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40 Frequently Asked Questions About Nuclear Disasters and Their Answers

Such warheads fall under a specific category of missiles. The Encyclopedia Brittanica defines these incredibly powerful weapons as such, “A device designed to release energy in an explosive manner as a result of nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, or a combination of the two processes. Fission weapons are commonly referred to as atomic bombs. Fusion weapons are also referred to as thermonuclear bombs or, more commonly, hydrogen bombs; they are usually defined as nuclear weapons in which at least a portion of the energy is released by nuclear fusion.”

The United Nations defines such weapons a little differently, choosing to define them based on their destructive potential, not their technical characteristics. “Nuclear weapons are the most dangerous weapons on Earth. One can destroy a whole city, potentially killing millions, and jeopardizing the natural environment and lives of future generations through its long-term catastrophic effects.”

Such warheads vary greatly in size, depending on the “yield” (destructive potential) of the bomb. Such such missiles are small enough to be launched from an automobile-based artillery or even a human-carried rocket launcher. Others are so large they must be launched from a battleship, submarine, or airplane.

Following are ten quick-read emergency tips for what to do if you find yourself in or near the target of an imminent nuclear strike. Print these out, laminate them, and hang these instructions up somewhere visible in your home and office. Make sure your family members, co-workers, and friends read the sheet, and inform them where you will be posting the sheet. Keep a laminated sheet in your automobile glove compartment as well:

  • Get inside the nearest building to avoid radiation/fallout.
  • If outside during a blast, get inside and remove radiation-contaminated clothing.
  • Wipe off or wash unprotected skin with clean water. Do not use disinfectant wipes.
  • Go to the basement or middle of the building.
  • Stay inside for at least 24 hours or until local authorities provide further instructions.
  • Do NOT go outside during or after an explosion.
  • Do NOT reunite with family until at least 24 hours after the explosion.
  • Tune into cell phone emergency alerts, radio, or T.V. to get official information on the blast.
  • Stay away from windows. This will help protect you from the blast, heat, and radiation.
  • If you are outdoors during the blast, take cover behind anything that might provide protection.

It might seem like common knowledge, but one's likelihood of surviving such a strike depends almost entirely on their proximity to the strike. The above tips can help improve survivability, but no matter how one responds to a strike site, the further one is from the blast site, the better their odds of surviving.

This is a difficult question to answer, as wind can carry the fallout of a blast in any direction, making it so that there is essentially no reasonable distance from a detonation that is “safe.” Furthermore, the size of the detonation is also a critical factor. Not all warheads carry the same payload. As a general rule, one should be several miles away from a detonation, ideally ten miles or more, to consider themselves safe, and even then, the further away, the better.


The blast radius of such a bomb depends entirely on the size and magnitude of the individual warhead. Most blast radiuses are still considered dangerous from three to ten miles out from the blast site.

They come in different shapes and sizes, but they look like missiles or rockets, often times being indiscernible from non-nuclear rockets or missiles. For the warheads with a much larger payload, the sheer size of them tends to be the giveaway that they are atomic or hydrogen bombs.

Such explosions are extremely hot. At the core of the explosion, one can expect to find temps upwards of about 100,000,000° Celsius, or between 50 million and 150 million degrees Fahrenheit.

Let's take a look at which countries have built and now maintain a stockpile of such weapons. Keep in mind that the very existence of these weapons increases the risk for a first strike, which is why people who live in nuclear-armed countries bear the greatest responsibility for convincing their governments to draw down their world-ending armaments.

Furthermore, people who live in countries that do not have weapons of this kind must insist that their governments never procure or build them.

Keep in mind that not all nukes are created equal, so a country's number of such weapons is not necessarily suggestive that it has a more powerful arsenal than a country that might have fewer weapons. For example, Russia technically has more nukes than the United States, but American warheads are far more advanced, efficient, destructive, and technologically superior than most Russian nuclear armaments. The nuclear-armed nations are as follows:

#1). Russia. With 6,375 weapons, Russia has the most nukes of any country in the world.

#2). The United States. With 5,800 weapons, the U.S. has the 2nd most nukes.

#3). China. China has 320 such weapons.

#4). France. The French government has access to 290 such weapons.

#5). The United Kingdom. The U.K. has 215 such weapons at its disposal.

#6). Pakistan. Pakistan is a nuclear power with 160 such weapons.

#7). India. India is armed with 150 such weapons.

#8). Israel. Israel maintains an arsenal of 90 weapons.

#9). North Korea. North Korea has approximately 30 to 50 such weapons.

Citizens of the above countries should do their part in reducing danger by insisting that their governments deescalate tensions and decommission/disarm their armaments.

They are more or less the same thing. An atomic bomb is a nuclear bomb. There are two types of bombs of this kind: atom bombs and hydrogen bombs. Nuclear bombs that rely on nuclear fission are called atom bombs, whereas nuclear bombs that rely on fusion are called hydrogen bombs. A nuclear bomb works via atomic fission or fusion. When an atom bomb absorbs a neutron and fissions into two new atoms, it releases three new neutrons and some binding energy. The process continues, causing a nuclear chain reaction and resulting explosion.

Where one is located and how far they are from ground zero of a blast are crucial factors in determining one's odds of surviving a nuclear strike. There are a couple of key, very quick, yet very important things to do when a warhead is en route. Following these steps will greatly improve one's odds of surviving.

As one author put it, “Go inside a strong building, move toward its center, and shelter away from windows, doors, and exterior walls to best protect yourself. Avoid radioactive fallout that arrives minutes later by staying indoors, ideally below-ground in a basement.”

