If you are lucky enough to survive the initial blasts from a nuclear attack, you will likely be forced to loot or scavenge for resources in order to survive. Let’s not kid ourselves.
- There will be no government.
- No assistance or aid is coming.
- The emergency number, 911, will be a joke or footnote in stories we tell our grandchildren.
- We will be on our own.
We already know this will happen, because we’ve seen the government fail in other regional disasters like Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana (2005), Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico (2017), the government neglected Lake Charles, LA after Hurricane Laura hit (2020), and since mid- to late-2020 regional and city governments on the west coast have had chronic difficulties with controlling protesters, or depending on your perspective, rioters and anarchists. Arguably, the government failed in managing the Coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic. These past failures will be minuscule in comparison if the nation suffers a nuclear attack.
Law and order will be nonexistent, and everyone will be looting department stores for chances to improve their wealth. You need to be smart and immediately “shop” to improve your chances of survival. You need to act fast because it won’t take long for people to stop looting for greed, and start looting for need.
This looting list is focused on acquiring supplies for someone who is leaving the cities, and not hunkering down. You should focus on getting out of the cities as soon as possible. Law and order will be nonexistent, the supply chain will disintegrate, and there will be millions of desperate people trying to grab what little resources are left. This is a recipe for disaster and violence. Scavengers will try to break into your home in an attempt to steal your resources, and they may even kill you for what supplies you may have.
Major cities are going to be the worst places to be on the planet, so get the hell out of Dodge!
That may be easier said than done, because not everyone has property outside a city. If you’re fortunate enough to have a vacation house, you already know where your evacuation spot is. If you don’t have additional property, pick a direction and start walking out of the city. You’ll likely hear other people say where they are heading, and you can take your chances with camping out near them.
The sooner you hit the road the better. I’d say you need to leave the city immediately after the attack and only stop to collect supplies. Keep in mind that once supplies run out in the cities, there will be a mass exodus of people trying to reach the newly establish “rural” communities and resettling will be impossible.
Below is a list of supplies I would grab immediately after a nuclear attack… assuming I survived.
This will help your body retain water and replenish electrolytes lost in sweat and urination. You can use this to help temporarily reduce the amount of water your body needs to survive, but only for a short period of time. Nothing can truly replace water for long periods of time when you’re constantly exerting yourself. Be sure to focus on stockpiling the mixes, and not the drinks themselves. You will likely need to walk out of the cities to safety, and you won’t be able to carry gallons of bottled drinks very far. The mixes weigh next to nothing, and you can mix them with clean “fresh” water later.
Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Tylenol, or the store equivalents are always a good idea to have in an emergency. They will never be in stock again, so get the biggest bottle of each, Aspirin will help if you have a heart condition, Ibuprofen & Tylenol will help with inflammation. Plus, you can trade these pills for other items.
Any cold and flu remedy can be priceless should you get sick in the future (and you will get sick). Having a cold and flu remedy will help you be a productive member of whatever society or community you happen to find yourself in.
Rubbing Alcohol or Sanitizer
You need to have a way to clean wounds (which will happen at some point in the future). Rubbing alcohol is best, but you can grab sanitizer as an alternative. Rubbing alcohol can be used as a fire starter of last resort when you reach your destination too. Don’t waste it as a fire starter while travelling, because I’m pretty sure there will be an abundance of fires along your evacuation route.
Guns and ammo will be the first to go, so don’t bother trying to get either. A bow or crossbow kit will do just as fine, but there won’t be many in stock. I’d grab a BB gun and a container of BBs people are going to focus on real guns and will often overlook lesser weapons. You can use the BB gun to hunt small animals… even domesticated animals (pets). Another benefit to having a BB gun is it looks very similar to a real rifle. If you’re lucky, you may be able to trick an attacker into believing you’re armed with a deadly weapon.
A knife will be the most valuable weapon or tool you can get. As a tool, you can use it to craft wood or sticks into spears and primitive arrows. You can use the knife to skin and clean animals you shoot or capture too. As a weapon of last resort, you can slash and stab the knife in an effort to defend yourself.
