A Strange Thing That Might Save Your Life in A Nuclear Aftermath

Fergus Mason
By Fergus Mason August 21, 2017 08:24

A Strange Thing That Might Save Your Life in A Nuclear Aftermath

Surviving a nuclear attack means preparing in advance and protecting yourself from radioactive fallout for weeks after the weapons go off – but if you’re anywhere near the actual explosions, the actions you take in the first few seconds are going to decide whether anything else even matters. A nuclear weapon has great destructive power and can kill, injure and destroy over a huge area. If you’re inside its destructive radius, and you don’t know how to react, your chances of survival will fall dramatically.

Unlike a conventional explosion, a nuke doesn’t just create a blast wave that can either cause damage directly or throw projectiles out as shrapnel. It does create a blast wave – a massive one – but there are other effects to worry about as well. The first effect is the thermal pulse. This is a surge of electromagnetic radiation, including gamma radiation, X-Rays, UV, visible light and infrared, all traveling out at the speed of light. It carries an incredible amount of energy; close to the explosion it’s powerful enough to melt steel and literally vaporize a human body, and even miles away it can start fires and cause severe burns.

Related: The Best Way to Prepare Your Home for A Nuclear Attack

This is followed by the blast, racing outwards at high supersonic speeds. The blast pushes a wall of high-pressure air in front of it, creating violent winds. As it starts to run of steam it leaves a low-pressure area behind it; eventually the atmosphere will collapse in to equalize the pressure, creating a second, less intense blast front running in the other direction.

Finally, radioactive fallout will start to fall. Fallout is debris that’s sucked up through the fireball created by the explosion. Along the way it’s pulverized into dust, blasted with high-intensity radiation, heated to very high temperatures and mixed with highly radioactive plasma formed from the remains of the weapon – and up to 99% of the weapon’s mass will be left. If the weapon is an airburst there won’t be a large amount of fallout, maybe as little as a couple of hundred pounds in total. On the other hand if the warhead actually impacts, or even if the fireball touches the ground, there can be thousands of tons of it.nuclear fallout map

Fallout can continue to descend for weeks, becoming steadily less radioactive as time goes on. Most of the fallout is blown all the way up into the stratosphere, where high-altitude winds can carry it for thousands of miles. It will take several hours for any of this to make it to the ground. Your immediate problem is larger particles and anything that didn’t make it all the way to the top of the mushroom cloud. This will start coming down within a few minutes of the explosion.

So it’s obvious that, before you start worrying about surviving in the post-nuclear holocaust world, there are a few more immediate dangers to get through. It’s also obvious that there’s nothing you can do to guarantee your survival. If a one-megaton warhead explodes 500 yards from you, you’re dead. In fact you’ll be dead before you even see the flash: At that distance, the energy of the thermal pulse will turn you into plasma faster than a signal can get from your eyes to your brain. With any nuclear explosion there will always be a distance inside which survival is just not possible, and with the largest weapons that exist today that could be as much as two or three miles.

Related: What To Pack In Case of A Nuclear Attack

On the other hand there’s a wide zone between the distance at which a nuclear explosion will kill you and the distance at which it can kill you. For a one megaton warhead that zone might be seven or eight miles wide. If you’re in that zone you have a much better chance of surviving if you know the nuclear Immediate Action (IA) drill.

The IA drill is your response to a nuclear weapon exploding. You’ll know a weapon has gone off because there will be an extremely bright pulse of intense white light, lasting up to ten seconds. There’s no chance of you mistaking this for lighting or a camera flash going off; it will be far too bright and long-lasting. As soon as you notice the flash carry out this drill instantly:

  • Close your eyes. If you’re looking directly at a one-megaton explosion it can cause flash blindness as far away as 13 miles on a clear day; on a clear night, when your pupils are wide open to let more light in, you can be blinded up to 53 miles away. If you are looking in the direction of the blast you can be blinded instantly, but this will probably be temporary and could last anywhere from minutes to a week or two. You still need to avoid permanent damage, so shut your eyes immediately to keep out as much light as possible.
  • Turn towards the flash and drop to the ground, with your head towards the direction of the explosion. Anywhere between a couple of seconds and three or four minutes after the explosion, the blast wave is going to reach you. That brings two dangers. First, the air is going to be full of debris that could be moving at more than 2,000mph. A dime-size fragment of brick at that speed has the energy of a rifle bullet. Lying flat will keep you below most of the debris, because irregularities in the ground tend to catch a lot of the low-flying stuff; having the long axis of your body pointing at the explosion will minimize the area exposed to anything that is skimming the ground.
  • Keeping your head towards the explosion will also protect you from the blast wave itself. Most of your weight is towards the top of your body, and it’s also a more streamlined shape. As the blast wave passes over you it will tend to pin you firmly to the ground. If it catches your lighter legs first it’s much more likely to pick you up and carry you along, and if that happens you have no real chance of survival.
  • Tuck your hands under your body. It’s a natural instinct to shield your head with your hands. Don’t do it. Even a couple of seconds’ exposure to the thermal pulse can cause serious burns; at the very least you’re likely to get the equivalent of moderately bad sunburn. If you get your hands under your body as quickly as possible you’ll minimize their exposure to the pulse, and that’s important. Burns to the top of your head will be painful, but badly burned hands can be a death sentence. If you can’t carry out simple tasks because your hands are covered in third-degree burns, your survival chances drop like a stone. Having your hands under you also makes you more streamlined, and less likely to be picked up by blast.
  • Keep your eyes closed. The thermal pulse is energy radiated by the incredibly hot plasma fireball created by the nuclear reactions inside the weapon. It’s the first thing to escape the explosion, traveling at the speed of light. Inside a second or two the shock front of the blast expands out past the fireball, compressing the air until it’s dense enough to block the pulse. This means the glare of the explosion will fade, enough to be noticed through closed eyelids. Don’t open your eyes! In another couple of seconds the air density will fall and the fireball will be revealed again; this distinctive double pulse is one of the unique features of a nuclear explosion.
  • Wait for the blast waves. How long it takes the blast to reach you depends how far you are from the weapon. It can be as long as two or three minutes, bust resist the temptation to look for cover before it arrives. Stay flat, head towards the explosion, and wait for it to pass over you. When it does, stay down. Even if people are screaming for help nearby, don’t move. Wait for the second blast wave, coming from the other direction. This will be weaker, so there’s no need to turn towards it, but you still don’t want to be caught moving.
  • After the second blast wave, move! As soon as the inwards blast passes over you, get up. You may only have a minute or two before highly radioactive fallout starts coming down, so the priority is to get under cover. Don’t hang around to help people; find something that will keep falling particles off you. If you find something nearby, and you can quickly grab someone and carry them into it, fine – but if you stay in the open for more than a few minutes you’ll almost certainly catch a lethal dose of radiation.
  • If you’re within a minute or two of home go straight there. Take off your clothes and throw them out the door, brush your hair thoroughly to remove any dust, then go into your fallout room, put on clean clothes and get into your inner refuge. Stay in the refuge for at least 48 hours, and in the fallout room for two weeks.
  • If you’re further from home stay under cover for at least two hours. If you have a gas mask with you, put it on and keep it on. Without going into the open, scrounge up anything that will give you some protection. If you don’t have a mask, wrap clean cloth over your mouth and nose. Cover as much bare skin as possible. If you can find heavy boots or galoshes, put them on. Wrap any spare fabric round your feet and lower legs. Most of the radiation from fallout is alpha and beta particles, and thick cloth will block alpha radiation. That makes a big difference; it’s easier to block than beta, but if it does get though it does a lot more damage.
  • Get home as soon as you can. Go directly home. If you can get your hands on a vehicle that’s still running, shut the air vents and drive. If you can’t, try to avoid stirring up dust and walk. When you get home dump your clothes, clean away any dust and get into your inner refuge.

The Immediate Action drill is what you need to carry out if a weapon goes off without warning. What if your town has an air attack alarm and it goes off? There are a few things you can do in the minutes before the explosion. If you’re in a building that hasn’t been prepared, get out. The blast will collapse buildings a lot more easily than it will harm you if you’re flat on the ground; most casualties in urban areas will be injured or killed when a building collapses on them.

Related: The 7 Lost US Nuclear Bombs

There are some places it’s worth sheltering in. Subway tunnels will shield you from the effects of the weapon. Basements can be good shelters if the floor above them is concrete. Narrow trenches are also good, and so are deep drainage ditches. Anything that gets you below ground, but doesn’t risk having a building collapse on you, is good. But if you can’t find safe underground cover, get clear of anything that might be knocked down.

Head for open ground, and when you’re in the middle of it, as far from trees or buildings as possible, stop and wait for the explosion. If there’s water around get in it, and stay under the surface as much as you can. If there’s an obvious target near you, like an airbase or port, lie down with your head facing that way, your hands under your body and your eyes shut. If not, stand there and wait for the flash – then carry out the IA drill.