The damage caused by even just one strike of this kind is extreme. From the initial blast, destruction of buildings and infrastructure, deaths from injuries, radiation poisoning, fallout deaths, and long-term effects and deaths from radiation-induced cancer and other harms, just one strike has the potential to exert a human loss of life in the millions. It is the most destructive force mankind currently has at its disposal.

And even worse still, a nuclear war in which multiple superpowers engage in strikes would have a death toll in the hundreds of millions, possibly in the billions, depending on the targets chosen during the war. (And that's not taking into account the nuclear winter and fallout that would ensue, which would likely spell the end for the human race).

It’s not likely. However, several warheads launched at strategic areas throughout a state could effectively destroy the state and virtually all those living there.

This is a myth. If you are in any way close to a blast, a fridge will not protect you from it. Better to put as much distance as possible between you and the blast. And if you don’t have time to do that, seek shelter inside the first floor or basement of a building, preferably a strong, sturdy building.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, “Detonating nuclear weapons above ground sends radioactive materials as high as 50 miles into the atmosphere. Large particles fall to the ground near the explosion-site, but lighter particles and gases travel into the upper atmosphere. The particles that are swept up into the atmosphere and fall back down to Earth are called fallout. Fallout can circulate around the world for years until it gradually falls down to Earth or is brought back to the surface by precipitation. The path of the fallout depends on wind and weather patterns.”

As one expert puts it, “An atomic bomb uses either uranium or plutonium and relies on fission, a nuclear reaction in which a nucleus or an atom breaks apart into two pieces. To make a hydrogen bomb, one would still need uranium or plutonium as well as two other isotopes of hydrogen, called deuterium and tritium. The hydrogen bomb relies on fusion, the process of taking two separate atoms and putting them together to form a third atom.”

Simply stated, a hydrogen bomb is a more complex and powerful atomic bomb.

Fallout is defined as the residual radioactive material propelled into the upper atmosphere by a blast. That radioactive material "falls out" of the sky following the blast, hence the term. Without going into the math, the fallout can last anywhere from one to five years after a blast.

There are key, rapid response steps that one should take if a warhead is incoming. One should get inside and stay inside. Brick and concrete buildings offer the most protection. Once inside, one should go to the basement or the middle of the building and stay away from outer walls, windows, exterior doors, and the roof. One should stay inside for at least 24 hours or until local authorities say it is safe to venture outside.

The radiation can last for years. The site of a blast should not be revisited or lived in again until radiation experts say it is safe to do so, which could be five years or more.

This cannot be stated enough, but the best protection from such a devastating warhead as this is for them to never be detonated, to begin with. Nuclear war is a unique disaster in that, while it is far worse than hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, and other disasters, such a war is 100% preventable. No one on Planet Earth need ever experience another strike ever again.

Unfortunately, governments across the planet are increasing their proliferation of such weapons in a 21st-century arms race that puts the Cold War to shame. In fact, the human race is quite literally living through another Cold War. The key difference between this one and the Cold War of the late-1900s is that this Cold War has more players (more nuclear-armed nations than in the 1900s). And this Cold War is not reported on or discussed nearly as much as the 20th century Cold War was.

That is why Americans and citizens of other countries must speak up and demand that their governments deescalate and draw down their stockpiles of weapons. At the time of the writing, just the United States alone possesses enough weapons to vaporize every human being on the Earth, several times over. No government should hold that type of world-ending power. The only way to guarantee that such a war never occurs is to permanently disarm the weapons by which that war would be fought. Citizens of nuclear powers must demand that their governments decommission their arsenals. The fate of the human race depends on it.

No. But several bombs could. In the following quote, the scientists of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists explain why the doomsday clock has been set to 100 seconds to midnight, “Accelerating nuclear programs in multiple countries moved the world into less stable and manageable territory last year. Development of hypersonic glide vehicles, ballistic missile defenses, and weapons-delivery systems that can flexibly use conventional or nuclear warheads may raise the probability of miscalculation in times of tension. Nuclear nations, however, have ignored or undermined practical and available diplomatic and security tools for managing nuclear risks. By our estimation, the potential for the world to stumble into nuclear war—an ever-present danger over the last 75 years—increased in 2020. An extremely dangerous global failure to address existential threats—what we called ‘the new abnormal’ in 2019—tightened its grip in the nuclear realm in the past year, increasing the likelihood of catastrophe.”

A nuclear bomb has not been used in war since World War II. But the risk of the use of such weapons has gone up gradually since then. While there is no way to know if a nuclear strike will occur in the future, there is no doubt that such a strike (or strikes) would be absolutely devastating.

Yes, it’s possible for such a blast to be so powerful and to strike the ground with such force that it causes a shift in a nearby fault line, which could then result in an earthquake.

It was the American astronomer, planetary scientist, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, and science communicator Carl Sagan who said, “The nuclear arms race is like two sworn enemies standing waist deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five.” Sagan uses a vivid analogy to depict the sheer and utter folly of these weapons, their escalation, and potential war. Those who live in nations whose governments possess such weapons would do well to remember those words today.

Drawing from that imagery, it’s important to recognize that while the human race would survive one strike, our species would probably not survive a full-out nuclear war between the superpowers. In fact, just one of the bigger superpowers like the U.S. or Russia have enough missiles to destroy all human life on Earth. That’s why surviving such a war must be about preventing such a war from ever occurring.

The big question on everyone's mind is this. Will there be a nuclear war within our lifetimes and how do we prepare for it?

Several institutions monitor and measure risk factors for war. One of the most reputable of these is the Bulletin of Atomic Sciences. The Bulletin was founded in 1945 by Albert Einstein and the University of Chicago scientists who helped develop the first atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project.