Please remember that you are trying to get to a safe area to live out the rest of your life. Ideally you should sneak out of the city and to your evacuation zone without drawing much attention to yourself or family. This means that you really don’t want to be a “Rambo” rampaging through the city and countryside. That will only paint a target on you.
However, if you insist on taking your chances at becoming a post-apocalyptic Highway Baron. You will need to be ruthless. You will need to resort to barbarism even worse than was recorded in World War II, you will have to be as ruthless as biblical nations and eliminate all those who stand in your way. All the while making sure your own people don’t turn against you and kill you in your sleep. The ideal person who would fit this role will likely come out of the newly opened, unlocked, and unmanned prisons.
So, good luck with that.
Potassium Iodide (130 mg)
This has been approved to help reduce the absorption of radiation since the 1980s. According to the Wikipedia page related to this chemical (Wikipedia, n.d.), “potassium iodide cannot protect against any other mechanisms of radiation poisoning, nor can it provide any degree of protection against dirty bombs that produce radionuclides other than those of iodine [Iodine-131].” Also, don’t try to get the benefit from eating iodized salt. You’ll poison yourself with the salt before you can get the recommended dose.
Sleeping Bag (Preferably Weatherproof)
A sleeping bag will be essential. You will need a place to sleep so you can stave off exhaustion and bugs or other vermin. Hopefully, you can get your hands on a weatherproof bag, so you don’t have to worry about it getting soaked if it rains. Also, about the rain, you will want to avoid that for the first few days after a nuclear attack since it will be raining fallout. And while we are on the subject, do not drink from rivers or streams for at least a week because that’s where the rain goes on its way to the nearest lake or ocean.
Water Filtering Straw
A water filtering straw will be indispensable and far preferable to bottled water. The most well-known brand is LifeStraw, and they even have a high-volume gravity version. I would grab that, plus as many replacement cartridges and individual straws as I can carry. I previously cautioned against drinking from rivers and streams for at least a week because of fallout, but there are many places that contain water, which may not have been contaminated by radioactive rain like water heaters and toilet tanks (I know, yuck). This straw will help you safely drink from those sources.
Even if it is within the first week after the attack, I would consider using the straw to drink from a large pond or lake (preferably a lake). I read from a government survival manual several years ago (I don’t remember the exact book), that large bodies of water will likely be safe to drink from as the radioactive fallout will likely be very low given the large volume of water inside a lake.
Of course, use your best judgement. You may not want to risk drinking from any body of water if you see an extraordinary number of dead fish floating in the water or washed up on the bank.
I don’t smoke, but I would grab as many cigarettes as I can carry. These are luxury items many people are addicted to. Cigarettes will be worth more than gold once the supply of cigarettes runs out, and smokers will do or trade anything for a few cigs. They weigh next to nothing, so try grabbing as much as you can carry.
Bicycle or Functioning Transportation
The EMP burst from nuclear detonations will fry the computerized components of our cars. They may not be comfortable, but older cars are more likely to still function than any car built in the 21st century.
It’ll be pretty hard to car-shop for a classic car after a nuclear attack, so your best bet at acquiring motorized transportation will either be a motor bike or a simple ATV (3 or 4-wheelers). These are simple mechanically driven machines, and do not rely on a computer to operate. They are very gas efficient and if you are grabbing one of these, be sure to grab a spare gas tank or two. Be sure to get gas as soon as you can… IF the gas pumps even work. If pumps aren’t working, then you may be shit out of luck until you find a way to get some gas. Having a supply of gasoline will always be a problem, but you should have some success siphoning gas out of disabled and abandoned vehicles.
Barring a motorized vehicle, try using a bicycle to get out of the city. Your legs will never permanently run out of power (I apologize in advance if you happen to be paraplegic). You can transport a lot more supplies on a bicycle by hanging things on the handlebars. Even if you get a flat tire, you can still push a bicycle much more easily than a motorcycle or ATV. A bicycle may be the best option because they are easier to repair than any motorized vehicle.