The nuclear IA drill doesn’t sound like much – lie down and close your eyes? Is that really going to help you when a nuke goes off? Yes, it is. If you’re far enough away from the explosion to avoid instant death, the IA drill will give your chances of surviving a massive boost. It’s also easy to remember. Not many skills are so valuable and yet so simple.

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Fergus Mason
By Fergus Mason August 21, 2017 08:24
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  1. txrancher August 21, 14:06

    WOW, that’s pretty much the same drill I received when I first joined the army in the 50s. Great to see that it is still the best survival information around.

    Reply to this comment
    • RR August 24, 00:21

      Just act like it is danger close. After doing what the author says’ close all windows and shut all curtains :
      then take potassium iodide (not mentioned, if at home),
      then cover as much of your home openings with plastic ahd duct tape, the find the room with food and water and seal yourself in with as much coverings as possible. (ie spsce blankets) (but hey I’m just a dernned ole carpenter!

      Reply to this comment
  2. left coast chuck August 21, 16:22

    You might want to get in the habit of always wearing a hat while outside, even women. A badly burned head causes all kinds of problems. I have very thin (almost non-existent) hair on the top of my head and know whereof I speak from practical, bad experience. As an aside, why is it all life’s lessons seem to be hard ones?

    A hat will significantly lessen burns. It will also lessen the chance of your hair catching fire from a burning ember blown by the wind. It will protect your head somewhat from flying debris. A hat with a wide brim will also protect your face. An umbrella will help protect from fallout although it might look like an affectation in SoCal to be carrying a brolly in August.

    This article has some good, practical advice.

    Reply to this comment
    • Enigma December 2, 17:54

      Life lessons: This is a Cosmos of Hate, not one of love.
      In it, first you get the grade, and then if you survived that ‘grade’, perhaps the lesson.

      I basically grew up outdoors, so have always worn some kind of hat. Wouldn’t recommend a straw one for a nuclear event. Felt or canvas (Tilley or boonie) best.

      One thing neglected in the article is the importance of taking a quick and thorough shower after your nude outdoor (porch? backyard?) brushdown. If there’s any water in the pipes. A true prepper may have already rigged a gravity-fed and Sun-warmed shower.

      Everyone entering a shelter must do the same, so prudish folk will hate that day just a bit more.

      Reply to this comment
    • Fergus December 17, 23:36

      If the weather’s cold or wet I usually wear a Barmah squashy hat. This is wide-brimmed and made of leather, so it gives pretty good protection against heat. It also folds flat and can be carried in a pocket just in case it rains. A felt hat, like a fedora or stetson, also gives reasonable protection, and a light-coloured panama could be good too. I would *not* recommend a hat made of synthetic fabric (which might just end up tattooed onto your scalp) but apart from that yes, wearing a hat is an excellent idea.

      Reply to this comment
    • Kare January 6, 18:53

      It would look strange and affected but, if made or covered in a space blanket, wouldn’t it work well!

      Reply to this comment
    • SuzyQ January 6, 20:02

      Hi there,
      The comments about hats refer mostly to men. What kind of hat would you recommend for a woman? I used to wear hats all the time, but that was eons ago and the hats worn then were more decorative than practical.
      I think if I wore a hat today, I would probably get some funny looks, not that that would bother me much. But seriously what kind of hat for a woman??

      Reply to this comment
      • Enigma January 21, 21:08

        Boonie (canvas) hats with wide brims are best. As are Tilley, if you can afford them. All washable.

        In crisis situation, gender preferences for headgear kind of non sequitur.

        Reply to this comment
      • ezntn January 28, 07:37

        Every time you go into a store look in the hat section.
        Hats are usually located in the purse section. Check your farm supply stores. Check your leather shop. A good long scarf will cover your neck, ears and face.
        Biggest problem is finding a hat with a wide brim that
        has no synthetic fabric.
        I should go to my local leather shop to get myself one.

        Reply to this comment
        • Enigma January 30, 00:58

          Had a leather hat for many years. Heavy. Not good for retaining heat nor fending it off. Useful mostly for beating away snakes and scorpions.

          Head-gear designs which native folk have used in their subsistence lives best. Next best and cheaper is military surplus. Never-mind synthetics issue – utility the point.

          Except for scarfs, hijab, turbans, etc. Then loose-woven cotton, linen, or another natural and washable fabric, best.