The Bulletin created the Doomsday Clock in 1947. Quoting their definition of the clock, “The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists created the Doomsday Clock, using the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero) to convey threats to humanity and the planet. The Doomsday Clock is set every year by the Bulletin's Science and Security Board in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 13 Nobel laureates. The Clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world's vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and disruptive technologies in other domains.” The Doomsday Clock is the most accurate tool by which the human race can assess risks for nuclear warfare. At the time of this writing, the clock is set at 100 seconds to midnight, the closest it has ever been to midnight since 1947.

According to National Security Council analysts, the U.S. cities most at risk for a strike are the following:

  • New York City
  • Chicago
  • Houston
  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • Washington, D.C.

But this is a very limited list. Truthfully, any major urban area is considered a target for a strike. The brutal and sad truth is that the purpose of these weapons is to exert a death toll as high as possible, hence the targeting of dense urban areas, not rural areas.

According to the New York State Department of Health, “A dirty bomb, or radiological dispersion device, is a bomb that combines conventional explosives, such as dynamite, with radioactive materials in the solid, liquid, or gaseous form. A dirty bomb is intended to disperse radioactive material into a small, localized area around an explosion. The main purpose of a dirty bomb is to frighten people and contaminate buildings or land.”

Wait at least 24 hours before going outside after an explosion. And even then, if you don’t have to go outside (for example, to seek medical treatment or supplies) it is a good idea to shelter indoors until local authorities say it is safe to venture outside.

A strike is almost instantaneous, which is part of why they are so deadly. A city would typically only have a few minutes warning of an impending strike, and once a strike occurs, the explosion of the bomb is instantaneous.

Most likely, yes. The grid will almost certainly go out, and most vehicles that have electronic systems will also fail.

Yes. A good air filtration systems is one of the best defenses against fallout, as it prevents the radiation from getting into your home.

It's okay to consume food that was already in your home, but don't consume food that was outside or anywhere near the blast.

The best place to take shelter is in a brick or concrete building, preferably in the center of the structure on the ground floor or in the basement.

Symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Dizziness and disorientation
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Bloody vomit and stools from internal bleeding
  • Infections
  • Low blood pressure

It’s important to start treating radiation sickness right away. The Mayo Clinic has published findings indicating that Potassium iodide (ThyroShield, Iosat), Prussian blue (Radiogardase), and Diethylenetriamine pentaacetic acid (DTPA) are essential treatments for radiation exposure. And beyond that, there are immediate treatments you can do. Quoting Mayo Clinic physicians, “Decontamination involves removing external radioactive particles. Removing clothing and shoes eliminates about 90 percent of external contamination. Gently washing with water and soap removes additional radiation particles from the skin. Decontamination prevents radioactive materials from spreading more. It also lowers the risk of internal contamination from inhalation, ingestion or open wounds.”

This depends entirely on how close you are to the blast. As a general rule, do not go outside within 24 hours of a blast. Stay inside longer if you can. Radiation contamination can start instantly when you step outside if you come outdoors too soon.

Depending on the severity of the blast, a blast site could continue to be a radiation hazard for 1 to 5 years.

There have only been two incidences in human history when these weapons were used in combat. These were during World War II when the cities of Hiroshima (August 6th, 1945) and Nagasaki (August 9th, 1945) were bombed.

The bomb (called "Little Boy") that the U.S. denoted over Hiroshima released a force of energy equivalent to 15 kilotons of TNT. It destroyed 50,000 buildings, with the initial blast killing approximately 60,000 to 80,000 people. Another approximately 60,000 people died in the aftermath of the bomb, mostly from radiation poisoning and other injuries.

The bomb (called "Fat Man") that the U.S. detonated over Nagasaki released a force of energy equivalent to 20 kilotons of TNT. It destroyed 60% of the buildings in the city, with the initial blast killing approximately 40,000 people. Another 35,000 died in the days following, due to injuries and radiation poisoning.

Many victims of the two bomb strikes died years later. Some estimates suggest 62,000 people in Hiroshima died in the years following the bombing, primarily from cancer caused by radiation exposure. The total death toll from the attacks is estimated at well over 200,000.

The key difference between a strike and other disaster events (like hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, earthquakes, etc.) is that strikes are completely and entirely caused by human intervention and action. In contrast, most other disasters are caused by nature (with some human interference/contribution). Prevention comes from activism and demanding that governments which control such warheads dismantle them and draw down their arsenals.

As a general rule of thumb, the more material you can put between you and the blast, the better. Brick and concrete homes with thick walls, sturdy roofs, plenty of insulation, and shatterproof windows offer the best defense against fallout.

This depends on the size of the bomb and where it’s detonated. Such warheads can destroy entire cities and kill hundreds of thousands of people, possibly millions of people, with just one strike.

This phenomenon is best explained by experts in the field of radiation and the atomic sciences. According to the Atomic Archives, “Fallout is the radioactive particles that fall to earth as a result of a nuclear explosion. It consists of weapon debris, fission products, and, in the case of a ground burst, radiated soil. Fallout particles vary in size from thousandths of a millimeter to several millimeters. Much of this material falls directly back down close to ground zero within several minutes after the explosion, but some travels high into the atmosphere. This material will be dispersed over the earth during the following hours, days, (and) months. Fallout is defined as one of two types: early fallout, within the first 24 hours after an explosion, or delayed fallout, which occurs days or years later."


