Civil Rights / Cold War
CW Nuclear War 03 Duck and Cover CW Nuclear War 04 Damage from Bomb

Dig Deeper: Would drills and fallout shelters have protected lives?

School safety drills generally consisted of having students crawl under their desks or get behind walls. If outside, students were told to lie down and -cover- their heads with their hands.  

Crouching down outside would not protect anyone close to the blast. Buildings close to the blast would also be destroyed. Even a fallout shelter within three miles of the blast would probably not protect the occupants.

None of these school safety drills protected against radioactive fallout. While a building far from the blast might protect from the explosion and debris, people inside would still come in contact with fallout after the blast. 

Prolonged exposure to this fallout and gamma radiation causes illnesses and other health problems such as cancer. At Hiroshima and Nagasaki, people who survived the blast got sick and died from radiation exposure months and years afterwards.

Fallout shelters, many which were underground, were designed to protect a person from both the blast and the radioactive aftermath. However some shelters were not constructed properly. In order to protect the inhabitants, shelters needed properly fortified walls and ceilings. They also needed good ventilation as well as clean water, and medical and food supplies.

Fallout shelters were designed to be temporary outposts that provided protection for a short period of time. Eventually, as radioactive levels in the air fell, it would gradually become safer for people to leave the shelters and live outside again. 

But there would still be concerns about the radioactive levels in the soil, animals, and water which could take years to fade away. It is easy to see why people were so afraid of nuclear war.


Picture Credits:
  • Photograph of boy practicing to duck and cover. Children all over Tennessee were supposed to learn to protect themselves from nuclear attack.  United States Government
  • A photograph of a damaged two story frame house that was within 5,000 feet of a nuclear blast test.  Photographs that showed the enormous damage a bomb could inflict caused fear and concern.  National Archives and Records

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