduce the impact of a nuclear attack. It also has a well-established emergency management system and a robust agricultural industry. Should an attack trigger a nuclear winter, the country will have a sizable food inventory to keep its population from starving.
  1. Australia – Australia has a vast land area with a low population density, making it a potentially safer place in the event of a nuclear attack. It also has a gigantic food supply and is tucked away from likely northern hemisphere nuclear fallout sites.
  1. Iceland – In the event of a nuclear winter, Iceland can continue to produce enough food to feed its population because of its autonomous food production systems.

While these countries all have the potential to be safe havens, it’s important to note that no country can be completely immune to the devastating effects of a nuclear attack. The best defense against one is still prevention, through arms control agreements and diplomatic efforts to reduce tensions between the nuclear powers.

What Happens During a Nuclear Explosion?

Now that you know which flights to hop on when things get dicey, it’s time to shift our focus to what happens during a nuclear explosion. Understanding the devastating effects of nuclear weapons is crucial in highlighting the importance of preventing their use and proliferation.

Because let’s be real, most of us wouldn’t know what to do in a nuclear attack — it’s not exactly everyday knowledge, right? 

If you wanna know how to survive nuclear war, information is the ace up your sleeve. We’ve compiled a list of what to expect during a nuclear blast to help you out.

Bright Flash

When a nuclear explosion goes off, the first thing you’ll notice (assuming it didn’t obliterate you on the spot) is a blinding flash of light. 

We’re talking about a burst of light so intense it can cause permanent blindness, give you some nasty burns, or even incinerate you on the spot. Anyone who turns to gaze at this sudden flash of light will be blinded by retinal burns up to 40 miles out from the site of the explosion.

In fact, it’s so bright that veterans who witnessed the detonation of earlier atomic weapons reported seeing the X-rays of their hands through their closed eyelids!

Blast Wave

If the blinding flash of light doesn’t knock you out, the blast wave that comes after just might. When a nuke goes off, it unleashes an insane amount of energy in the form of a shockwave that travels at supersonic speeds through the air.

This shockwave can destroy reinforced concrete and steel structures in an instant, and the blast wind that follows can send winds in excess of 650 miles per hour up to 4 miles out from the site of the explosion. It’s a double whammy of destruction!

Now, how intense that blast wave gets depends on a few factors:

  • Size of the Bomb – When it comes to nuclear bombs, size matters big time. The bigger the bomb, the bigger the boom. The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had a blast yield of around 13 kilotons and 21 kilotons, which may sound like a lot, but they’re peanuts compared to the monstrous power of modern nuclear weapons. Today’s nukes have a blast yield 20 to 30 times more powerful than the first atomic weapons! To put it bluntly, if Russia and the US ever decided to unleash their full nuclear arsenals, it would be game over for civilization as we know it.
  • Altitude of the Explosion – There are two main types of nuclear blasts: air and ground bursts. An air burst is when a nuclear bomb detonates in the air, creating a massive shockwave that can travel long distances without any obstacles in its way. Air bursts were commonly used in warfare because the intensity of the blast reached a much larger radius. On the other hand, a ground burst is when a nuclear bomb detonates on or near the ground, creating a shockwave that can cause more damage to buildings and infrastructure in a localized area.
  • Distance from the Explosion – How far you are from a nuclear blast can seriously affect how hard you get hit. The shockwave, heat, and radiation decrease the farther you are from the explosion. 

But that doesn’t mean you’re totally off the hook — even at a distance, a nuclear blast can still pack a punch depending on the bomb’s size and type. This also means there’s not much you can do for survival if you’re caught right in the epicenter of a blast.


Learning how to survive nuclear war already sounds pretty exhausting, right? Well, we’re not done. When a nuke goes off, it doesn’t just release a devastating blast wave; it also spews out dangerous radiation. This radiation is like a deadly invisible cloud that can spread from the blast site and infect everything in its path. It can damage cells in your body, mess with your DNA, and cause serious health problems.

The initial radiation is released immediately upon detonation and consists of gamma rays, neutrons, and other high-energy particles. Radiation can be lethal at high doses, so if you want to protect yourself, you’ll need to put some serious distance between you and the blast site and hunker down behind several inches of concrete.

