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Prepare yourself to survive in a nuclear environment. Know how to react to a nuclear hazard.
Effects of Nuclear Weapons
The effects of nuclear weapons are classified as either initial or residual. Initial effects occur in the immediate area of the explosion and are hazardous in the first minute after the explosion. Residual effects can last for days or years and cause death. The principal initial effects are blast and radiation.
Defined as the brief and rapid movement of air away from the explosion’s center and the pressure accompanying this movement. Strong winds accompany the blast. Blast hurls debris and personnel, collapses lungs, ruptures eardrums, collapses structures and positions, and causes immediate death or injury with its crushing effect.
The heat and light radiation a nuclear explosion’s fireball emits. Light radiation consists of both visible light and ultraviolet and infrared light. Thermal radiation produces extensive fires, skin burns, and flash blindness.
Nuclear radiation breaks down into two categories-initial radiation and residual radiation.
Initial nuclear radiation consists of intense gamma rays and neutrons produced during the first minute after the explosion. This radiation causes extensive damage to cells throughout the body. Radiation damage may cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and even death, depending on the radiation dose received. The major problem in protecting yourself against the initial radiation’s effects is that you may have received a lethal or incapacitating dose before taking any protective action. Personnel exposed to lethal amounts of initial radiation may well have been killed or fatally injured by blast or thermal radiation.
Residual radiation consists of all radiation produced after one minute from the explosion. It has more effect on you than initial radiation. A discussion of residual radiation takes place in a subsequent paragraph.
Types of Nuclear Bursts
There are three types of nuclear bursts–airburst, surface burst, and subsurface burst. The type of burst directly affects your chances of survival. A subsurface burst occurs completely underground or underwater. Its effects remain beneath the surface or in the immediate area where the surface collapses into a crater over the burst’s location. Subsurface bursts cause you little or no radioactive hazard unless you enter the immediate area of the crater. No further discussion of this type of burst will take place.
An airburst occurs in the air above its intended target. The airburst provides the maximum radiation effect on the target and is, therefore, most dangerous to you in terms of immediate nuclear effects.
A surface burst occurs on the ground or water surface. Large amounts of fallout result, with serious long-term effects for you. This type of burst is your greatest nuclear hazard.
Most injuries in the nuclear environment result from the initial nuclear effects of the detonation. These injuries are classed as blast, thermal, or radiation injuries. Further radiation injuries may occur if you do not take proper precautions against fallout. Individuals in the area near a nuclear explosion will probably suffer a combination of all three types of injuries.
Blast injuries produced by nuclear weapons are similar to those caused by conventional high-explosive weapons. Blast overpressure can produce collapsed lungs and ruptured internal organs. Projectile wounds occur as the explosion’s force hurls debris at you. Large pieces of debris striking you will cause fractured limbs or massive internal injuries. Blast over-pressure may throw you long distances, and you will suffer severe injury upon impact with the ground or other objects. Substantial cover and distance from the explosion are the best protection against blast injury. Cover blast injury wounds as soon as possible to prevent the entry of radioactive dust particles.
The heat and light the nuclear fireball emits causes thermal injuries. First-, second-, or third-degree burns may result. Flash blindness also occurs. This blindness may be permanent or temporary depending on the degree of exposure of the eyes. Substantial cover and distance from the explosion can prevent thermal injuries. Clothing will provide significant protection against thermal injuries. Cover as much exposed skin as possible before a nuclear explosion. First aid for thermal injuries is the same as first aid for burns. Cover open burns (second-or third-degree) to prevent the entry of radioactive particles. Wash all burns before covering.
Neutrons, gamma radiation, alpha radiation, and beta radiation cause radiation injuries. Neutrons are high-speed, extremely penetrating particles that actually smash cells within your body. Gamma radiation is similar to X rays and is also a highly penetrating radiation. During the initial fireball stage of a nuclear detonation, initial gamma radiation and neutrons are the most serious threat. Beta and alpha radiation are radioactive particles normally associated with radioactive dust from fallout. They are short-range particles and you can easily protect yourself against them if you take precautions.
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