NWSS Contents

Edition Notes

Table of Contents

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Ch 1: The Dangers from Nuclear Weapons: Myths and Facts

Ch 2: Warnings and Communications

Ch. 3: Psychological Preparations

Ch. 4: Evacuation

Ch. 5: Shelter, the Greatest Need

Ch. 6: Ventilation and Cooling of Shelters

Ch. 7: Protection Against Fires and Carbon Monoxide

Ch. 8: Water

Ch. 9: Food

Ch. 10: Fallout Radiation Meters

Ch. 11: Light

Ch. 12: Shelter Sanitation and Preventive Medicine

Ch. 13: Surviving Without Doctors

Ch. 14: Expedient Shelter Furnishings

Ch. 15: Improvised Clothing and Protective Items

Ch. 16: Minimum Pre-Crisis Preparations

Ch. 17:
Permanent Family Fallout Shelters for Dual Use

Ch. 18: Trans-Pacific Fallout

NWSS Appendices

App. A: Instructions for Six Expedient Fallout Shelters

App. A.1: Door-Covered Trench Shelter

App. A.2: Pole-Covered Trench Shelter

App. A.3: Small-Pole Shelter

App. A.4: Aboveground, Door-Covered Shelter

App. A.5: Aboveground, Ridgepole Shelter

App. A.6: Aboveground, Crib-Walled Shelter

App. B: How to Make and Use a Homemade Shelter-Ventilating Pump

App. C: A Homemade Fallout Meter, the KFM

App. D: Expedient Blast Shelters

App. E: How to Make a Homemade Piston Pump

App. F: Providing Improved Ventalation and Light

Selected References

Selected Index


Nuclear War Survival Skills
  Home    by Cresson Kearny 

Chapter 3

 • Psychological Preparations


Psychological Preparations


The more one knows about the strange and fearful dangers from nuclear weapons and about the strengths and weakness' of human beings when confronted with the dangers of war, the better chance one has of surviving. Terror, a self-destructive emotion, is almost always the result of unexpected danger. Some people would think the end of the world was upon them if they happened to be in an area downwind from surface bursts of nuclear weapons that sucked millions of tons of pulverized earth into the air. They might give up all hope if they did not understand what they saw. People are more likely to endure and survive if they learn in advance that such huge dust clouds, particularly if combined with smoke from great fires, may turn day into night as have some volcanic eruptions and the largest forest fires.

People also should expect thunder to crash in strange clouds, and the earth to shake. The sky may be lit with the flickering purples and greens of "artificial auroras" caused by nuclear explosions, especially those that are miles above the earth.


Fear often is a life-saving emotion. When we believe death is close at hand, fear can increase our ability to work harder and longer. Driven by fear, we can accomplish, feats that would be impossible otherwise. Trembling hands, weak legs, and cold sweat do not mean that a person has become ineffective. Doing hard, necessary work is one of the best ways to keep one's fears under control.

Brave men and women who are self-confident admit their fears, even when the threat of death is remote. Then they plan and work to lessen the causes of their fears. (When the author helped Charles A. Lindbergh design a reinforced-concrete blast shelter for his family and neighbors, Lindbergh frankly admitted that he feared both nuclear attack and being trapped. He was able to lessen both of these fears by building an excellent blast shelter with two escape openings.)


If the danger is unexpected enough or great enough, normal persons sometimes experience terror as well as fear. Terror prevents the mind from evaluating dangers and thinking logically. It develops in two stages, which have been described by Dr. Walo von Gregerz, a physician with much war experience, in his bookPsychology of Survival. The first stage is apathy: people become indifferent to their own safety and are unable even to try to save themselves or their families. The second stage is a compulsion to flee.

Anxiety, fear, and terror can result in symptoms very similar to those caused by radiation injury: nausea, vomiting, extreme trembling, diarrhea. Dr. von Gregerz has described terror as being "explosively contagious." However, persons who learn to understand the nature of our inherent human traits and behavior and symptoms are less likely to become terrorized and ineffective in the event of a nuclear attack.


The most common reaction to great danger is not terror, but a kind of numbing of the emotions which actually may be helpful. Dr. von Gregerz calls this "emotional paralysis. "This reaction allows many persons, when in the grip of great danger, to avoid being overwhelmed by compassionate emotions and horrible sights. It permits them to think clearly and act effectively.

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The atomic explosions that destroyed most of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were air bursts and therefore produced no deadly local fallout. So we cannot be sure how people would behave in areas subjected to both blast and fallout from surface bursts. However, the reactions of the Japanese survivors are encouraging, especially in view of the fact that among them the relative number of horribly burned people was greater than is likely to be found among a population that expects a nuclear attack and takes any sort of shelter. Dr. von Gregerz summarizes: "In most cases the victims were, of course, apathetic and often incapable of rational action, but open panic or extremely disorganized behavior occurred only in exceptional cases among the hundreds of thousands of survivors of the two atomic bombing attacks." Also encouraging: ". . . serious permanent psychological derangements were rare after the atomic bomb attacks, just as they were after the large-scale conventional bombings."


Some maintain that after an atomic attack America would degenerate into anarchy an every- man-for-himself struggle for existence. They forget the history of great human catastrophes and the self- sacrificing strengths most human beings are capable of displaying. After a massive nuclear attack starvation would afflict some areas, but America's grain-producing regions still would have an abundance of uncontaminated food. History indicates that Americans in the food-rich areas would help the starving. Like the heroic Russians who drove food trucks to starving Leningrad through bursting Nazi bombs and shells.7 many Americans would risk radiation and other dangers to bring truckloads of grain and other necessities to their starving countrymen. Surely, an essential part of psychological preparations for surviving a modern war is a well- founded assurance that many citizens of a strong society will struggle to help each other and will work together with little regard for danger and loss.

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Having a radio to receive emergency broadcasts would be a great advantage. The stations that would still be on the air after an attack would probably be too distant from most survivors to give them reliable information concerning local, constantly changing fallout dangers. However, both morale and the prospects of long-range survival would be improved in shelters with a radio bringing word of the large- area fallout situation, food-relief measures, practical survival skills, and what the government and other organizations were doing to help. Radio contact with the outside world probably can be maintained after an attack if you remember to:

Bring all of your family's battery-powered, portable radios with you to shelter along with all fresh batteries on hand.

Protect AM radios by using only their built-in short loop antennas. The built-in antennas of small portable radios are too shortfor EMP to induce damaging surges of current in them.

Keep antennas of FM, CB, and amateur radios as short as practical, preferably less than 10 inches. When threatened by EMP, a danger that may continue forweeks after the initial attack because of repeated, high-altitude explosions, do not add a wire antenna or connect a short radio antenna to a pipe. Remember that a surge of current resulting from EMP especially can damage diodes and transistors, thus ending a radio's usefulness or reducing its range of reception.

Keep all unshielded radios at least six feet away from any long piece of metal, such as pipes, metal ducts, or wires found in many basements and other shelters. Long metal conductors can pick up and carry large EMP surges, causing induced current to surge in nearby radios and damage them.

Shield each radio against EMP when not in use by completely surrounding it with conducting metal if it is kept within six feet of a long conductor through which powerful currents produced by EMP might surge. A radio may be shielded against EMP by placing it inside a metal cake box or metal storage can, or by completely surrounding it with aluminum foil or metallic window screen.

Disconnect the antenna cable of your car radio at the receiver or at least ground the antennawhen not in use by connecting it with a wire to the car frame. Use tape or clothespins to assure good metal-to-metal contact. The metal of an outside mirror is a convenient grounding-point. Park your car as near to your shelter as practical, so that after fallout has decayed sufficiently you may be able to use the car radio to get distant stations that are still broadcasting.

Prevent possible damage to a radio from extreme dampness (which may result from long occupancy of some below ground shelters) by keeping it sealed in a clear plastic bag large enough so the radio can be operated while inside. An additional precaution is to keep a plastic-covered radio in an air-tight container with some anhydrite made from wallboard gypsum, as described in Appendix C.

Conserve batteries, because after an attack you may not be able to get replacements for months. Listen only periodically, to the stations you find give the most useful information. The batteries of transistor radios will last up to twice as long if the radios are played at reduced volume.

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Top Copyright 1998 © Arnold Jagt