How do I survive a nuclear disaster?

Although nuclear power stations in the Low Countries are very safe, calamities can always occur that result in a nuclear disaster. Floods, earthquakes or terrorist attacks can cause the release of radioactive material. In such a case, we as citizens must be able to act quickly to ensure that we and our families are not exposed to this radiation. Good preparation, a good plan and quick action after the disaster will be crucial.

What is a nuclear disaster

A nuclear disaster is a nuclear accident in which radioactive material is released, usually in a nuclear power plant. In a very limited radius there will often be an explosion that can injure or kill nuclear power plant workers. However, this is not a concern for those living near a nuclear power plant. However, due to the release of radioactive material, the surrounding civilian population will also be affected, because they will be exposed to radiation. It can be said that a nuclear accident has the same consequences and risks for the population as the fallout after an attack with an atomic bomb.

This will particularly affect people who live in the immediate vicinity of a nuclear power plant. They are advised to take the necessary measures. Because with good preparation and adequate action after the disaster, exposure to radiation can be greatly limited. This can greatly reduce the risk of serious consequences, such as thyroid cancer.


Your chance of survival in a nuclear disaster depends mainly on your preparations. You don’t have to be a convinced prepper to prepare yourself for a nuclear disaster: with a few simple preparations you can save yourself and your family a lot of suffering. Because once the nuclear disaster has actually occurred, you are mainly dependent on yourself and the measures you have taken.

A plan

Most important of all, is to have a plan. Make a plan of your home and identify where you can best retreat in the event of a nuclear disaster. Windowless basements are an ideal hiding place. If you don’t have a basement, identify yourself in a room with as few windows and doors as possible on the lowest floor possible. Review this plan with all your family members and practice it on a regular basis if necessary. Ideally, there is also a toilet/form of sanitary facilities at this location. This way you can easily live in this place for a few days.

Iodine pills

A fundamental threat in a nuclear disaster is the spread of radioactive iodine. By taking iodine pills, we can prevent our thyroid glands from absorbing radioactive iodine, which can later cause thyroid cancer. For this reason, it is best to take iodine pills at home. These iodine pills remain good for a very long time. However, ask the pharmacist whether it is useful to take it. In people over forty years of age, it is sometimes no longer useful to take these pills. In some parts of the country (especially near nuclear power stations) these pills will be distributed free of charge.

Bug-out package

Always have a backpack ready with some food (stable for longer periods), drinks, blankets, adhesive tape and (if applicable) the necessary medication. Always keep a radio or a smartphone/computer near this package to stay informed of the decisions of the government and emergency services in the event of a disaster. Add other useful materials as desired, such as flashlights, matches, first aid kit, animal food. In the event of an evacuation or emergency signal (also other emergencies), you can quickly take this backpack with you and get yourself and your loved ones to safety. It takes a few minutes to prepare, but if there is a real problem, these precious minutes can effectively determine whether you are exposed to serious radiation or not. Make sure that the food is properly wrapped and sealed to prevent it from going bad, but also from radioactive dust landing on it during your flight.

A gas mask can be useful after a nuclear disaster / Source: Jessebridgewater, Pixabay

Gas mask

Do you want to play it safe? Then buy a well-fitting gas mask for each individual in the house. Check whether the filters you purchase are of the NBC or CBRN type. Only these will work for nuclear problems and stop radioactive dust particles. However, gas masks are expensive and you have to ask yourself whether they are worth the money. However, gas masks are very useful for a later flight from home.


Many people think they need very expensive suits to survive a nuclear disaster. However, a disposable coverall (between ten and twenty euros) is sufficient for most people to keep nuclear dust away from their bodies when they have to move after a nuclear disaster. The more expensive suits that provide effective protection against radioactive radiation are good for people who have to search or repair a stricken nuclear power plant and are therefore very close to the radiation source.

Alarm systems

It may be interesting to register yourself with a government alarm system such as BE-Alert or NL-Alert, for Belgium and the Netherlands respectively. This alarm system will warn you of problems, so that no valuable time is lost in the event of any disaster.

After the disaster

Just after a nuclear disaster, you have to take action as quickly as possible. If you can, take your backpack and evacuate your family (including pets) to a shelter in your home as quickly as possible. If you are at work, go there – together with your colleagues – to find a hiding place. Definitely don’t start driving around or walking around outside. The first hours/days after the disaster are the most harmful moments and pose the greatest risk of radiation-related diseases.

Close shelter

Is everyone inside? Close your shelter as best as possible; seal all windows and doors and tape cracks and holes. Go outside as little as possible and certainly do not ventilate the room by opening a window.


Once you have arrived at your shelter, carefully follow the recommendations of the government crisis center. Do not uselessly burden the mobile network and only send important messages to other people. In the event of a disaster, the existing network often becomes overloaded.

Food and drink

Although it is advisable to have food and drinks with you, it is best to consume as little food and drinks as possible. Before eating and drinking, it is best to wash or disinfect your hands thoroughly. Radioactive dust may have landed on your hands/clothes. Check whether the food was packed properly.

Chernobyl had to be completely abandoned after the nuclear disaster in 1986 / Source: Amort1939, Pixabay


As mentioned earlier, one should move as little as possible. When the government indicates that this is in order, people put on their gas mask and disposable overalls/dust suits inside the shelter (if one is available). Drive with as many people as possible in one car to avoid traffic jams and only take the essentials with you. Don’t waste time loading half of your belongings, there may still be radiation hazards or radioactive dust present. Don’t open windows or run the air conditioning when driving around.


Although the chance of a nuclear disaster is very small, you can come up with a limited number of measures and a good plan if it had to happen. Moreover, these preparations do not have to cost a lot of money and time. However, if it did happen, you will never be able to regret it.

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