Fire and Heat

Within 1/1000 of a second from an atomic explosion, a massive fireball will form, stretching out 2 miles in every direction with temperatures reaching over 10 million degrees Celsius. This fireball will vaporize everything in its vicinity, melting buildings, cars, and human flesh within a fraction of a second.

If you’re close enough to feel the heat, you can forget about a suntan because you’ll be roasted like a turkey. Up to 6 miles out, the heat will be intense enough to melt sheet metal, and all easily flammable materials will be ignited up to 16 miles out from ground zero, causing hundreds of thousands of fires.

Immediately after the attack, burns will constitute the most common and serious medical problem. Many will require intensive medical care, which will not be available. If you’re unlucky enough to have over 24 percent of your body burned, a nuclear attack survival kit just isn’t gonna cut it, so you better hope to have a medical team on speed dial because it’s likely the end of the road for you.

Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)

In a nuclear explosion, there’s another thing you need to worry about besides the blast, heat, and radiation — an electromagnetic pulse (EMP). This pulse is like a superpowered surge of electricity that can fry electronics and knock out power grids within a specific range.

It’s caused by the rapid release of energy from the nuclear explosion, and it can travel long distances through the air and along power lines. Although non-lethal, an EMP can cripple all industries and basic services surrounding the blast site. And yes, that includes paralyzing any and all rescue attempts.

So, if you’re lucky enough to survive the initial blast and radiation, prepare for a world without power or communication.


Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, a second wave of radiation is unleashed in the form of fallout. Fallout refers to the radioactive particles and debris thrown into the air by the blast, which then rains back down to Earth. These particles can pour right away or take days, weeks, or even longer to settle.

Fallout can get into our bodies through the air we breathe, the food we eat, or the water we drink, and can cause major health problems like radiation sickness, cancer, and death. Plus, it can mess up the agriculture in the area, leading to food shortages and soil contamination.

Moreover, dodging fallout is a lethal game of cat-and-mouse since its path largely depends on wind and weather patterns.

In the years that followed the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, many survivors who were lucky enough to be spared from the blast eventually succumbed to the terrible side effects of radiation exacerbated by radioactive fallout.

How to Survive a Nuclear Attack?

Now that you’ve got a pretty good idea of what goes down in a nuclear explosion, it’s time we give you the lowdown on how to survive a nuclear attack. We’re not going to sugarcoat things — it’s going to be tough. But armed with the right strategies and a healthy dose of paranoia, you can beat the odds and survive even the most catastrophic of events.


Surviving a nuclear attack requires more than just hoping for the best. Preparation is key.

But let’s be real — prepping for a nuclear explosion isn’t exactly like packing for a weekend getaway. If you don’t wanna be caught with your pants down, stick around for our tips on how to survive nuclear war.

Build an Underground Bunker

When it comes to surviving a nuclear attack, the safest place you can be is miles away from the blast site and underground. An underground bunker can protect you from the blast wave, heat, and radiation caused by a nuclear blast. Plus, it’s a great place to ride out other threats that will spawn as a result of the attack, like epidemics and civil unrest. 

Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Location, location, location: Choosing the right location for your bunker is key. Look for an area that’s secluded and difficult to access, away from populated areas and potential hazards. You’ll also want to ensure you have access to a good water source and that the ground is stable enough to support your bunker.
  1. Plan ahead: Determine the size and features you’ll need for your bunker. Consider how many people will use it, how long you’ll stay inside, and what supplies you’ll need. You may also want to consider installing utilities and security measures.
  1. Excavate the site: Hire a professional excavation company to dig out the space for your bunker. They’ll have the equipment and expertise to do it safely and efficiently. Make sure to reinforce the walls and roof to prevent collapses.
  1. Build strong walls and doors: Use reinforced concrete or steel to construct your bunker’s walls and roof. Make sure your door is heavy and can withstand pressure, with a secure locking mechanism and a radiation seal to prevent contamination. Lead is the best material for blocking radiation, but we don’t suggest it because exposure to lead can cause a host of other health problems, too.
  1. Install utilities: Depending on your needs, you may want to install a ventilation system, a water filtration system, and a backup generator. Test all of these systems regularly to ensure they’re functioning correctly.
  1. Stock up on supplies: Once your bunker is complete, squirrel away food, water, medical supplies, and communication devices. Rotate your supplies regularly to ensure they don’t expire.

