Nuclear Blasts



Depending on how sophisticated the terrorist or terrorist organization is, a nuclear device either can be detonated—resulting in an explosion creating intense heat, light, radiation, pressure, and spread of radioactive material—or, if the attempted detona­tion is unsuccessful, the conventional high-explosives portion of the nuclear device could still explode—spreading the radioactive nuclear material. Nuclear devices can range from a weapon carried by an intercontinental missile to, theoretically, at least, a bomb small enough to be carried by an individual. A “suitcase bomb” blast, though not as great as that of a military nuclear weapon, still could be very destructive. Experts believe that a large, strategic nuclear attack on the United States is unlikely these days. Other scenarios also are unlikely—the materials are expensive and the technology is complicated. However, terrorists and rogue states can be resourceful and unpredictable.




How to prepare

  1. Verify and update official contact information in the Marine Corps Enterprise Mass Notification System (eMNS), and self-register all cell phones, home phone, email addresses, etc. in eMNS. 

  2. Make a list of potential shelters near work and home, including interior areas of large buildings and basements, subways, and tunnels. If you live or work in a large building, talk to management about the safest place in the building for sheltering and about stocking emergency supplies.

  3. Make a written evacuation plan.

  4. Make an emergency communication plan in case family members are separated.

  5. Build an emergency kit. If you become aware of heightened threat, increase your supplies to last for up to two weeks. 

  6. Report suspicious activity at



3 keys to protection

  • Distance—The farther you are from the blast and radioactive fallout, the lower the dose to your body.

  • Shielding—The heavier and denser the materials are between you and the radiation or radioactive fallout, the lower the dose to your body. 

  • Time—The less time spent exposed to radiation and radioactive fallout, the lower the dose to your body.



Potential Targets

  • Strategic military bases and missile sites

  • Government centers such as national and state capitals

  • Major ports and airfields

  • Financial and industrial centers

  • Important transportation and commu­nication centers 

  • Petroleum refineries and electrical power plants



What to do

if ordered to evacuate
  • Listen to the radio or television for official instructions and information about procedures, routes, and shelters.

  • Take an emergency supply kit.

  • Consider neighbors who may need help. 


If you have little or no warning
  • Shelter-in-place—Take cover immediately as far below ground as possible. Any protection is better than none at all. The more distance from the detonation, the more intervening shielding, and the less time spent in radioactive areas, the better.

  • Take your emergency kit, if possible.

  • To keep out radioactive dust, close doors, windows, and vents and turn off ventilation systems. These actions are typically called “sheltering-in-place.”

  • Stay put and use radio, TV, or the Internet to get official information and instructions.


If you are caught outside
  • The time it takes the heat and shock waves to arrive depends on your distance from the detonation. Take cover behind anything that might offer protection from the blast, lie flat on the ground, and cover your head and hands. Use any available cloth as a breathing filter.

  • Don’t look at the flash or fireball—they can blind you.

  • No matter how far you are from the blast site, take shelter from fallout as soon as you can, upwind if possible.

  • Before entering shelter, dust off, keeping your mouth and nose covered. As soon as possible, shed contaminated clothing and wash your hair and skin.


After a nuclear blast

After a nuclear blast, most fallout would occur in the first 24 hours, near and downwind from the blast. People in most affected areas could be allowed out of shelter within a few days and, if necessary, evacuated to unaffected areas. Those in the areas with highest radiation levels might have to shelter for up to a month. If you must be outside where radioactive fallout is a concern—

  • Clean and cover any open wounds on your body.

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a damp towel.

  • Use stored food and drinking water, not fresh food or open water.


Set your own course through any hazard: stay informed, make a plan, build a kit. Live Ready Marine Corps.