Basic Knowledge Could Save 90 Percent in a Nuclear Attack, according to Physicians for Civil Defense

While no one would survive at ground zero of a nuclear explosion outside the type of shelter mostly unavailable in the U.S., few realize that 90 percent or more of total projected fatalities and casualties are well outside the ground zero area, writes Shane Connor in the fall issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.

Most of those casualties could be prevented with the basic knowledge of what to do, Connor said. Most important is the need to lie down and make use of any available cover in the seconds to a few minutes between the brilliant flash of the detonation and the arrival of the blast wave: the 1950s “duck and cover” drill, states Physicians for Civil Defense.

Many survived in Nagasaki because of this advice, brought to them by “double survivors” from Hiroshima. It also saved schoolchildren in Chelyabinsk, Russia, from injury from flying shards of glass when a meteor hit nearby. 

The threat of radioactive fallout can extend hundreds of miles downwind, but it decays quickly and need not be fatal to those who know what to do—and what not to do, Connor writes.

Today’s low level of threat awareness and preparedness could be deadly, Connor warns. The U.S. Strategic Command released this statement on Twitter in April 2021: 

“The spectrum of conflict today is neither linear nor predictable. We must account for the possibility of conflict leading to conditions which could very rapidly drive an adversary to consider nuclear use as their least bad option.”

Connor is the owner of, a Texas company that offers radiation monitoring equipment, including calibrated instruments that the federal government discarded when the Cold War civil defense program was terminated.

The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons is published by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), a national organization representing physicians in all specialties since 1943. Connor’s article is based on a talk he gave at the 38th annual meeting of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness

Contact: Shane Connor, [email protected], , or Jane M. Orient, M.D., (520) 323-3110, [email protected]

SOURCE Physicians for Civil Defense

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