          Reply to this comment
  3. Miranda August 21, 17:35

    Can someone tell me how to protect my 2 toddlers i got. I got a 1 yr old and a 2yr old. I got survival skills

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck August 21, 22:21

      Where are you in relation to a major military installation, a large city, sea-going ship port or a nuclear generating plant? The steps you need to take really are target dependent. Once we have identified distance from target, one of us can better outline steps to take.

      Reply to this comment
      • Marlione August 21, 23:30

        What if you’re no where near a major military overlain

        Reply to this comment
        • left coast chuck August 22, 00:14

          Well, if you are not located near a major military installation, a major city, a major sea-going port nor a nuclear generating plant, then you are in hog heaven. All you have to be prepared for is the electric grid going down and any other natural events which interrupt life.

          There are some areas of the country where fallout from a nuclear attack will be minimal and by the time the fallout reaches that area, in all but a very few instances, it will have degraded to high but not harmful levels.

          We are all exposed to a certain amount of ambient radiation every day. Airline crews get more radiation than folks who rarely fly. I have read that the ambient radiation levels in the capitol building in Washington are higher than in other areas of Washington due to the granite the capitol building is constructed from which may explain the irrational behavior of so many of our elected and bureaucratic officials. They suffer from radioactive degradation of the brain.

          Everyone is all a dither about the crackpot in North Korea. Personally, I think that every time he fires a rocket, we have seen all of his stockpile. It’s not like you can go down to Costco and pick up a dozen ICBMs for a discount rate. ICMBs and other missiles are d’d expensive and tricky to make. We have had 60 years’ experience and still have rockets blow up. So I don’t think we will see a massive ICBM attack from Fatso.

          I do think we could well see a sneak attack from some unexpected direction from him directed at our electric system. That would be far more devastating, in my opinion, that four or five ICBMs delivering nuclear warheads.

          In my opinion, any country or entity launching an attack against the U.S. that would reach the levels of an overwhelming attack will want to hide their identity until that attack has had its full effect. It’s is hard to hide an ICBM launch these days. Any entity doing so against the U.S. can expect a massive response that will be the end of that entity. That’s why Fatboy folded when Trump raised the stakes. He knew he was only holding a pair of threes and Trump had a full house laying on the table in front of him.

          Reply to this comment
      • Bonnie August 22, 13:05

        I live I Caroline county VA near Fort A.P. Hill in between DC and Richmond. It’s a pretty rural area, but of what’s around it I’m concerned. What do you think? Oh and to top it off I live in a mobile home… Not a good combo huh?

        Reply to this comment
        • Left coast chuck August 22, 17:47

          The District of Corruption is a prime target. Not to denigrate Richmond, but in my opinion, it is not high on the target list. For an EMP attack, the prime location is Kansas. However, the blast/heat/radiation effect from an EMP bomb is reduced by the distance the EMP device will be set off. From what I have read, 350 miles above Kansas is regarded as the prime location for an EMP explosion. If you read the above article, 350 miles away pretty much lessens the blast/heat effect. Folks who happen to be outside at the time of the event will be seriously affected, anybody inside anything other than a tent will be pretty much safe from the radiation effect.

          In the event of an EMP event, we all will be affected. Texas may be spared. They are not tied to the grid that the rest of the country is connected to. They may be just far enough away for the effect to be minimized. Most of the suppositions about the effect of an EMP type blast are based on the device working as designed. We all know a lot of times, especially with weapons, the theory is strong, the application is weak. But assuming worst case, we all will be in the same sinking boat.

          While it is well to be aware of necessary steps to take in the event of a surface atomic device, I feel the chances of that are no greater than they have ever been. To have the stockpile that Russia, China and the U.S have takes a lot of money. North Korea doesn’t have a lot of money. Iran has a lot of money and potentially could build a dangerous stockpile of ICBMs. I don’t think they are there yet.

          Actually, Bonnie, if your mobile home is up off the ground as most of the ones I have seen are, you can shelter under your mobile home. I don’t know enough about mobile home construction to be able to intelligently tell you how to proceed and I don’t know if you own the lot or not, so that has a bearing. If you own the lot, I would see about excavating under the mobile home to a depth of about four feet. I would build berms around the edges of the mobile home to block air flow to the excavation. Now this is the tricky part. I don’t know if it is essential to have air flow under a mobile home or not. You really need to consult with someone who knows what he or she is talking about with regard to my so-called “advice”. BUT if I had a warning that a general ICBM attack was on its way, I would grab my entrenching tool and get busy under my mobile home as I outlined and not worry about building codes and proper ventilation.

