What should you do in case of a nuclear explosion? U.S. government updates guidance

FILE-A photo of a nuclear bomb explosion. (Photo by Lambert/Getty Images)

The ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine has entered its fifth day and, amid speculation of the use of nuclear weapons by Russia, the government website Ready.gov has refreshed its list of guidelines on ways to prepare and protect yourself during a nuclear explosion. 

Over the weekend, President Putin ordered Russian nuclear weapons to be prepared for increased readiness to launch, ratcheting up tensions with Europe and the United States over the conflict that is dangerously poised to expand beyond the former frontiers of the defunct U.S.S.R.

The practical meaning of Putin’s order was not immediately clear. Russia and the United States typically have land- and submarine-based nuclear forces on alert and prepared for combat at all times, but nuclear-capable bombers and other aircraft are not.

Friday, the official Ready.gov website updated its guidance about what to do in the case of a nuclear blast. It was not immediately clear if the update was tied to anything specific or just coincidental.

Jaclyn Rothenberg, director of public affairs for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), provided a statement to FOX Tuesday regarding the website update.

"It is not true that the COVID social distancing language was updated in response to the situation with Russia-Ukraine. COVID protocols were originally added in 2020, and pages are now going through reviews to update that language based on new CDC guidance that was just released," Rothenberg said. "The only updates that were done, were updates for links throughout the Ready.gov site. No new language was added to taken off of that particular page."

Rothenberg added: "The change made to the Ready.gov page on Feb. 25, 2022 was to remove a link that previously existed but is now broken. That page was migrated to an hhs.gov site: Nuclear Detonation: Weapons, Improvised Nuclear Devices - Radiation Emergency Medical Management (hhs.gov) but the link was probably removed by the contractor as they were going through a sweep for broken links across the site and fixing them. That's a routine procedure."

What to know about nuclear explosions

Nuclear explosions involve the use of nuclear weapons, which are devices used to create a massive, destructive explosion. These explosions can happen within minutes without warning, according to Ready.gov. 

What are the dangers of a nuclear explosion?

There are several dangers associated with nuclear explosions. A bright flash from an explosion can cause temporary blindness to a person for less than a minute.

Another hazard is referred to as a blast wave which can cause death, injury, and damage to buildings several miles away from the explosion’s origin. Fire and heat from a nuclear explosion can result in death and burn injuries.

Exposure to radiation from an explosion can damage a person’s cells in their body and can also cause radiation sickness. 

Nuclear explosions can also cause fallout which is radioactive visible dirt and debris that falls from the sky several miles up and it can sicken people who are outside. According to Ready.gov, fallout is very dangerous within the first few hours after an explosion because it produces high levels of radiation. 

Additionally, fire and heat from a nuclear explosion can result in death and burn injuries.

How can I prepare and stay safe if there is a nuclear explosion?

Nuclear explosions are unpredictable, but it doesn’t mean you can’t take necessary precautions to stay safe. 

When warnings are provided by officials of a possible explosion, getting to a safe space or quickly into a nearby building is key. While inside either location, it’s important to avoid standing next to windows to stay protected from the blast, heat, and radiation from a nuclear explosion. 

If you’re outside when a nuclear explosion occurs, you should find cover behind anything that offers protection from the blast. It’s important to lie face down to protect your skin from heat and flying debris. You should also avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. 

Having adequate supplies during a nuclear attack is critical. Emergency supply kits are ideal to take with you when staying somewhere for an extended amount of time. This kit should consist of bottled water, packaged foods, medicine, batteries, and a hand-crank or battery-powered radio to receive media reports in case you lose power. 

Individuals who are sick or injured in a nuclear explosion should listen for instructions to seek medical attention when law enforcement considers it safe to leave a safe space. Once it’s safe, you should call your health care provider for instructions. If you’re staying in a public shelter, you need to inform the employees at the facility so they can contact a local hospital or clinic.

What if I’m exposed to radiation during a nuclear explosion?

If you are exposed to radiation, you should immediately remove your clothing and wash your skin if it’s unprotected. It’s also important to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. '

Take a shower or wash with soap and water to remove fallout from any skin or hair that was not covered. If you cannot wash or shower, use a wipe or clean wet cloth to wipe any skin or hair that was exposed. If you are a pet owner, you should clean your pets thoroughly to protect them from possible radiation. 

Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes are not effective items for cleaning your skin after radiation exposure. 

Where should you go during a nuclear explosion?

Having a designated shelter space is one of the best ways to prepare yourself ahead of a potential disaster. These areas can be places where you spend the majority of your time, including your home, office, and school. Outdoor spaces like cars and mobile homes don’t provide quality shelter during a possible nuclear explosion. 

When a nuclear explosion occurs, the best location to seek shelter is in the basement or the in middle of a room in one of these places to avoid radiation exposure. If you have pets, make sure they are with you and protected. 

If a person is sheltering in place with individuals who are not their family, its important to keep a distance of six feet from them.

Families who are separated during nuclear explosions should stay inside wherever they’re located and should wait to reconnect with love ones to avoid potential radiation exposure.

According to Ready. gov, it’s recommended that you remain inside a building for 24 hours unless local law enforcement officials provide other instructions.

This story was reported from Washington, D.C.