On the morning of January 13, residents of Hawaii all received a pretty unwelcome push notification: “Ballistic Missile Threat Inbound to Hawaii. Seek Immediate Shelter. This is not a drill.”
While the warning turned out to be a false alarm, for 38 minutes everyone in Hawaii didn’t know that and had to figure out what to do. Which begs the question: What do you do if you get a notification that a ballistic missile is headed your way?
American weapons experts think North Korea is likely years away from being able to actually fire a nuclear missile, but the threat is certainly a real one.
NBC News notes the simplest but perhaps most important warning for people in an area where a bomb is expected to land is to not run, but instead get inside. You want to shelter in place, fast, under as many layers of protection as possible. For instance, people in Hawaii were putting children down storm drains.
If your building has a basement, go there. You want to get as deep as possible and stay there. A bomb is going to cause temperatures “as hot as the sun” and “winds like a hurricane”. Underground cement structures are your friends.
“The goal is to put as many walls and as much concrete, brick, and soil between you and the radioactive material outside,” ready.gov, a preparedness website run by FEMA and the US Department of Homeland Security, recommends.
In our guide to surviving the aftermath of a nuclear blast last year we noted that the EPA recommends staying away from windows and doors after a blast takes place (even though it might be tempting to look outside) and not move unless you absolutely have to for at least an hour. FEMA recommends waiting at least 24 hours, but you may need to wait weeks.
Just like it’s a good idea to have an emergency kit for a variety of different circumstances (I was rudely shaken awake last week by an earthquake that reminded me I need one of those), having one in case of a bomb is also a solid idea. Here’s what FEMA thinks you should have inside. And keep in mind if you’re waiting underground for weeks you’re going to need to eat. Load your kit full of packaged food such as energy bars and bottled water to keep you going until emergency crews arrive. Avoid eating any food that could have been exposed to the open air and radiation.
And remain calm, which is clearly easier said than done. If you’re ever in a missile attack it will undoubtedly be an exceptionally frightening experience. Try to stay as calm as possible and stay in place to increase your chances of surviving the blast and its aftermath.