Sources:

https://thebulletin.org/doomsday-clock/current-time/

https://www.newsweek.com/how-many-people-died-hiroshima-nagasaki-japan-second-world-war-1522276#

https://www.atomicarchive.com/resources/documents/med/med_chp10.html

https://www.cnbctv18.com/photos/world/countries-with-the-most-nuclear-weapons-us-is-not-number-1-china-adds-30-warheads-within-a-year-7525831.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_warfare#Atomic_bombings_of_Hiroshima_and_Nagasaki

https://thebulletin.org/2020/08/counting-the-dead-at-hiroshima-and-nagasaki/

https://www.un.org/disarmament/wmd/nuclear/

https://www.atomicheritage.org/history/science-behind-atom-bomb#

https://www.nap.edu/read/11282/chapter/8#78

https://documents.uow.edu.au/~bmartin/pubs/82cab/#

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/what-is-the-difference-between-an-atomic-and-a-nuclear-bomb/articleshow/1345040.cms

https://www.businessinsider.com/nuclear-bomb-targets-cities-us-disaster-plan-2019-12

https://www.remm.nlm.gov/zones_nucleardetonation.htm

https://www.epa.gov/radtown/radioactive-fallout-nuclear-weapons-testing

https://time.com/4954082/hydrogen-bomb-atomic-bomb/

https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/emergency/dirty_bombs.htm

https://www.atomicarchive.com/science/effects/radioactive-fallout.html

40 Frequently Asked Questions About Pandemics and Their Answers

While the term "pandemic" may be thrown around quite a bit and used to refer to a number of different events (like a "pandemic" of mortgage lending leading up to the 2008 housing crisis), this is actually a very specific medical term. According to the World Health Organization, “A pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease. A pandemic occurs when a new virus emerges and spreads around the world, and most people do not have immunity. Viruses that have caused past pandemics typically originated from animal viruses.”

One's chances of surviving a pandemic are highest when they adequately prepare for one and when they know how to respond to a pandemic, should one occur. Most deaths that occur during such an event are preventable. While this is a sad truth, it does afford a silver lining in that, if most deaths are preventable, having the right knowledge about pandemics improves one's odds of preventing those deaths.

Put as simply as possible; a pandemic is an outbreak of illness of global proportions. Such events occur when infection due to a bacteria or virus becomes capable of spreading widely and rapidly. Pandemics form when a contagious illness spreads from person to person faster than public health responses can contain that spread.

Another one to consider is “outbreak.” And while these terms are similar, they do have distinct differences. Here are the definitions:

  • A pandemic is an epidemic that has spread over multiple countries or continents. It is a far-reaching public health crisis.
  • An epidemic refers to a disease that affects many people within a specific community, population, or region.
  • An outbreak refers to a (usually) sudden increase in the number of cases of a disease in a single area. An outbreak is a public health emergency because it can become an epidemic if it is not quickly controlled.

The last global pandemic, at the time of this writing, is the one that is still ongoing, the COVID-19 pandemic, which began in late-2019.

One could create a very long list of things to stock up on, depending on their own tastes and preferences. One health group lists the following foodstuffs as being good items for staying well-fed while social distancing at home:

  • Healthy cooking oils, such as canola or olive oil.
  • Balsamic vinegar, for flavor.
  • They last longer than many cold-storage foods.
  • Consider shelf-stable milk or nondairy milk.
  • Family packs of lean meat, fish and chicken. Separate these into smaller portions and freeze until needed.
  • Fresh produce with a longer shelf life. Try options like oranges, apples and broccoli.
  • Canned or boxed broth.
  • Canned tomatoes or tomato sauce.
  • Dried fruit for snacks.
  • Canned fruits and vegetables. Choose fruit packed in its own juice, not syrup. And pick canned vegetables labeled as low- or no-sodium.
  • Canned beans for protein. Low-sodium is a healthy choice here too.
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables. Choose frozen veggies without added sauces.
  • Dried pasta (preferably whole wheat).
  • Brown rice.
  • Hot cereals like plain oatmeal.
  • Dry cereal or granola.
  • Hard, aged cheeses.
  • Protein or fruit bars.
  • Peanut butter.
  • A variety of dried herbs and spices.
  • Food for infants, if needed.

Pandemics are simply major diseases and illnesses which become global, and such diseases and illnesses appear in the form of outbreaks every year. This means that there is the potential for pandemics every year. Thankfully, public health measures are usually effective in preventing such events, though they do happen every few years, with very severe events occurring every few decades.

Yes. As touched on earlier, pandemics can be the worst type of natural disaster known to man because it is one of the only if not the only disaster event that threatens the entire human race as a whole. If a particularly contagious and highly dangerous virus was released into the human population, there is a chance it could kill off most humans before public health experts would be able to formulate a vaccine or treatment for the virus. The key difference between a pandemic and other disease events is that a pandemic is global. Disease events can cause serious harm in isolated regions, but that harm does not spread outwards and into the general population if the disease spread is contained. A pandemic is the worst type of disease event because it denotes a serious illness that has spread across the entire planet.

The Covid-19 pandemic is undoubtedly the most-talked-about pandemic in modern American history, but there have been others. Most notably was the Spanish Influenza of 1918 and 1919, in which about 675,000 people died, or almost 1% of the entire world population at the time.

Another pandemic that caused immense harm in the United States was the Polio outbreak and pandemic. This crisis was very difficult to get rid of, and it ebbed and flowed between 1916 and 1955. It claimed about 3,145 lives. While the death toll was not that high, thousands upon thousands of Americans, especially young people, were permanently paralyzed by the outbreak.

The H2N2 flu was another serious pandemic. It started in Singapore and came to the U.S., appearing in coastal cities in the summer of 1957. About 116,000 people died from it in the United States, and global deaths were estimated at 1.1 million.

Pandemics have occurred throughout history. For as long as humans have inhabited this Earth, pandemics have existed. That's why it's worthwhile to remember that the next pandemic is not a matter of if... but when.

The most effective ways to stop a pandemic are through public health measures like social distancing, masking, vaccinations, practicing good hygiene, proper diet, sufficient sleep, and other activities that boost one's individual health and immune response while reducing contact with others.