Another thing to consider is a bicycle will move silently down the street. People will be desperate to hitch a ride on an ATV or motorbike, or even steal it from you. You can hear most ATV and motorbikes a mile away, so you don’t want to draw much attention to yourself when everyone else’s car is disabled.
You’d think water would be at the top of my list. Nope! Please recall this article focuses on surviving a nuclear attack, by escaping to a safe location. While water is a very important thing to have in case of emergency, it weighs a lot. If given the choice between water and any sports drink (Gator- Power- aid, etc.), I’d choose the sports drink. The sports drinks will contain electrolytes necessary to function while you are exerting yourself trying to get to safety.
I ride my bike long distances and use a CamelBak on those trips. In a situation like this, I would fill it up with as much water at home and raid a major grocery store for sports drinks, on my way to safety. Take care not to attempt to raid convenience stores, because the owners are almost always armed (with guns) and will defend their inventory. A major grocery store will be operated by employees who do not have a familial stake in the business and will abandon it as soon as they grab all the food, water, toilet paper as they can carry. While at the store, I’d drink as much of the water as I can from my pack and secure a bunch of sports drinks. Then I’d either dump my water or pour as much electrolyte drinks into the pack as it will hold. I’d grab a few extra bottles and some small water bottles as well.
If the store is out of water and sports drinks, try for the electrolyte mixes or even bottled tea. Tea is made out of water. It’s the primary ingredient. You will also reap the additional benefits of some caffeine to help your body get to safety.
Do not get bottled coffee. Yes, it’s main ingredient is water, but coffee has been shown to cause dehydration. It’s a mild laxative too, and may force you to stop to shit somewhere. You may also want to avoid coffee because it typically contains about twice the amount of caffeine as most teas. You will likely be stressed by the attack, and you may be a little dehydrated. Both of these conditions will cause your heartrate to increase dramatically. You don’t need to be drinking something that will increase your heartrate even further.
Red wine has shown some, as in very little, benefit in helping cope with radiation. This can be used to supplement the Potassium iodide, and to drink to celebrate your initial survival. The alcohol will help calm nerves and may serve as a sleeping aide. Drink in moderation as alcoholic drinks will cause dehydration.
Similar to cigarettes, hard liquor is a luxury item many people are addicted to, and you can use it for trade. You can use liquor as medication too. Alcohol in liquor will help calm a person having a panic attack and can help as a sleep aid. It’s not ideal, but liquor can even help sterilize a wound if rubbing alcohol isn’t available.
There are many other items you could consider grabbing in a catastrophic disaster like a nuclear attack. The best thing you can do is be prepared well beforehand by having a stockpile of supplies at your evacuation point, and only rely on scavenging or looting while evacuating to your safe spot. You could even make or buy a preassembled “bugout bag” to save you time (and maybe save your conscience).
I would caution you that looting will be fine immediately after an attack, but theft will quickly become a capital-offense once small communities reorganize to self-govern without a central authority or overarching legal system. The laws and processes we once enjoyed will be replaced with a practical system of justice akin to the “wild west”. If you are caught stealing vital supplies from the community, you will likely be punished severely or even killed.
I personally think the new communities will have a 2-strike system: public flogging on the 1st strike and then hanging on the 2nd strike. Although, it stands to reason these communities may resort to hanging thieves on the first offense to serve as an example to others.
So be sure to keep your newly developed kleptomania in check once you reach your new home.
Here’s a basic list without the explanations describing their importance as survival items.
- Electrolyte Mix
- Pain Killers
- Cold Remedies
- Rubbing Alcohol or Sanitizer
- A Weapon
- Potassium Iodide (130 mg)
- Sleeping Bag (Preferably Weatherproof)
- Water Filtering Straw
- Bicycle or Functioning Transportation
- Red Wine
- Hard Liquor
I do not condone criminality. The intention of this article is to educate, and definitely not to promote or entice anyone to steal or loot in any normal circumstance.
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Potassium iodide. Retrieved from Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potassium_iodide