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Edition Notes 
Table of Contents
About the Author
NWSS Chapters
Ch. 1: The Dangers from Nuclear Weapons: Myths and Facts
Ch. 2: Warnings and Communications
Ch. 3: Psychological Preparations
Ch. 4: Evacuation
Ch. 5: Shelter, the Greatest Need
Ch. 6: Ventilation and Cooling of Shelters
Ch. 7: Protection Against Fires and Carbon Monoxide
Ch. 8: Water
Ch. 9: Food
Ch. 10: Fallout Radiation Meters
Ch. 11: Light
Ch. 12: Shelter Sanitation and Preventive Medicine
Ch. 13: Surviving Without Doctors
Ch. 14: Expedient Shelter Furnishings
Ch. 15: Improvised Clothing and Protective Items
Ch. 16: Minimum Pre-Crisis Preparations
Ch. 17: Permanent Family Fallout Shelters for Dual Use
Ch. 18: Trans-Pacific Fallout
NWSS Appendices
App. A: Instructions for Six Expedient Fallout Shelters
App. A.1: Door-Covered Trench Shelter
App. A.2: Pole-Covered Trench Shelter
App. A.3: Small-Pole Shelter
App. A.4: Aboveground, Door-Covered Shelter
App. A.5: Aboveground, Ridgepole Shelter
App. A.6: Aboveground, Crib-Walled Shelter
App. B: How to Make and Use a Homemade Shelter-Ventilating Pump
App. C: A Homemade Fallout Meter, the KFM
App. D: Expedient Blast Shelters
App. E: How to Make a Homemade Piston Pump
App. F: Providing Improved Ventalation and Light
Selected References
Selected Index
Related CD Sites
Nuclear War Survival Skills
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Civil Defense Perspectives
Doctors for Disaster Preparedness
Fighting Chance Archive
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Nuclear War Survival Skills
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Edition Notes
 • Updated and Expanded 1987 Edition
 • Introduction to: Nuclear War Survival Skills


Updated and Expanded 1987 Edition

The purpose of this book is to provide Americans and other unprepared people with information and self-help instructions that will significantly increase their chances of surviving a nuclear attack. It brings together field- tested instructions that, if followed by a large fraction of Americans during a crisis that precedes an attack, could save millions of lives. The author is convinced that the vulnerability especially of Americans to nuclear threat or attack must be reduced and that the wide dissemination of the information contained in this book will help preserve peace with freedom.

Underlying the advocacy of Americans learning these down-to-earth survival skills is the belief that if one prepares for the worst, the worst is less likely to happen. Effective American civil defense preparations would reduce the probability of nuclear blackmail and war. Yet in our world of increasing dangers, it is significant that the United States spends much less per capita on civil defense than many other countries. The United States' annual funding is about 50 cents per capita, and only a few cents of this is spent on war-related civil defense. Unless U.S. civil defense policies are improved, you are unlikely to receive from official sources much of the survival information given in this book.

Over 400,000 copies of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory original 1979 edition of Nuclear War Survival Skills have been sold by various private publishers. A few additions and modifications, some helpful and others harmful, were made in several of these private printings. This updated and expanded edition is needed because of changes in nuclear weapons and strategies between 1979 and 1987, and because of improvements in self-help survival equipment and instructions.

The 1987 edition provides current information on how the Soviet Union's continuing deployment of smaller, more accurate, more numerous warheads should affect your shelter- building and evacuation plans.

In the first chapter the myths and facts about the consequences of a massive nuclear attack are discussed. Two post-1979 myths have been added: the myth of blinding post-attack increased ultra-violet sunlight, and the myth of unsurvivable "nuclear winter" - along with refuting facts.

A new chapter, "Permanent Family Fallout Shelters for Dual Use", has been added, because the author has received many requests for instructions for building permanent small shelters better and less expensive than those described in official civil defense hand-outs. Another new chapter, "Trans-Pacific Fallout" tells how to reduce radiation dangers that you will face if one or more nations use nuclear weapons, but none are exploded on America.

Improved instructions are given for making and using a KFM, based on the findings of numerous builders since 1979. (The KFM still is the only accurate and dependable fallout radiation meter that millions of average people can make for themselves in a few hours, using only common household materials - if they have these improved instructions with patterns.) Field-tested instructions for easily made Directional Fans, the simplest means for pumping air, have been added to the "Ventilation and Cooling of Shelters" chapter. Also included in this book are scores of other new facts and updatings likely to help save lives if nuclear war strikes.

A new appendix gives instructions for a home makeable Plywood Double-Action Piston Pump, inspired by a wooden air pump the author saw being used in China in 1982.

This first-of-its-kind book is primarily a compilation and summary of civil defense measures developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and elsewhere over the past 24 years, and field tested by typical untrained Americans in many states, from Florida to Washington. The reader is urged to make at least some of these low-cost preparations before a crisis arises. The main emphasis, however, is on survival preparations that could be made in the last few days of a worsening crisis.

The author wrote the original, uncopyrighted Nuclear War Survival Skills while working as a research engineer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. As a result, he has no proprietary rights and has gotten nothing but satisfaction from past sales. Nor will he gain materially from future sales, as can be judged by reading his copyright notice covering this edition. Civil defense professionals and others concerned with providing better self-help survival information can reproduce parts or all of this 1987 edition without getting permission from anyone, provided they comply with the terms of the copyright notice.

Book Page: 1


Introduction to: Nuclear War Survival Skills

by Edward Teller

January 14, 1994

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the unimaginable catastrophe of all out nuclear war has become truly im- probable. At the same time this unexpected event taught a lesson: being prepared for trouble may help to eliminate the source of trouble. Perhaps, after all, the atomic age might become a happy age.

