The Six Tips That Could Save Your Life if a Nuclear Bomb Went Off

Tutorials on how to survive a nuclear explosion have gone viral across social media. But how accurate is the advice? Newsweek spoke to an expert in disaster preparedness to find out.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, concerns about the potential threat of nuclear war have risen exponentially. Ukraine held drills on Tuesday to prepare for a potential nuclear strike by Russia in response to nuclear exercises overseen by President Vladimir Putin.

People have flocked to social media to share their concerns and look for advice on how to respond to potential future escalations.

nuclear explosion from a distance
Stock image of a nuclear explosion. People in the areas surrounding the site of a blast can increase their chances of survival by following six steps. Getty/KREMLL

One particular video, by TikToker Kieram Litchfield, has so far received 9.5 million views and over 10,000 comments. In the footage, Litchfield discusses the six S's of nuclear survival:

  • shelter in a concrete building
  • sanitize your body
  • secure all doors and windows
  • prepare supplies
  • choose an appropriate space
  • stay put for 72 hours.

The advice is aimed at survivors who are at risk of exposure to nuclear fallout, which occurs when residual radioactive debris falls back onto the Earth after a nuclear explosion.

Litchfield's video is far from the only nuclear survival video on the platform. Novice Prepper posted the TikTok How to Survive a Nuclear Explosion on February 25, the day after Russia invaded Ukraine. It has been viewed 5.4 million times.

Another, by user @perkyprepper, has had over 1.3 million views. In it, the user provides five steps to survive a nuclear attack. The steps echo Litchfield's advice.

She said people should find shelter and stay inside, reduce contamination by taking off all their clothes and showering, then seal the shelter. Her advice is then to wait. Her final tip is to have things like food, water, flashlights and first aid kits prepared in advance of a nuclear war.

@perkyprepper

Reply to @ashleybrookenicol Nuclear Survival 101 🙏🏼 nuclearprep nuclearwar preppertok russia nuclearfallout ww3 ukraine shtf

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Nuclear war is still seen as an unlikely scenario. On October 10, the British think tank the International Institute for Strategic Studies said Russia is not likely to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine as there would be little to gain by doing so.

On October 26, Ben Hodges, a former commanding general of the U.S. Army Europe, also told the Kyiv Post it was "very unlikely" Russia would use nuclear weapons. "Russia does have thousands of nuclear weapons and I take the threats very seriously, but I think it's very unlikely that they would use the nuclear weapon because of all the negative consequences they would have to face," he said.

But what of the survival tips? Would the six S's of nuclear survival actually help?

Irwin Redlener, senior research scholar and founding director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, spoke to Newsweek about Litchfield's viral video. "I actually think it's good, it's accurate, but there is a caveat here," he said. "That advice is the same advice I would give but, only in the event of a single detonation in a particular location or city.

"If we had an all-out nuclear war, that kind of advice would be irrelevant because there is really no chance of survival in the event of a full-scale nuclear war... From a medical point of view, the only way to survive a nuclear war is to prevent it."

However, in the case of a single bomb detonation, Redlener said that Litchfield's advice was accurate.

"If a terror organization detonated a nuclear weapon in midtown Manhattan during the day, there would be maybe 75,000 to 100,000 immediate fatalities," he said. "But then, over the following days and weeks, we would probably see another 500,000 delayed fatalities. That could be reduced—not to zero—but maybe a couple of hundred thousand would be saved.

"The instructions in the TikTok video would be appropriate for that kind of scenario."

Disaster supplies
Stock image of an emergency survival kit. Online videos provide a guide to getting through a nuclear blast based on the six S's of nuclear survival: shelter, sanitize, secure, supplies, space, and stay. Getty/Pixsooz

Litchfield said that preparation is key to survival in any disaster scenario: "If an individual is fully prepared, and I mean fully, a disaster can be downgraded to an emergency. Preparing for floods, hurricanes and even tornadoes is doable and millions of Americans do it well. However, preparing for a surprise nuclear bomb is an incredible challenge.

"If people could only remember one thing about how best to react to a nuclear bomb, I'd tell them to get inside and underground as fast as possible, and stay there for at least three days, then evacuate several hundred miles in the opposite direction of the fallout.

"Each moment you stay outside you're drastically reducing your chances of survival due to radiation exposure."