Building an underground bunker is a big investment, so do your research and plan carefully before you start. And while a bunker can provide a level of safety and security, it’s still important to have a plan for when you eventually leave it.

Make a Family Emergency Plan

Help is less reliable in a nuclear attack because no nation is fully equipped to deal with its repercussions. To better protect yourself and your loved ones, create a family emergency plan. This ensures that everyone will be on the same page when D-Day comes. Consider these tips when creating your plan:

  • Designate a safe meeting place. Avoid populated areas when deciding which routes to take.
  • Develop a communication plan with primary and secondary means of communication.
  • Use age-appropriate language when practicing your evacuation plan with children.
  • Include your pets in the emergency plan.

Identify Viable Shelters

When finding a shelter for a nuclear attack, you want something that can handle the heat and radiation. Your best bet is an underground bunker, if you can swing it. They’re built to withstand the blast and have air filtration systems to keep fallout at bay. But if you don’t have one, a basement can also offer some protection. 

Just make sure to fortify it with thick walls and seal it up tight with duct tape and plastic sheeting. Aluminum foil, steel, and concrete can minimize the energetic gamma rays that penetrate your shelter.

If you want to go all out, ask local authorities in your area for the nearest fallout shelter. These bad boys are designed to protect you from the radioactive fallout after the initial blast. They’re usually built with reinforced concrete and steel and can be aboveground or underground.

If all else fails, natural caves can offer some protection too, though they’re not as reliable as man-made shelters.

Create a Nuclear Attack Survival Kit

The prepping community loves a good survival kit, and that includes a nuclear attack survival kit. Think it’s overkill? Thank us later because you won’t last a day without a nuclear survival kit when the bombs start dropping. Here are a few essentials to help you get started:

  1. Water – A general rule of thumb is to have at least one gallon of water per person per day, enough for at least two weeks.
  1. Non-perishable food – Fresh produce may be contaminated for weeks after a nuclear blast. Stock up on canned goods, dried fruits and nuts, and other non-perishable foods that can last several months. 
  1. First aid kit – Injuries are likely to occur in a disaster situation, so include a basic first aid kit in your nuclear survival kit. Fill it with items like bandages, antiseptic wipes, and pain relievers.
  1. Radiation detector – A Geiger counter or other radiation detectors can help you determine the radiation level in your area and avoid lethal doses.
  1. Gas masks – In the event of a nuclear attack, having gas masks in your nuclear survival kit can protect you from inhaling radioactive particles.
  1. Radio – A battery-powered or hand-crank radio can keep you up-to-date on the latest news and emergency announcements.
  1. Flashlight – In the event of a power outage or EMP surge, a flashlight will help you navigate in the dark.
  1. Batteries – Make sure to have plenty of extra batteries in your nuclear attack survival kit for your electronic devices and other equipment.
  1. Protective clothing – Pack a gas mask, hazmat suit, gloves, boots, and long-sleeved shirts and pants to protect your skin from radioactive particles.
  1. Sanitation supplies – In the event of a disaster, access to clean water and functioning toilets may be limited, so keep like hand sanitizer, wet wipes, and plastic bags for waste disposal inside your nuclear attack survival kit.

Stay Informed

Staying informed is critical to knowing what to do in a nuclear attack. Keeping tabs on current events, political tensions, and any developments related to nuclear weapons can help you spot warning signs, like increased military presence or suspicious activity in your area.

And remember to brush up on the effects of a nuclear explosion! Understanding the different types of radiation, how it spreads, and how to protect yourself from exposure can help you prepare for a nuclear attack.

Thankfully, staying informed is easier than ever these days. You can keep up with the news on your favorite websites or social media, follow government agencies and emergency management organizations, and sign up for emergency alerts and notifications. Just be sure to separate the facts from the fear-mongering, and don’t fall for sensationalist headlines or rumors.