Possible but not yet probable. Proliferation of nuclear weapons is more of a danger than ever before. But the danger is now different. What may happen is still horrible but it is no longer a catastrophe beyond our power of de- scribing it or preventing it.

As long as the superpowers faced each other with tens of thousands of megaton-class weapons, any defense seemed insufficient. It was a palliative of unclear war. It played more of a role as part of the deterrent. To many of us it seemed to be a necessity. But in efforts to convince the general public we made little progress. The question could not be resolved by reason alone.

The problem of ideological conflict is disappearing. The problem of a violent dictator is still with us. With weap- ons of mass destruction he could do enormous damage. Furthermore, the proliferation of ballistic missiles is not a pos- sibility but a frightening and growing reality. But we are now no longer facing tens of thousands of weapons. We need to worry about at most hundreds. Defense, therefore, has become a rational possibility.

But if defense is possible, it is also most important for four connected but, at the same time, distinct reasons. One is that in the case of war defense may save many thousands, maybe even millions of lives. I do not disagree with those who say that the main problem is to prevent war itself. I do disagree when prevention of war is considered the only problem.

The second reason is that defense helps to prevent proliferation of weapons of aggression. If defense is ne- glected these weapons of attack become effective. They become available and desirable in the eyes of an imperialist dictator, even if his means are limited. Weapons of mass destruction could become equalizers between nations big and small, highly developed and primitive, if defense is neglected. If defense is developed and if it is made available for general prevention of war, weapons of aggression will become less desirable. Thus defense makes war itself less probable. The third reason is of a most general character. One psychological defense mechanism against danger is to forget about it. This attitude is as common as it is disastrous. It may turn a limited danger into a fatal difficulty.

The last and most important reason is that the world has become thoroughly interdependent and the time has come for the positive use of this interdependence. International cooperation is obviously difficult. It lacks any tradi- tion. It is best started by modest activities that are obviously in everyone's interest. War-prevention by defense seems to be a good candidate for such cooperation. This would be particularly true if the effort would be both modest and effective. This book is an excellent example of an international initiative that with a minimal effort could have a maximal beneficial effect. It describes simple procedures of individual defensive measures which should be used in many areas of danger including those where it is wrongly believed that defense is impossible. It can be used in advanced countries and in countries at an early stage of development. Electronics makes the book available throughout the world.

This book will not satisfy the demands of those who are interested only in final solutions. Indeed, I do not believe that final solutions exist. The more important and difficult a problem is the more it becomes evident that the answer lies in a careful development consisting of small steps. This book prepares us, throughout the world, for one of the small steps that must be taken if the twenty-first century is to escape the curse of war.





Civil Defense Consultant, Retired

P.O. Box 92
Montrose, Colorado 81402


Dear reader,

   At the time I developed the Kearny Fallout Meter (KFM) with help from U.S. Department of Energy scientists and engineers, we did not address the issue of nuclear terrorism.  We were so concerned back then in the 1970's with the danger of all-out nuclear war that we neglected to instruct users of the KFM of its advantages in a terrorist attack with few and smaller nuclear weapons.  Fear of life-threatening fallout from massive Soviet attacks carried over to exaggerated fears of all radiation, including that from terrorists' few weapons.

  In Oak Ridge National Laboratory publications to be read by the public we did not even mention hormesis, for to have done so at that time probably would have prevented my most influential book, "Nuclear War Survival Skills," from being purchased and used by government agencies to instruct civil defense professionals.

   When Hitler first bombed London the panic the bombs caused did far more damage than the bombs themselves.  After the citizens of London lost their exaggerated fears of the bombings, life went on much as normal.  And so it would be with a nuclear terrorist attack on the U.S.  One nuclear bomb exploded in a U.S. city would likely be very small.  And though it could do catastrophic damage in a small area, its relative impact on the physical infrastructure of the whole United States would be extremely small.  However, because of the irrational, universal fear people have of any radioactivity, the panic that would ensue from such an attack would do far more damage than the attack itself.

   After the disintegration of the Soviet Union we should have stressed in the KFM instructions that small doses of radioactivity are hormetic, healthful because they stimulate the immune system.  This was proven in laboratories as far back as the 1920's.  With the advent of the A-bomb almost all the hormetic research stopped.  And only in the last decade has it resumed on a serious scale.

   In the KFM instructions it was assumed that no medical help would be available during and after a nuclear war.  The doses that an individual can take under those circumstances without being injured are lower than what that individual can withstand if he has medical assistance such as antibiotics, etc.  In a nuclear terrorist attack medical aid would still be available to the majority of American citizens; therefore they could withstand somewhat larger radiation doses.  This would enable them to carry on with the daily necessities of life in most areas.  If we allow irrational fear and panic to shut down trucking, communications, and vital services, the disaster will be far greater than it needs to be.

   Assembling a KFM and learning to use it before you need it will help you lose irrational fear of radioactivity.  You will not be paralyzed by panic in an emergency.  You will know how to conduct yourself in a manner that may not only save your life but also the lives of many of those around you as well.

   I urge you to study the KFM instructions now and make an instrument.  You should realize that under terrorist attack conditions the radiation doses you can receive without being incapacitated are higher than under nuclear wartime conditions.  So you can go to work, drive your truck or car, or assist others.


 Cresson H. Kearny [Signature in his handwriting]

Cresson H. Kearny [February 1999]

Copyright 2004 Nuclear War Survival Skills - Authorized by Cresson Kearny - Digitized by Arnold Jagt