Such a term simply refers to a major health crisis that requires a population to observe public health guidelines. It is a health crisis so significant that the cooperation of an entire population is needed to end the crisis.

No. They actually occur far more often than that. It is just coincidental that two of the worst health crises, the COVID-19 crisis and the Spanish Influenza, occurred almost exactly 100 years apart.

By person-to-person contact, or by humans touching or coming into contact with things that infected humans had previously touched or come into contact with.

Not technically, no. Though the effects of smallpox were devastating in the United States, when the outbreaks were occurring, they were largely occurring before international travel was a major, daily event. So most smallpox outbreaks just ended up being localized epidemics.

This brings up a point worth mentioning. The reason why most pandemics have occurred within the last 150 to 200 years is because such a health crisis involves the entire world experiencing the crisis, something that has only been able to realistically occur in the last two centuries (due to the modernization of international travel).

This subject has been disputed for some time now. Quoting one article, “HIV/AIDS, or human immunodeficiency virus, is considered by some authors a global pandemic. However, the WHO currently uses the term 'global epidemic' to describe HIV. As of 2018, approximately 37.9 million people are infected with HIV globally. There were about 770,000 deaths from AIDS in 2018. The 2015 Global Burden of Disease Study,  in a report published in The Lancet estimated that the global incidence of HIV infection peaked in 1997 at 3.3 million per year. Global incidence fell rapidly from 1997 to 2005, to about 2.6 million per year, but remained stable from 2005 to 2015.”

Though this event technically does fit better under the “epidemic” title, there is no doubting that this health crisis was excruciating. According to one resource, “The Black Death was a devastating global epidemic of bubonic plague that struck Europe and Asia in the mid-1300s. The plague arrived in Europe in October 1347, when 12 ships from the Black Sea docked at the Sicilian port of Messina. People gathered on the docks were met with a horrifying surprise: Most sailors aboard the ships were dead, and those still alive were gravely ill and covered in black boils that oozed blood and pus. Sicilian authorities hastily ordered the fleet of “death ships” out of the harbor, but it was too late: Over the next five years, the Black Death would kill more than 20 million people in Europe—almost one-third of the continent’s population.

Such a disaster involves the rapid spread of a contagious disease that can be fatal. Such events are terrifying, because if public health measures are not successful in containing and eradicating the illness, it could lead to the end of the human race.

Such illnesses begin with a human coming into contact with a bacteria, virus, germ, or pathogen of some kind. This occasionally occurs by the bacteria jumping from a host body of an animal to the human, or it can occur by a human coming into contact with a contaminated surface, a contaminated liquid, a germ in the air, etc.

The best way to prepare for such an event is to practice good hygiene and to be in great health. Even the most ruthless of communicable diseases tend not to be as effective against people who are very healthy. Practicing good health measures in one's home and following public health guidelines (and encouraging others to do the same) can be effective at preventing the spread of illness.

After a crisis like this comes to pass due to some form of herd immunity, life will likely return to normal, though the recovery period for all aspects of day-to-day life may be a long one.

Following are ten emergency tips for what to do if you find yourself in an environment with an active pandemic:

  1. Avoid airports and public transportation.
  2. Stay away from heavily crowded areas, such as malls, schools, churches, city centers, etc.
  3. Get into the right protective gear, including coveralls, face masks, gloves, eye protection, etc.
  4. Procure and use antibacterial products. Keeping the hands clean during a pandemic is essential.
  5. Clean your environment frequently. Regular disinfection helps prevent contamination.
  6. If you begin to feel ill, seek medical help immediately. Please don't put it off.
  7. Do NOT visit family and friends during a pandemic.
  8. Keep to yourself and your immediate family bubble as much as possible. Avoid contact.
  9. Stock up on essential supplies. The less you have to go out and be around people, the better.
  10. Isolate, isolate, isolate. Stay indoors as much as possible and away from your neighbors.

A pandemic is a unique natural disaster in that it is almost guaranteed you and your family will survive if you simply eliminate all contact with other humans. Unlike other disasters that are entirely nature-based, pandemics can only exist with the human component. If you and your family can isolate yourselves from others, you stand a high chance of surviving the crisis.

Yes. Most experts agree that, while our capacities for battling such events are improving, major disease events are getting much worse very quickly.

A pandemic is never just a "one time" event. Once a new virus or pathogen introduces itself into the human population, it will likely make a comeback, even after it appears to recede. With that being said, most pandemics come in waves, meaning they appear and "disappear" about two or three times over the course of one to two years.

Such events can lead to widespread problems including mass deaths, illness, economic shutdown, infrastructure failure, joblessness, poverty, premature deaths, serious societal harm, increased crime, reduced educational attainment, problems with international relations, etc.

Pandemics can reach as far as wherever humans live. For example, consider Covid-19, arguably the worst pandemic to strike the United States since the Spanish Influenza of the early-1900s. Covid-19 not only reached every single country on Planet Earth, but there were even Covid-19 cases in Antarctica!

That depends entirely on how contagious the virus is. In the case of Covid-19 and its variants, because the virus was especially contagious, the pandemic spread very quickly. The outbreak started in Wuhan, China. But despite the efforts of governments across the planet to prevent spread, Covid-19 had made its way into several countries in a matter of weeks, dozens of countries within a matter of months, and the entire planet in less than a year.

