Scientist Calculates Where to Go If a Nuclear Bomb Hits

Do you head to inadequate shelter or better shelter? Michael Dillon has the answer

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 15, 2014 10:06 AM CST | Updated Jan 18, 2014 1:05 PM CST

(Newser) – Good news: A mathematical model has been created that could help save your life in the event that your city is hit by a nuclear bomb. Scientist Michael Dillon's model, published Tuesday, is about reducing radiation risk from the bomb's fallout, and calculates "optimal shelter exit time." The longstanding advice has been to immediately seek shelter, ideally underground, if a bomb hits. But there is better and worse shelter—the latter being "lightweight" buildings (such as ones made of wood) or ones without basements; the AFP reports more than 20% of US homes fall into the worse category. Here is Dillon's determination for people living within 20 miles of a low-yield nuclear blast, meaning one a bit smaller than Hiroshima:

  • If it would take five minutes or less to reach better shelter (that concrete basement, or the center of a large building, like a big office, reports LiveScience), bypass the more immediate shelter and go there straight away.
  • If better shelter is 15 minutes away, stay in the worse shelter for up to 30 minutes, then head out.
  • As for the transit period, don't waste time worrying about protecting your body from the radiation, he says, which can mostly be rinsed off once you get to your shelter.
The findings are actually intended for emergency planning officials, who can make use of the findings when designing "an optimal low-yield nuclear detonation response strategy," writes Dillon, who works at California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

In this Monday, Aug. 6, 1945 picture made available by the US Army, a mushroom cloud billows into the sky about one hour after an atomic bomb was detonated above Hiroshima, Japan.
In this Monday, Aug. 6, 1945 picture made available by the US Army, a mushroom cloud billows into the sky about one hour after an atomic bomb was detonated above Hiroshima, Japan.   (AP Photo/U.S. Army via Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum)
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