The confrontation with North Korea over its missiles and nuclear weapons and false alarm in Hawaii highlight issues that need to be addressed. But these events also serve as a reminder that the threat of nuclear weapons being used in an international conflict – or by a terrorist organization – has been a persistent concern for decades.

This is a good time to think about what citizens and disaster response agencies need to know in the event of a nuclear detonation in their community. Some basic information and understandings could save countless thousands of lives in the event of a catastrophic use of a nuclear weapon.

Here’s what people should know. A detonation of a nuclear weapon in an urban area would be instantly lethal for many people in the immediate vicinity of the explosion. But hundreds of thousands of people outside the most deadly circle of destruction could save their own lives by:


Knowing the signs of nuclear explosion.


Seeking immediate shelter (optimal shelter can be described)


Staying put in shelter for 24-48 hours


Waiting for officials to announce its safe to leave shelter


Heading in direction recommended by officials

Watch this TED Talk by Dr. Irwin Redlener: How to Survive a Nuclear Attack