When a nuke goes off, you can’t just count on the government to swoop in and save the day. Unlike natural disasters, no serious humanitarian response to a nuclear explosion exists. It’s a zero-sum game, which also means your survival is primarily up to you. That’s why it’s crucial to have a realistic action plan for what to do in a nuclear attack. So let’s get to it!

Seek Shelter

If you have warning before a nuke strikes, try to find shelter as quickly as possible. You’ll have better chances of survival if you can move before the blast wave hits. Going underground is your best option, but if that’s not in the cards, getting inside a building will do. Any form of shelter will protect you from the blast and radiation.

If you’re in a car, pull over and seek shelter inside a building or a ditch. The force from the blast will easily blow off your car, and your vehicle won’t offer you much protection when the fallout sets in. 

If you can, stay in the center or basement of a building. Studies show you have the best odds of survival if you can get to an enclosed space in the corner of a back room with few openings. 

Subways and tunnels will work too. Once indoors, stay low and brace for impact.

Protect Yourself from Radiation

Avoid breathing in radiation by slapping a damp cloth over your mouth and nose if you’re outside after the blast hits. Strip down and shower as soon as possible because the fallout will cling to your clothes and hair. Once you’re done, chuck all your contaminated clothes into a sealed waste bin far away from your hideout. 

Find Emergency Supplies

If you happen to be chilling at home or kickin’ it in your survival bunker when the nuke drops, consider yourself lucky. If you were smart enough to get your act together, you should have a well-stocked pantry, backup communication devices, and medical supplies. These will keep you alive over the next few days.

But say you weren’t quite prepared, and you got caught outside when the S hits the fan. Your best bet is to find a mall, grocery store, or gas station to hunker down in. It’s not an ideal scenario, but you might as well get comfortable inside a shop with aisles of chips and cereal to munch on while you wait for the all-clear. With any luck, you might find other stuff you need, like soap, bandages, or even a comms device.

Monitor the News

Stay in the know by keeping an ear out for updates. Tune in to your local radio or check your phone for emergency alerts. A battery-powered radio is your best buddy in figuring out what to do in a nuclear attack.

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) will likely send instructions and updates via radio, but if you’re lucky enough to get some signal on your smartphone, many local governments have emergency notification systems that can send you texts or push notifications. Just make sure your phone is fully charged and turned on to receive these alerts.

It’s important to only trust reputable news sources and official government channels during a crisis. Don’t fall for rumors or unverified reports that might lead you astray. Misinformation can spread like wildfire, so always double-check and verify any information before you act on it. Remember, you don’t get many second chances when it comes to a nuclear attack.

Wait It Out

Finding your family and friends after an explosion may be your top priority, but resist the urge to rush outside until the fallout settles. Radiation exposure can cause severe sickness and jeopardize your chances of reuniting with your loved ones.

Once you’re indoors, stay put and avoid venturing outside until it’s safe. Seal off any openings on doors and windows with duct tape, and turn off air conditioning or heating systems that draw air from outside.

Fortunately, radiation levels drop quickly after a nuclear blast. After the first 24-48 hours, it should be safe to move to a better shelter and contact authorities to locate your loved ones.


The dust has settled (literally), and you’ve survived the blast. But don’t break out the champagne just yet — that’s only half the battle. Knowing how to survive a nuclear attack also means dealing with radiation and navigating the post-apocalyptic aftermath. So first, let’s talk decontamination.


Decontamination is the crucial process of reducing or removing hazardous radioactive material from any person, surface, or object to reach safe levels after a nuclear attack or radiation exposure.

Rescue attempts in nuclear disasters are essentially suicide missions, so don’t wait for help before decontaminating yourself. The faster you can get to it, the lesser your chances of getting radiation sickness.

