Having perused today's Times article about the government's push for nuclear preparedness, we've got our weekend plans locked in: curling up with some Elliott Smith records and this 135 page Planning Guide for Response to a Nuclear Detonation (Second Edition, pdf). Published by the Obama administration over the summer, the report introduces readers to such terms as Beta burn (Beta radiation induced skin damage) and LD50 (the amount of a radiation that kills 50% of a sample population). But the main message is that in the event of a nuclear explosion, don't flee. Burrow! The safest place to wait out a nuclear winter is underground, which is why our post-apocalyptic hellscape will be ruled by people who were previously pitied for residing in their parents' basements. (Resisters will be shipped off to Guitar Hero reeducation camps.)
During the '50s, there was, of course, a nationwide fallout shelter craze, which was brilliantly documented by the movie Atomic Cafe. But the Times contends that over time "the public and even the government grew increasingly skeptical about civil defense as nuclear arsenals grew to hold thousands of warheads." Now it's time to dust off those old Eisenhower-era fallout shelters, or at least butter up your superintendent to ensure access to the basement on Judgment Day.
Using computer simulations, scientists concluded that taking shelter for even a few hours would made a huge difference in a city's survival rates. If a nuclear device was detonated in a city like LA, one physicist estimates that there would be 285,000 casualties from fallout a mile or more from ground zero if residents took no shelter. That number would be cut to 125,000 deaths or injuries if people simply sought shelter in cars. And if everyone was able to pile into a shallow basement, there might "only" be 45,000 casualties. An underground garage would provide the best shelter of all. Of course, that's where the flesh-eating mutants are holed up, too, but there's nothing in the government's report about how we all ought to arm ourselves. To the teeth.