The Essential List Of Everything You’ll Need To Survive A Nuclear War

A handy guide for anyone too poor to build their own nuclear bunker.

Nuclear war

With the threat of nuclear war a very real and present danger in these turbulent political times, making sure you are ready for any potential strike is important.

Ask the average joe on the street how they would react in the event of a nuclear bomb being dropped on their shores and the answer would probably be “blind panic” – but that doesn’t necessarily need to be the case.

Sure, unless you happen to be sitting on a few million quid and a nice, deep, plot of land, you probably aren’t going to be able to build your very own nuclear bunker. But there are still some steps you can take and some provisions you can afford, that might mean you live to see another day in the nuclear wasteland left behind.


A 1950s nuclear shelter.
A 1950s nuclear shelter. Things have changed a lot since then.

In the event of a nuclear strike, it’s important to take cover as quickly as possible. Ideally, you should aim to take shelter somewhere underground and preferably in a structure built from brick and concrete. As well as going as low down as possible in the structure (basement level or near) you should also head to the centre of the building.

This is quite literally about putting as much brick and soil between you and any lethal nuclear matter out there – it’s thicker substances like this that will prevent radiation poisoning. Make it comfortable too – you’ll need to stay there for anywhere between 24 hours and a month, depending on the blast proximity.

The first 24 to 48 hours is always the deadliest period, as nuclear fallout takes hold with the splitting of atoms generating a mixture of fission products that decay rapidly while emitting gamma radiation. Though invisible, this radiation can seriously mess with the cells of the human body and disrupt things like your immune system, as part of something called acute radiation syndrome.


Canned food is your friend.
Canned food

In a nuclear scenario like this, the chances are you won’t have that long an opportunity to grab many provisions either. The main thing to ensure you have is water. estimates the average person will require around a gallon a day. This isn’t just water for drinking either – survivors should also wash in it after the blast.

Removing your clothes is an important first step towards significantly reducing radiation exposure, but it still not enough on its own – you will need to rinse off your skin to avoid the spread of radiation fallout. That means you are going to need water. As much of it as you can lay your hands on.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA also recommends keeping a supply of at least three days worth of non-perishable food like cereal bars, soups, and tinned food. Make sure you have a can opener to hand though.


Mobile phones may be more commonplace, but a standard battery-powered or wind-up radio, along with extra batteries is meant to be a better bet for receiving emergency broadcasts and instructions. A torch, along with more batteries can also help with seeing things and even signalling help.


Black bin bags.
Black bin bags

A whistle, to signal for help, and things like maps, black rubbish bin liners, and a dust mask can all help you through survival and the awkwardness of going to the toilet etc.

Something like a wrench or pair of pliers will also help survivors gain access to utilities but are unlikely to be readily available. Some pencils and paper also come recommended. Last but not least, a local map might help you make sense of your surroundings once the dust settle.

Additional items

Of course, FEMA offers up plenty more suggestions for anyone with more time on their hands to prepare for survival. Things like nappies, dog food, puzzles and games for any kids are a good start.

A change of clothing, personal hygiene items, matches and a fire extinguisher would all be ideal too along with paper cups, plates and cutlery and household bleach.

Family documents like passports can also be useful but, the stark reality is that you are unlikely to have much time to get this stuff. The initial nuclear blast and fallout is the most lethal part so it’s going to pretty much be a case of grabbing whatever is nearest and hoping for the best.

Still, it might not end up happening, right?

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