          I don’t think a mobile home is a huge handicap. Sure, having 100 acres abutting a National Forest would be ideal, but most of us don’t have that luxury.

          Reply to this comment
          • Bonnie August 24, 19:19

            Thanks Chuck, I appreciate the advice. I don’t own the lot unfortunately. But my dad has a mobile on 10 acres about 10 minutes from me that has a concrete foundation around the bottom with a small doorway to get under to fix pipes and what not. Sounds better to me plus his is not as old as mine and a bit sturdier. So I’d probably head there. That and the fact he’s old school knows a lot of old school ways that I don’t. His grandfather born 1897 raised him on a farm. He’s well armed, an awesome mechanic can fix anything, and I know he’d protect me. He’s capable of just about anything. Much more armed and prepared for anything. With his mom and grandfather going through the depression and raising him dirt poor (he didn’t even have running water til he was out on his own at 19) I know he knows a lot. My grandma used to tell me what this and that plant was for. She instilled a love of plants in me taught me how to grow bout anything and why it was needed at a young age and it stuck. So I know he knows so so much more. If something like that happened he’d never leave his home. Again thanks for the advice. Now I know going to my dad’s is a good idea and what to do to do to prepare ahead of time.

            Reply to this comment
          • Fergus December 17, 23:39

            Chuck, an EMP at an altitude of 350 miles will have no physical or radiation effects at ground level at all. The only effect to reach ground will be the pulse itself. You wouldn’t even hear the blast; there isn’t enough atmosphere up there to transmit sound.

            Reply to this comment
            • Enigma January 7, 10:46

              The age and vintage of a trailer ‘house’ matters. There have been few quality makers. People who live in such are mostly like those who buy used autos – price and convenience, not quality and durability, the prime considerations.

              Many years ago, when trailer ‘houses’ first began getting made, I worked in two factories. One was of the ‘get it out on the lot ASAP’ kind, the other used actual 2x4s in exterior walls and overheads. (Frankly, ocean-capable sailboats are better made.)

              I did a bit of everything (except plumbing) in those factories, from welding base frames, to installing pre-made cabinets, to assembling and hanging interior doors. Even the better-made units were tornado traps. As are today’s over-priced urban McMansions.

              Anyone serious about bug-in crisis prepping will move, at least partially, underground. South- and east-facing ridges which are geologically stable are best.

              Reply to this comment
    • Allen July 24, 16:08

      Miranda I’ll be the first to admit I’m no expert at this I do know somethings going to the ground in the way they state here by what I know is very correct. but your toddlers. The best thing I can think of even if it’s painful for them is to put them under you. Unless when it happens they are old enough to listen and do as told, to the letter. The only bad thing I see about putting them under you is it exposes you more. Thus you’ll stand more of a chance of any damage. But if your like most parents you’ll be willing to suffer some for them. Don’t be willing to give up your life with them at that age. Cause if you do, and they live though the blast etc. They will die anyway unable to fend for themselves. With the kids it’s very very important that you live and able to function. Or they will die if no one takes them in. Again putting them under you at that age seems the best thing to do. Anyone have a better suggestion I’d like to hear it also, I don’t have any small kids but have grand kids. One under a year the rest are old enough to understand and do whats needed during the blast.

      Reply to this comment
  4. Ready Lifestyle August 23, 02:34

    I recently wrote an article about surviving a nuclear attack. We have a few differing ideas (you can check it out here: http://readylifestyle.com/how-to-survive-a-nuclear-attack/) but the idea is the pretty much the same.

    One thing to note is the size of the fallout. Up close to the blast (several miles) you’re going to have all sizes of contaminated particulates raining down on you. After you get further out the size of the particulates will be larger (and heavier) meaning that it’ll be less likely to inhale them if you’re exposed to fallout in the 12-24 hour time frame.

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck August 23, 04:42

      I read the reference you posted. Overall, it is well written with good common sense. There is one point I would like to make. If any of you have been to Hiroshima, the symbolic image of the atomic blast at the Peace Memorial was at or very close to ground zero. It wasn’t vaporized or even totally destroyed. It was heavily damaged but survived because it was steel reinforced concrete. One of the reasons why Hiroshima was so heavily damaged was because: A. The landscape encompassing Hiroshima is relatively flat, thus allowing more blast effect to spread. B. Japanese homes and many commercial buildings were constructed of light weight wood. This was a building choice used to lessen the chance of serious injury in the frequent earthquakes that occur in Japan. Interior walls in Japanese homes are usually paper. Those factors allowed far more damage from the blast effect. C. A considerable portion of the damage and burn injuries was subsequent fire in the wooden and paper buildings that totally overwhelmed the poorly equipped fire fighting forces in Japan. My wife lived through the fire bombing of Tokyo and Yokohama and residential fire fighting technique consisted of everyone in the neighborhood fighting the fires with mops and buckets of water. Another of the reasons why those two cities also suffered so much damage in the fire bombings.