Here are some general steps that you can take to decontaminate after a nuclear attack:

  1. Get out of your clothes: Remove any clothing that has come in contact with the fallout as soon as possible. Be careful not to touch the contaminated parts of your clothes with your bare hands and remove them carefully to keep radioactive particles from shaking loose. Cut them off if necessary.
  1. Shower: Rinse yourself off as soon as possible with soap and water, paying extra attention to your hair, underarms, and other crevices. Do not use conditioner, as it can bond radioactive particles to your hair, and be extra cautious around your eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. Cover any cuts or scrapes while washing to prevent radioactive material from entering open wounds, and do the same for your pets.
  1. Brush your teeth: Brush your teeth, tongue, and roof of your mouth to remove any radioactive particles that may have entered your mouth.
  1. Wash your face: Use mild soap to wash your face, ears, and neck, taking care not to scrub too hard.
  1. Blow your nose: Blow your nose thoroughly to remove any radioactive particles that may have entered your nasal passages.
  1. Dispose of contaminated items: Place all contaminated clothing, towels, and other items in a plastic bag and seal it. Label it as radioactive waste, and keep it in a safe place until you can dispose of it properly.
  1. Monitor your health: Keep track of any symptoms of radiation sickness, such as nausea, vomiting, or fatigue. Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.

It’s important to note that while these steps are helpful, they may not be sufficient to protect against extremely high levels of radiation. In such cases, you’re better off seeing a doctor.

Surviving a Nuclear Winter

Knowing how to survive nuclear war includes knowing what to do in a nuclear winter. A nuclear winter is a theoretical climatic event that could occur after a large-scale nuclear war. The explosion of multiple nuclear weapons would send vast amounts of dust, soot, and debris into the atmosphere, which would block out sunlight and cause a significant drop in global temperatures. 

This, in turn, would lead to a prolonged period of darkness, cold temperatures, and reduced rainfall, which could have catastrophic effects on global agriculture, ecosystems, and human survival. In just 2 years, over 5 billion people could die of starvation alone!

Now, if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of facing a nuclear winter, there are steps you can take to increase your chances of survival. Here are a few:

  1. Find shelter: The first and most important step is to find shelter. It should protect you from the cold, wind, and radiation. A well-insulated underground bunker or a reinforced building would be ideal. If you don’t have access to such a place, look for a location that provides some natural protection, such as a cave or a dense forest.
  1. Stock up on supplies: You will need to gather as much food, water, and other supplies as possible before winter sets in. Canned or dried foods with a long shelf life would be the best option. You should also have a water filter or purification tablets to ensure access to clean drinking water.
  1. Avoid contaminated food and water: Stick to packaged and canned food that hasn’t been exposed to the outside elements. Fresh produce and meat may be contaminated, so it’s best to avoid them if possible. If you choose to consume them, make sure they’ve been properly washed and cooked. When it comes to water, don’t drink from any outdoor sources like rivers and lakes, as they may be contaminated. Instead, stick to bottled water or water that’s been treated and purified. Boiling water is an effective method to kill bacteria or viruses that may be present, but it won’t remove any radioactive particles.
  1. Stay warm: During a nuclear winter, temperatures can drop significantly, so it’s crucial to stay warm. Stock up on plenty of warm clothing, blankets, and sleeping bags. If you have a heating source such as a wood stove, make sure you have enough fuel to keep it going.
  1. Protect yourself from radiation: The fallout in a nuclear winter can linger for years and can be deadly if you get exposed to it. Avoid going outside, but if you must, wear protective clothing and bring a radiation detector. Protective clothing can look like a gas mask, a hazmat suit, or even a plastic bag around your shoes. 
  1. Stay connected: In a world where communication systems may be disrupted, staying connected with other survivors is essential. Make sure you have a way to communicate with others, such as a radio or satellite phone.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve made it to the end of this blog post, congratulations! You’ve now officially survived a nuclear attack…at least, in theory. 

In reality, let’s hope no one ever needs to know what to put together in a nuclear survival kit, and that we can all go back to worrying about more mundane things, like getting a good Wi-Fi signal or finding matching socks. 

But if the worst does happen, at least you’ll know how to survive a nuclear attack with these handy survival tips. After all, being ready for the unexpected can make all the difference.

Got any other nuclear attack survival tips we might have missed? Or perhaps other items we should include in our nuclear attack survival kit? Let us know in the comments!

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