Densely populated urban areas are always at the highest risk for viral spread. The most densely populated cities in the U.S. are:

  • New York
  • San Francisco
  • Boston
  • Miami
  • Chicago
  • Philadelphia
  • Washington, DC
  • Long Beach
  • Seattle
  • Los Angeles

And the most densely populated states/territories/districts in the U.S. are:

  • New Jersey
  • Puerto Rico
  • Rhode Island
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • Delaware
  • New York
  • Florida
  • Pennsylvania
  • Ohio

Yes. Even if a significant percentage of a population becomes inoculated against a particular virus, a pandemic can resurge and come back. If herd immunity is not achieved, a population is always at risk for a reappearance of a virus and a resulting pandemic. The Mayo Clinic defines herd immunity as such, “Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community (the herd) becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. As a result, the whole community becomes protected — not just those who are immune.”

Pandemics are more likely to occur when unsanitary conditions are prevalent and when people in an environment are not following basic public health and hygiene practices. Pandemics are also more likely when people are not taking care of their health. As it turns out, common-sense strategies like good hygiene, practicing good health, taking care of one's immune system, following public health protocols, and maintaining sanitized homes, businesses, and restaurants all go a long way towards preventing pandemics.

There is a long but important answer to this question that cites meticulous research done by an international coalition of virologists.

The big question on everyone's mind is this. Are pandemics going to become more common in future years? The hard answer is yes. According to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, there are five, key points that will undoubtedly make pandemics more common (and more serious) in the future:

Global Travel.

  • "In 2020, people in many countries around the world are almost as used to hopping on an international flight as they are catching a bus or a train to another city. Air travel makes it possible for someone to travel halfway across the globe in less time than it takes for many diseases to incubate, making it extremely difficult to prevent their spread. In 1990, 1 billion people travelled by air, a number that more than quadrupled to 4.2 billion by 2018."

Urbanization.

  • "In 1950, roughly two-thirds of the world lived in rural settings, and the rest in urban dwellings. By 2050 the UN predicts this will have reversed, with 66% of people living in urbanized settings in which infectious diseases can thrive, without adequate health systems that can deal with these threats."

Climate Change.

  • "Between 2030 and 2050, climate change will kill an additional quarter of a million people a year through the spread of infectious diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. An increasing risk of flooding, which can be brought about by more frequent extreme weather events, also means that outbreaks of waterborne diseases, like cholera and other diarrheal diseases, are also much more likely. And climate change is also radically changing where people live, with climate shock events resulting in significant human displacement, often leading to populations moving into already-crowded cities or sometimes crossing borders into other countries. This can trigger conflict and an increase in the number of people living in refugee camps, where infectious disease epidemics can spiral out of control."

Increased Human-Animal Contact.

  • "The way in which people and animals come into contact today is significantly increasing the risk of outbreaks of zoonotic diseases – those that originate in animals. When pathogens jump the species barrier, from animals to humans, their ability to spread and the severity of the disease they cause is a potentially lethal unknown."

Health Worker Shortages.

  • "The constant migration of nurses from low- and middle-income countries to high-income countries has left many nations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America with too few nurses and other health workers to adequately care for their populations. These are also the regions where epidemic diseases, with the potential to become pandemics, are most likely to originate."

If you are going to be in close proximity with others, wear a face mask. If you're going to be touching high-contact items, such as while on public transit, wear gloves and do not touch your skin with your gloved hands. When you get home, take your shoes off and leave them outside. Spray them with disinfectant.

Use a spray or wipe disinfectant on the parts of your car that you would touch frequently. Drive with the air on and make sure your airflow settings are adjusted so that fresh air is being brought into the car. Try to reduce having other people in the car with you.

Clean and sanitize the following, high-touch areas:

  • Children’s areas
  • Doorknobs
  • Stair rails
  • Countertops
  • Faucets
  • Phones
  • Desktops
  • Tables
  • Chair arms
  • End tables
  • Personal electronic devices
  • Keys
  • Credit cards
  • Tablets
  • Remote controls
  • Keyboards
  • Pens

Other ways to sanitize the home include doing laundry frequently, cleaning the floors often, sanitizing the bathroom and kitchen more frequently than usual, and airing the house out often (opening the windows, running fans, increasing airflow, etc.)

  Follow a similar protocol as you would when sanitizing your home. Disinfect commonly touched surfaces, clean the floors frequently, ensure sufficient air flow and filtration, etc.

That depends entirely on the type of pandemic. Not all disinfectants will be effective against all germs and bacteria. Basic household disinfectants like hydrogen peroxide are almost always sufficient, but be sure to check with local health officials to see if there is a specialty disinfectant that you should use for the specific pandemic you are in.


Sanitize these items frequently, and do not touch them with your bare skin if you can avoid it.

If you are a civilian, you should ensure that you have disposable face masks and disposable gloves. A face shield can also help prevent infection. If you are a medical expert or first responder, you should ensure that you have full PPE to cover and protect your entire body.

Any germ, virus, or bacteria that can be transmitted from one human to the next has the potential of causing a pandemic.

Avoid any and all activities that involve gatherings of people. This includes sporting events, movie theaters, shopping malls, rallies, college or school events, club meetings, etc. The goal must be one of reducing human contact as much as possible.

One of the best ways to stay healthy and well during a pandemic is to maintain great hygiene. Wash your hands when you're engaged in the following:

  • Blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • Using the bathroom
  • Before and after food preparation
  • Before and after eating
  • Before and after caring for an ill person
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After handling garbage
  • After touching an animal

Use soap and hot water when you wash your hands. Scrub them thoroughly for at least twenty seconds. Use a clean towel to dry them.

Use hand sanitizers often. Not a substitute for hand washing, but they do help to prevent the spread of infection.

Another good personal hygiene practice is to limit or eliminate the sharing of personal items. Don't share utensils, drinking glasses, dishes, bedding, towels, combs, brushes, razors, and other personal items.

Avoid hand-to-face contact. Get into the habit of refraining from touching your face.