      Any modern city in the U.S., other than a strictly residential city has far more modern buildings, constructed of reinforced concrete and structural steel. They will tend to ameliorate the blast and heat effect. On the other hand, we love our glass walls. The casualties from flying glass will be horrendous. What a Hobson’s choice, burned to death or cut to shreds by flying glass. Shattered glass will rip through offices like fire from the gatling gun in a C-47 or C-130. Nothing will escape the barrage.

      Good, well written article, Ready, thanks for posting the link. I hope to visit your website frequently.

      Reply to this comment
  5. DRM September 16, 14:46

    Curious; arse to the blast was at one time the recommendation, I believe, versus head to the blast. What would be your commentary on the aforementioned?

    Reply to this comment
    • Enigma December 2, 18:10

      Head or arse to a blast: Open exposure to a thermonuclear blast basically a survival crapshoot. Only persons well underground or behind reinforced concrete may have any assurance of initial survival.

      And here’s another cheery bit. Real nuclear powers are unlikely to expend only one device on a high-value target. More likely to use 2 or more devices so as to ensure complete destruction.

      So, even if you were doing all the ‘right’ things for an initial nuke, the second or third may make any action pointless. Better to move to Montana, or Alaska, or have a skill valued in rural Canada.

      Reply to this comment
    • Fergus December 17, 23:43

      If your arse is facing the blast, so are your legs. The blast is a lot more likely to get under your legs and pick up the lower half of your body than it is to lift your torso, and if it does you become flying debris.

      Reply to this comment
  6. Clergylady January 5, 21:56

    Thought provoking article. I’m roughly 70 miles from an airbase that is well known for protecting our stockpiled nuc bombs. I used to live on the far side of that mountain. Now valleys and Hill and more distance separate me from that place.
    I live in at 48 year old double wide. Corrugated metal skirting. No great go do plan but I do have a planned solar warmed shower by my garden. Sometimes if I get really dirty working I’ll wash up on the porch after removing boots, belt, and pocket contents. Milk jugs of water warm beautifully in the sun. A bit of shampoo on me and my clothing helps cut mud. I rinse well and quickly strip just inside the door. That could help if the water is ok sitting outside. The front door is about 5 steps from a tub shower.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Enigma January 7, 09:31

    In a fallout situation, nothing left outside will be ‘clean’. Nothing with a continuous connection with an outside will be ‘clean’. If dust can enter, so can contamination. That applies to abodes, cisterns, and animal shelters. If there’s any possibility of contam, then a Geiger counter and exposure badge strips should be acquired.

    Radioactivity is interesting, in that its chief danger is via metallic isotopes. Metals exposed to radiation become radioactive, so one ameliorative measure is to enclose metal structures in thick-walled enclosures, such as concrete (with no internal iron reinforcing; fiber such as fiberglass or hemp may be used instead). Or, in areas where adobe is commonly used and understood, a structure or an enclosure may be made of soil-cement. With due attention to issues posed by earthquakes and blasts.

    Enclosing trailer-homes and rapid-erection metal structures in adobe or soil-cement will have a beneficial side effect of insulating them in re energy use. Ie., they will be warmer in Winter and cooler in Summer, and lower-cost generally to operate.

    People who live in trailers are highly exposed to all sorts of excess costs and dangers. Bullets punch right through thin metals. In the meantime, one of the better things anyone living in a trailer can do is erect a larger cow-barn structure to shade / cover it.

