Radiation Exposure Readiness: Part 3, Preparing For The Worst

Somewhere in the millions of InventorSpot pages is a blog about a luxury underground survival community being built in California for the kind of disaster that millions in Japan are facing now.  I hope that project is ready for the special 200 families who can afford to pay for accommodations there. For the rest of us, we'll just have to get prepared step by step.

"Prepare for the worst, and pray it never comes," is the timeworn expression for monstrous disasters of grand magnitude, and high radiation exposure is about as monstrous as can be.

Here are some basic steps you should take to ready yourself for potential nuclear or other unexpected disaster....


1.  Get Yourself In Shape!

Lance Cpl. Anthony M. Madonia in swimming portion of triatholon: image via wikipedia.orgLance Cpl. Anthony M. Madonia in swimming portion of triatholon: image via wikipedia.org
Yes, you've heard it before, but it is actually the most highly recommended way to prepare for potential disaster. If you are active, trim, and eating healthy foods, your ability to fight anything that hits your immune system will increase in proportion to how you nurture it. 


2.  Don't Panic

Not now and not if disaster strikes.  Stay calm.  What you need to do now is make a list of things you must have with you if you need to leave your home and possibly your city.  Having been evacuated twice because of fires of unbelievable proportion, I can tell you from experience to prepare for the worst before it happens.


3.  Potassium Iodide (KI)

Yes, you will need potassium iodide (KI) if there is a dangerous level of radiation in the air, but I'm sure you know by now that you are not to take KI unless a radioactive emergency is declared by one of the federal agencies responsible for monitoring the local radiation levels.   Your city or county has a communication alert system which will notify you by radio, TV, sirens and, often, telephone.  You should contact your local government to determine what plans are in place to alert you.

KI protects one organ in your body: the thyroid gland.  Inhaled radiation can cause cancer in the thyroid gland, because the thyroid absorbs the contaminated iodide in the vapor.  KI releases iodide to the thyroid gland, saturating it for a limited period of time, so it will not absorb the radiated iodide.  KI cannot protect you from other radioactive chemicals that you may absorb.


Iosat package provides full dose of potassium iodide for adults for 14 days: © Anbex,IncIosat package provides full dose of potassium iodide for adults for 14 days: © Anbex,Inc

There are three brands of KI approved by the FDA for use for radiation exposure: Iosat, in 130 mg tablet form; ThyroShield, in liquid form; and ThyroSafe, a half dose (65mg) tablet for children.  There are dosage recommendation for every human member of your family, as long as they don't have thyroid related health problems or allergies to potassium or iodide.  DO NOT GIVE THIS MEDICATION TO PETS.

Though none seems to be available for sale now, know that potassium iodide has an expiration date, which is coming due at the end of March.  So what you buy now, even if you pay $300 for a $10 box of Iosat, may expire before you receive it.  A new batch is being made now and will be available on April 18, 2011, according to its manufacturer, Anbex, Inc.

Do purchase KI to have on hand in case of a nuclear emergency. Each dose is only good for 24 hours, but pay attention to the expiration date.  Read this very important paper (VIP) on KI: (VIP: Potassium Iodide)


4.  Consider Everyone, Including Pets, In Your Evacuation Plans


Make sure you plan for your pets in case of emergency: image via wormsandgermsblog.comMake sure you plan for your pets in case of emergency: image via wormsandgermsblog.com In cases of fire or flooding, it is possible to obtain shelter in a local school building or other local building set up for that purpose. In those cases, you would most likely have to take your pets to a pet shelter for temporary boarding. (Most human emergency shelters do not accept pets.)

But if there is a high radiation presense, you essentially have two choices:  stay home and seal up your house or get the heck out of Dodge.  Learn the location of your nearest pet shelter and find out now how it will accommodate pets if a nuclear emergency occurs. (VIP PETS)


5. Staying In Your Home

The CDC advises that if you plan to stay at home or are told to stay at home during a radiation emergency,  you create a temporary shelter in a central location in your home, which you can close off from the rest of your home for a few days. A windowless basement would be best.

It is important to keep this room or area stocked with what you will need at all times, and to check and refresh its contents at least every six months.  Keep it stocked with a battery operated radio, a cell phone, a land line phone, flashlight, and food, medicine, and water for each member of your family.  Actually, the list is long so I am linking to the CDC indoor shelter list :VIP In-home Shelter.


6. Evacuating

If a disaster occurs, you will be notified through an emergency alert system.  It will contain information on where to go for shelter. (VIP: Evacuation

If you can evacuate in your car, you will need to pack very efficiently, with enough food, water, first aid, and medications for at least three days - more, if you are planning to leave the area with your family and your pets.  You can purchase these items separately, but several companies have already done that for you and save you time, money, and space by packing them up in a space-saving kit.

I like the Nitro-Pak 72 hour Survival Kits for two persons (235 items) or four (275 items).  These kits including tents, blankets, sleeping bags, food, first aid supplies, even the radio you need.


Nitro-Pak 72 Hour Survival Kit for 2 or 4 persons: © Nitro-PakNitro-Pak 72 Hour Survival Kit for 2 or 4 persons: © Nitro-Pak


There are pet evacuation kits available, but I find you will have to supplement them anyway, so you probably should get them ready yourself, also in advance.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has the best information on preparing pet kits for evacuation.  (VIP PETS)

If you're leaving town, your local authorities will let you know the best routes to travel when they know what direction the radioactive plume is taking.  Don't travel in the same direction! 

Make advance plans with friends and relatives to stay with them in case of emergency, but make sure you leave your shoes and clothing outside of their homes before entering.  An outdoor shower would be a good idea for the whole family, including pets.  

In advance of disaster, pet owners should know the policies of the nearest shelter for taking in pets in emergencies. Memorize instructions in advance for such an occasion.   If you will travel with your pets, keep them crated.


7. Must Haves

Water. Water,water, water, everywhere... in every open space left in your vehicle. Bottled drinking water is fine, but you should also have a portable water filtration system, such as the Katadyn Pocket Water Microfilter, in case you need to use water from other sources.


Katadyn Pocket Water MicrofilterKatadyn Pocket Water Microfilter


A laptop computer, notebook, or smart phone is a necessity for many of us.  And don't forget to gather all of your important papers ahead of time. Make a list of all the papers you would miss if they were destroyed: mortgage papers, insurance, medical records, prescriptions, investment and banking information, for each person and, whatever applies, for your pets as well. Put them in a sealable plastic bag.

Wherever possible, make copies of papers and photos on thumb drives and tuck the drives in a plastic bag in a prime spot on your body.


8.  Preparing To Land

Knowing that you will eventually land away from danger of the radiation plume, you need to prepare for decontamination at the end of your journey.  That's why as many items as possible need to be packed in washable or throw away containers, such as sealable plastic bags.  Clean items should be packaged in these bags and kept for arrival in a safe place, where you will be discarding the plastic as far away as you can from yourself and the new place of arrival.


Sources: (also 'must reads' for survivors):

EPA: Radiation Monitoring
CDC Radiation Emergencies Section
(including topic papers, current status, treatment information and information for specific groups of persons).
, radiation protection
FEMA, information for pet owner
Off Grid Survival:Government advice about surviving a nuclear blast

READ PARTS 1 and 2 of this Series:
Radiation Exposure Readiness: Part 1, News & Information
Radiation Exposure Readiness: Part 2: When Your Health Is At Risk


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