Cover coughs and sneezes to prevent the spread of germs, and avoid contact with those who are ill. Insist those who are ill self-isolate themselves.

If you are sick, you should quarantine. If someone else is sick, they should quarantine. If you have come into contact with someone who is sick or someone else has come into contact with you while you are sick, you should both quarantine.

Do's:

  • Do use a tissue or an elbow when you sneeze or cough.
  • Do leave your shoes outside before entering your home.
  • Do throw away gloves and masks after every use.
  • Do disinfect everyday-use items.
  • Do wear a mask when you're around other people, and maintain a distance of six feet.
  • Do say hi and be friendly to people. Hard times are best lived through with solidarity and kindness to others.

Don'ts:

  • Don't share utensils with others.
  • Don't share towels or other personal items.
  • Don't use cleaning products with alcohol content over 90% (the alcohol will evaporate before it kills viruses.
  • Don't go to work, school, or out in public when you are sick.
  • Do not touch other people unless you absolutely have to.

25 Frequently Asked Questions About Cold Snaps and Their Answers

When we think of natural disasters, we usually think of serious, breaking-news crisis-level events like hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes, etc. But these are not the only natural disasters that pose a serious risk to people living in the United States and across the world. Other disasters can occur in the form of more sinister, less obvious natural events, like a sudden and serious change in temperature.

A cold wave can be caused by various factors, from atmospheric conditions to ocean currents. To take a recent incidence from January 2020, the air in the atmosphere above the Arctic warmed suddenly. It caused a weakening of the polar vortex (the collection of winds that keep cold air at the North Pole). This weakening allowed cold winds to spill into regions of Asia, North America, and Europe. The deep freeze that spread across the southern U.S. put 157 million Americans under severe winter storm warnings, and it shut down much of the power grid in Texas.

The following states are most at risk for deep freezes, cold snaps, and other serious winter weather events. Bear in mind though, such events can technically occur anywhere in the United States. The following states are just where they occur most often:

  • Alaska
  • North Dakota
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • Wyoming
  • Montana
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin
  • New Hampshire
  • Idaho
  • Michigan

It really depends on the specific weather event, where it occurs, and what time of year it occurs, but a cold spell can last anywhere from a few hours to several days. Several factors contribute to how long such a cold weather event lingers.

Different factors contribute to what temperatures constitute a cold snap or deep freeze. For example, wind chill, (the sensation of colder weather as a result of wind speeds moving over the ground during cold temperatures), can greatly influence a cold snap. But generally speaking, the temperatures range between 28F and -20F during cold snaps.


Such events put humans at risk for experiencing hypothermia, a life-threatening emergency medical condition. Such events cause serious harm. When the temperatures drop low enough, machines stop working, including personal automobiles, snowplows, airplanes, trains, and even power plants. Deep freezes can also seriously disrupt agriculture.

The primary difference with these freezing weather events is their extreme and unusual characteristics. A cold wave denotes a temperature drop that is extreme and unusual for that geographic area, hence the abundant risk factors.

While it would seem that a warming planet would lead to fewer deep freezes and cold snaps, the opposite may be true. Some scientists suggest that melting polar ice caps and a warming Arctic and Antarctic regions will drastically change jet streams. The result? Severe weather like cold snaps, deep freezes, frosts, etc.

Deep freezes are not discussed as often as other natural disasters. And that's mainly because they are not as newsworthy or eye-opening as hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, or tsunamis. But they are no less dangerous. Deep freezes, also called cold waves, cold snaps, cold spells, and cold wave disasters can be extremely harmful if one does not prepare for them.

Also called a "hard freeze," a deep freeze is delineated by the National Weather Service as, “A hard freeze is possible when temperatures fall below 28°F.” Simply stated, cold snaps, cold waves, and cold spells all refer to the same event as a deep freeze, i.e., a serious and life-threatening drop in temperature.

It certainly can. According to the National Weather Service, “Exposure to cold can cause frostbite or hypothermia and become life-threatening. Infants and elderly people are most susceptible. What constitutes extreme cold varies in different parts of the country. In the southern U. S., near freezing temperatures are considered extreme cold. Freezing temperatures can cause severe damage to citrus fruit crops and other vegetation. Pipes may freeze and burst in homes that are poorly insulated or without heat. In the north, extreme cold means temperatures well below zero.”

Here are some tips to follow if you find yourself caught in a serious cold air outbreak:

  • For a deep freeze, wear layers on top of layers on top of layers! The more warm clothes, the better.
  • Get indoors if possible. Even if the power is out, the building's walls will provide some shelter.
  • Cover as much bare, exposed skin as possible to prevent frostbite.
  • If sheltering in place with multiple people, huddle together to conserve body heat.
  • If stuck outside during a deep freeze, keep moving, and do your best to seek shelter.

The key factor during a cold weather event is the sheer importance of staying warm. Fuel, warm clothes, layers, blankets, the ability to make a fire, food and water for sustenance and caloric burn, heaters, battery-powered devices, generators, all of these items should be kept on-hand as they could be life-saving during a cold wave.

This depends entirely on how much clothing the person is wearing and just how cold the cold snap is. In below-zero Fahrenheit weather, a human who is not properly clothed may only last a few minutes before they get frostbite, and perhaps just a few minutes longer before they start to experience hypothermia. According to one resource, "At minus 30F an otherwise healthy person who isn't properly dressed for the cold could experience hypothermia in as little as 10 minutes. At minus 40 to minus 50F, hypothermia can set in in just 5 to 7 minutes.” Once someone succumbs to hypothermia, they may only have a few minutes before their heart stops.