    Reply to this comment
  8. Clergylady January 7, 19:28

    A cow barn structure over a trailer might be great but most folks are in a trailer for a reason. Either it’s quick shelter or it’s cheap or both. That is not a cheap cover for a trailer.
    I don’t live in a trailer entirely by choice. Wouldn’t have been caught living in one in years past. But it was given to me when my husband was dying twenty years ago. I left it behind when I was still working but at 70 I started moving back because it was all I had and money was a problem. Sitting empty 12 years and vandalism haven’t improved it at all. I had built a roof over it so that’s there. I have lots of work to do inside but it’s walls and a roof.
    Enclosing it in Adobe one day would be my choice but not sure that at 71 it will be doable after the inside I done. This was rated as 2″x6″ construction. Not sure how 2×4 framing was so over rated but in its time it was top of the line. I’m glad for that. I’ve seen the walls of 2x2s in trailers around here. I helped put down plywood floors and sheetrock on the walls to help insulate a bit and strengthen them. Today a lot of that is getting beyond me. I used to help everyone. Today I struggle to do for me.
    If I can figure a way, even a sheet at a time I’ll put metal over this roof. It helps against fires. I’d also like to put cement based sheets of siding on here to insulate more and look a bit less like a trailer. Again fireproofing the outside. I can’t handle sheets of 3/4″ plywood like I did 30 years ago but I’ve been given beautiful wood flooring enough for most of my rooms and that will get put down when I’m able to get the baseboard trim to cover expansion spaces along the edges.
    As for nuc shelter, my home isn’t it and neither would a shelter on the mountain be safe unless it would be a cave. Prevailing winds would take debries from a bomb 60 miles away and carry it further away. A shower perhaps and go inside. Then pray winds stay true to old patterns.
    Time and injuries get us. I gave away my time and work to others and lived poor by choice. Still not regretting that. It turn I was given this three acres and old mobile homes. We enclosed one with additions across the length of it, front and back with a pitched roof over it for my parents. A disabled son and his family now call it home.
    Another was placed in the shade of the trees growing along an irrigation ditch so in summer it is easily cooled by opening a window at either end. It has a descent wood stove and a propane wall heater that has seldom been used. My best friends moved there this past summer when they lost their business and home.
    I am back in the double wide. When the old sliding doors are replaced and the walls repainted and flooring put down it and some other repairs finished will be nice inside. I’ve been given a woodstove and a fireplace insert that need to be picked up. I have a pellet stove I plan to replace with a pelletburning rocket stove with a cooking area. Outside it will still just look like a beat up 48 year old trailer.
    I have apple and apricot trees, two wild plum thickets, a stand of young choke cherry trees, grapes on an old rebar arbor I welded 30 years ago, wild gooseberries, and fertile garden areas. There are cacti and thorny bushes along parts of the fence line. I make prickly pear jelly and syrup and cook pads now and then. It will never look like much or be worth an awful lot but I’m greatful to have all of it. We have chickens, ducks and rabbits.
    A bunker would be nice. There is room to do that. But day to day survival are taking precidence. A shipping container would be nice burried out in the second garden.
    We have bug out bags and favorite areas on the mountain. A meeting place is designated. But I don’t see me climbing the mountain more than an afternoon walk. My husband now, has dementia and at almost 80 is getting too fragile for rough survival situations. If he thought I had a better chance on the mountain he’d still insist on going just to protect me. He is still my protector at heart.
    I still agree mobile homes are not great choices but they beat nothing.
    They are fragile in severe winds, matchsticks in tornadoes, and burn like a well laid bonfire reduced to a pile of ashes in just a few minutes. But they shelter me from snow and rain and extremes of temperature. They provide privacy and a place to keep my stuff out of the weather. Still beats living on the street or alone in the woods.
    Adobe walls and an added room on the west side would be my choice. Time will tell what can be done.
    For now I have scattered small caches of supplies on the mountain, a meeting place, family and friends. There are beautiful jars of things canned from my garden ( from before I started moving back). Months of canned goods and stored beans and grains. I have heirloom meat grinders and hand flour grinder and other kitchen and shop tools from parents and grandparents. There is even a book printed in the late 1700 on a bit about almost any subject to do with farming, gardening, home, animals, things to make to sell, like drums of vinegar, receipts (recepies), black smithing et. And we Baby Boomers though Mother Earth invented the back to the land and diy movement. Lol. America was built on strong knowledgeable natives surviving in all sorts of terrain and weather, hearty immigrants building things with their hands and creating financial empires. Churches and schools were truly “of the people” until more recent times. Teachers and Drs were prized members of their communities.
    In the 1950s Dad would be gone working and Mom and I would go in a bathroom with a frosted window to watch the flash of nuclear tests at night. We were in southern Cal and the tests were in Nevada. The room would still be bright.
    In the late1950s Mom was the trained secret community volunteer with a Geiger Counter in the home and books on community organizing and not first aid but LAST AID. (I still have that book as well.) She held that position until dad retired and they moved to a remote mountain community in 1971.
    Large cities and military installations or bases were the places they expected attacks. That hasn’t changed. The wind patterns “down wind” were the next most dangerous. I believe that wisdom still applies.
    Cement bunkers around the Whitesands Trinity testing site still stand after more than 70 years. That speaks well for durability.
    I plan to build a wattle fenced leanto shelter, fabric teepee, and a pit house for teaching purposes here. All are good shelters and a pit house was home for indigenous peoples for centuries. The Navajo Hogan of today is just a pit home without the pit. The ones I saw as a child were still part dugout and part tree trunks in an octagon with a round roof and central tree trunk support. Like a permanent yurt. They are good desert and mountain homes. A smoke hole in the center area vented the fire that was built on the floor. A teepee, even made of cloth instead of canvas or hides, still sheds rain and snow and has a fire vent for a central floor built fire. An inner draped wall gave winter shelter and storage. I used to put one up for my kids to camp in. Summer rains were no problem as long as it was set where the land drained away. I played in a tiny, one child sized, pit house Dad made for me. It had cut in steps and I made cuts to hold scrap boards for shelves. It was a house, a fort, a hiding place…. When I tired of it he turned it into a compost pit.
    An ancient one on the mountain here has a cut in bench all the way around with cut in steps and a fire pit in the middle. There is no longer a roof but one could certainly be made. It will roughly be what my teaching model will copy. My son suggested it should be my survival home if…
    Are those nuclear safe shelters? No! They are just shelter. Which is what most of us will need if SHTF for real. But we could possibly stock up on the medications and things to help us and our families in that situation.

