So Bottom Line: Get in a Basement

From Analyzing Evacuation Versus Shelter-in-Place Strategies After a Terrorist Nuclear Detonation, a paper by Lawrence M. Wein, Youngsoo Choi, Sylvie Denuit.

“We superimpose a radiation fallout model onto a traffic flow model to assess the evacuation versus shelter-in-place decisions after the daytime ground-level detonation of a 10-kt improvised nuclear device in Washington, DC. In our model, ≈80k people are killed by the prompt effects of blast, burn, and radiation. Of the ≈360k survivors without access to a vehicle, 42.6k would die if they immediately self-evacuated on foot. Sheltering above ground would save several thousand of these lives and sheltering in a basement (or near the middle of a large building) would save of them. Among survivors of the prompt effects with access to a vehicle, the number of deaths depends on the fraction of people who shelter in a basement rather than self-evacuate in their vehicle: 23.1k people die if 90% shelter in a basement and 54.6k die if 10% shelter. Sheltering above ground saves approximately half as many lives as sheltering in a basement. The details related to delayed (i.e., organized) evacuation, search and rescue, decontamination, and situational awareness (via, e.g., telecommunications) have very little impact on the number of casualties. Although antibiotics and transfusion support have the potential to save ≈10k lives (and the number of lives saved from medical care increases with the fraction of people who shelter in basements), the logistical challenge appears to be well beyond current response capabilities. Taken together, our results suggest that the government should initiate an aggressive outreach program to educate citizens and the private sector about the importance of sheltering in place in a basement for at least 12 hours after a terrorist nuclear detonation.

The basement in my building is not finished, it’s like something from the 19th century, dirt floors, etc. In fact, I’m going to take pictures just so you can see, the old technology, etc. But for 12 hours I can manage.

My cats however, would be all, “What? The basement? Seriously? We’ll wait for you here.”


Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

One thought on “So Bottom Line: Get in a Basement

  1. Nah, all you need to do is find one of those old-fashioned, wooden school desks. Crawling under one of those (don’t forget to tuck your head)is a sure-fire method of surviving a nuclear blast and the ensuing fallout.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap