Drawing: Cobra helicopter Drawing: Cobra helicopter
Chapter 23 - Page 3

Exposure Timetable

The following timetable provides you with the information needed to avoid receiving serious dosage and still let you cope with survival problems:

The times given above are conservative. If forced to move after the first or second day, you may do so, Make sure that the exposure is no longer than absolutely necessary.

Water Procurement

In a fallout-contaminated area, available water sources may be contaminated. If you wait at least 48 hours before drinking any water to allow for radioactive decay to take place and select the safest possible water source, you will greatly reduce the danger of ingesting harmful amounts of radioactivity.

Although many factors (wind direction, rainfall, sediment) will influence your choice in selecting water sources, consider the following guidelines.

Safest Water Sources

Water from springs, wells, or other underground sources that undergo natural filtration will be your safest source. Any water found in the pipes or containers of abandoned houses or stores will also be free from radioactive particles. This water will be safe to drink, although you will have to take precautions against bacteria in the water.

Snow taken from 15 or more centimeters below the surface during the fallout is also a safe source of water.

Streams and Rivers

Water from streams and rivers will be relatively free from fallout within several days after the last nuclear explosion because of dilution. If at all possible, filter such water before drinking to get rid of radioactive particles. The best filtration method is to dig sediment holes or seepage basins along the side of a water source. The water will seep laterally into the hole through the intervening soil that acts as a filtering agent and removes the contaminated fallout particles that settled on the original body of water. This method can remove up to 99 percent of the radioactivity in water. You must cover the hole in some way in order to prevent further contamination. See Figure 6-9 for an example of a water filter.

Standing Water

Water from lakes, pools, ponds, and other standing sources is likely to be heavily contaminated, though most of the heavier, long-lived radioactive isotopes will settle to the bottom. Use the settling technique to purify this water. First, fill a bucket or other deep container three-fourths full with contaminated water. Then take dirt from a depth of 10 or more centimeters below the ground surface and stir it into the water. Use about 2.5 centimeters of dirt for every 10 centimeters of water. Stir the water until you see most dirt particles suspended in the water. Let the mixture settle for at least 6 hours. The settling dirt particles will carry most of the suspended fallout particles to the bottom and cover them. You can then dip out the clear water. Purify this water using a filtration device.

Additional Precautions

As an additional precaution against disease, treat all water with water purification tablets from your survival kit or boil it.

Food Procurement

Although it is a serious problem to obtain edible food in a radiation-contaminated area, it is not impossible to solve. You need to follow a few special procedures in selecting and preparing rations and local foods for use. Since secure packaging protects your combat rations, they will be perfectly safe for use. Supplement your rations with any food you can find on trips outside your shelter. Most processed foods you may find in abandoned buildings are safe for use after decontaminating them. These include canned and packaged foods after removing the containers or wrappers or washing them free of fallout particles. These processed foods also include food stored in any closed container and food stored in protected areas (such as cellars), if you wash them before eating. Wash all food containers or wrappers before handling them to prevent further contamination.

If little or no processed food is available in your area, you may have to supplement your diet with local food sources. Local food sources are animals and plants.

Animals as a Food Source

Assume that all animals, regardless of their habitat or living conditions, were exposed to radiation. The effects of radiation on animals are similar to those on humans. Thus, most of the wild animals living in a fallout area are likely to become sick or die from radiation during the first month after the nuclear explosion. Even though animals may not be free from harmful radioactive materials, you can and must use them in survival conditions as a food source if other foods are not available. With careful preparation and by following several important principles, animals can be safe food sources.

First, do not eat an animal that appears to be sick. It may have developed a bacterial infection as a result of radiation poisoning. Contaminated meat, even if thoroughly cooked, could cause severe illness or death if eaten.

Carefully skin all animals to prevent any radioactive particles on the skin or fur from entering the body. Do not eat meat close to the bones and joints as an animal's skeleton contains over 90 percent of the radioactivity. The remaining animal muscle tissue, however, will be safe to eat. Before cooking it, cut the meat away from the bone, leaving at least a 3-millimeter thickness of meat on the bone. Discard all internal organs (heart, liver, and kidneys) since they tend to concentrate beta and gamma radioactivity.

Cook all meat until it is very well done. To be sure the meat is well done, cut it into less than 13-millimeter-thick pieces before cooking. Such cuts will also reduce cooking time and save fuel.

The extent of contamination in fish and aquatic animals will be much greater than that of land animals. This is also true for water plants, especially in coastal areas. Use aquatic food sources only in conditions of extreme emergency.

All eggs, even if laid during the period of fallout, will be safe to eat. Completely avoid milk from any animals in a fallout area because animals absorb large amounts of radioactivity from the plants they eat.

Plants as a Food Source

Plant contamination occurs by the accumulation of fallout on their outer surfaces or by absorption of radioactive elements through their roots. Your first choice of plant food should be vegetables such as potatoes, turnips, carrots, and other plants whose edible portion grows underground. These are the safest to eat once you scrub them and remove their skins.

Second in order of preference are those plants with edible parts that you can decontaminate by washing and peeling their outer surfaces. Examples are bananas, apples, tomatoes, prickly pears, and other such fruits and vegetables.

Any smooth-skinned vegetable, fruit, or plant that you cannot easily peel or effectively decontaminate by washing will be your third choice of emergency food.

The effectiveness of decontamination by scrubbing is inversely proportional to the roughness of the fruit's surface. Smooth-surfaced fruits have lost 90 percent of their contamination after washing, while washing rough-surfaced plants removes only about 50 percent of the contamination.

You eat rough-surfaced plants (such as lettuce) only as a last resort because you cannot effectively decontaminate them by peeling or washing. Other difficult foods to decontaminate by washing with water include dried fruits (figs, prunes, peaches, apricots, pears) and soya beans.

In general, you can use any plant food that is ready for harvest if you can effectively decontaminate it. Growing plants, however, can absorb some radioactive materials through their leaves as well as from the soil, especially if rains have occurred during or after the fallout period. Avoid using these plants for food except in an emergency.

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Updated: 12 January 2008
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