While these conditions are very similar, there are distinct differences. Quoting a medical authority, “Frostbite is an injury caused by freezing of the skin and underlying tissues. First your skin becomes very cold and red, then numb, hard, and pale. Frostbite is most common on the fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks and chin. Exposed skin in cold, windy weather is most vulnerable to frostbite. But frostbite can occur on skin covered by gloves or other clothing. Frostnip is a milder form of cold injury that doesn’t cause permanent skin damage. You can treat frostnip with first-aid measures, including rewarming the affected skin. All other frostbite requires medical attention because it can damage skin, tissues, muscle and bones. Possible complications of severe frostbite include infection and nerve damage.”

The key to preventing either of these conditions is to ensure that as much skin as possible is covered when going out in very cold weather. While layers are immensely important in surviving cold outdoor temperatures, ensuring all skin is covered is especially critical. Pay particular attention to covering the hands, feet, head, face, and neck.

The first step to treating such conditions involves moving out of the cold environment and into a warmer environment, then removing wet clothing if such is present, then slowly and gradually rewarming the affected area. From the May Clinic, “Check for hypothermia. Get emergency medical help if you suspect hypothermia. Signs of hypothermia include intense shivering, drowsiness, confusion, fumbling hands and slurred speech. Protect your skin from further damage. If there's any chance the affected areas will freeze again, don't thaw them. If they're already thawed, wrap them up so that they don't refreeze. If you're outside, warm frostbitten hands by tucking them into your armpits. Don't rub the affected skin with snow or anything else. And don't walk on frostbitten feet or toes if possible. Get out of the cold. Once you're in a warm space, remove wet clothes and wrap up in a warm blanket. Gently rewarm frostbitten areas. Don't rewarm frostbitten skin with direct heat, such as a stove, heat lamp, fireplace or heating pad. This can cause burns. Drink warm liquids. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate or soup can help warm you from the inside. Don't drink alcohol.”

If you live in an area that is prone to experiencing cold air outbreaks, consider investing in a backup source of power, such as a generator, solar panels, or a wind turbine.

You can eat any food during a cold wave, but warmth-inducing foods like soups, casseroles, oven-baked foods, hot teas, coffees, and cocoas help keep the body warm.

If the car is not operable and you cannot start the car and run the heater, the car will not serve as a significant source of protection for you, as cars are not as well-insulated as most homes are. However, a car does offer more protection from the elements than being fully exposed.

Most people cannot survive if their core body temperature drops below 75 degrees Fahrenheit, which can occur in temperatures below freezing. While such is less likely to occur while in a car (as your own body heat will help to heat the interior of the car) if the outside temperature is extremely cold (single digits or below zero), the car will not save you.

Here’s a quick list of supplies you should have on hand during a severe cold weather event:

  • Water
  • Blankets
  • Flashlights and flares
  • Shovel
  • Tools and supplies
  • First aid kit
  • Warm, waterproof gear
  • Maps and a compass
  • Bivouac sack or space blanket
  • Portable power source
  • Fire-starting tools
  • Multi-tool
  • Non-perishable food
  • Winter car supplies

The main focus has to be on conserving body heat. The two rules of thumb for staying warm and conserving body heat during a severe cold weather event involve wearing plenty of layers and covering as much skin as possible.

Cold wave disasters are caused by the same weather effects as those that cause cold snaps (see below). The only difference is that cold waves are more widespread, they last longer, and they cause more damage. According to one resource, “The damage arising from cold waves is mainly caused by the accompanying effects. Heavy snowfall can give rise to traffic chaos. Fatal accidents can occur if people fail to adapt their driving to road conditions. Ice rain can cause ice fractures in trees and telephone wires. The homeless, people who must spend time outdoors (e.g. for work) and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to the effects of cold waves.”

The science on this is pretty straightforward. Such events are caused by a cooling of the air. According to one body of research, “A cold wave develops when cold air masses over large areas are brought in. This occurs mainly during winter months when cold air masses are transported from the polar region. In those northern areas cold air develops to a large reservoir due to low or even missing solar radiation during short autumn and winter days. Particular weather conditions can transport these air masses as far as Central Europe. The fall of temperature is of the order of 10°C within a few hours. Cold air masses are only slowly moving, therefore, a cold wave will normally last for several days.”

One of the best ways to protect oneself and others from a cold spell is to closely monitor weather reports when conditions indicate excessive heat or cold. There is usually sufficient warning of a cold spell, as predictive weather conditions often manifest themselves clearly in the days leading up to the event. Keeping an eye on the weather channel is a good way to help prepare for a heat wave or a deep freeze.

Here is a term to watch out for:

A frost advisory indicates that the temperature may fall below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas a frost warning suggests it is almost certain that the temperature will fall below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. This would be the time to bring the animals and children inside, make sure you have enough food, water, and fuel, and bring out the warm blankets and layered clothing.

The first priority must be to get out of the cold weather as soon as possible. In addition to that, surviving deep freeze disasters comes down to wearing multiple layers, covering as much of the body as possible, and staying out of the wind.

In most years, between 70 and 100 Americans die from deep freeze weather events. But in particularly extreme cases, dozens of people can die in just one deep freeze (witness Texas's deep freeze event in January 2020, in which over 100 residents froze to death).

The worst deep freeze in modern U.S. history was a combination of a deep freeze and a winter storm. It was the Great Blizzard of 1993 when 40% of the U.S. population was affected by blizzards in 26 states. Millions lost power, all major airports on the East Coast closed down, and four feet of snow blanketed much of the U.S. The storm cost about $8 billion, and 270 people died due to the cold and the storm.

Not surprisingly, animals do tend to be better adjusted to surviving cold temperatures than humans. While a human being would have a hard time sleeping outside in 30 degree Fahrenheit weather conditions, most livestock can withstand this temperature just fine. But below zero Fahrenheit temps are quite dangerous for most animals too.