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  9. Enigma January 10, 15:01

    ClergyLady, you appear to have your situation well in hand. My remarks are mostly for grazers of these threads. Folk who have been living in all seriousness a minimalist and survivalist life for years/decades may gain little from my posts. Such already know pretty well what works in their environment.

    Although some changes in technical knowledge and technology may be ‘news’ for some. Such as using 12-VDC for everything, thus foregoing any reliance on a 120-VAC feed.

    I suggest anyone with a site planting more fruiting plants, such as fig shrubs and date palms. And blueberry and gooseberry shrubs, and blackberry brambles. Whatever suits a local climate and water situation.

    A shading /sheltering roof may be built gradually; in the Northern Hemisphere first shading mostly from the West, and then being expanded to cover a whole.

    Hogans are one start-out or expansion option. They may be built in circular or semi-circular compounds, but instead of having pit-floors should have ones raised above grade, so invading waters aren’t an issue. They also may be adobed on exteriors for anti-fire and insulative value.

    Things working in subsistence societies around the world should be considered. For folk thinking of a migratory existence, following seasonal growths and animal populations, Mongolian yurts are better than Western-style tents for places with variable weather. Bedewy tents in deserts arose due to practicality, not stylistic ideas.

    In those places which get significant rains, even periodically, buried shipping containers are liable to be slowly crushed by surrounding earth. Better to excavate a large pit and line it with thick walls of hand-fitted local fieldstone. There are such mysterious structures in New England, which possibly are centuries old.

    Or an small arroyo or canyon which has been dry for decades may be thus converted. Spring freshlets and ground water often an issue for subterranean structures, but water in known volumes may be channeled and used as at Petra.

    Y’all have fun, and read the so-called Minor Prophets too. Micah 6:8

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    • Clergylady January 10, 17:30

      I didn’t start out to be a survivalist. I just happen to love a lot about the old ways of doing things. My family were “hoarders” of old stuff. But it was always stuff they used and liked. My greatgrandmothers cast iron griddle still makes great pancakes or French toast. The hand cranked meat grinders make my favorite cranberry relish of ground together oranges and cranberries. Stir in sugar and it’s done. Grind leftover turkey and mix in mayo and pickle relish and it’s a nice stuffing for a big ripe fresh tomato or sandwhich filling. Simple tools and a simple life.
      They had the original cordless tools and they don’t need recharging. I still like a brace and bit for a quick job but power tools have their place. Dads old planes for wood work still do lovely work but a planer/shaper is faster. I have old homemade sawhorses and newer folding ones.
      The older Hogans were part pit but the dirt was pulled up around the walls to protect from rain when it did come. You walked up to the entrance and stepped down in.
      Older Adobe homes here on the reservations had a similar plan to protect from rain and often walls had stone foundations. Dirt floors that have stood the test of time the best were filled sections with wood laid in large sections. Dirt was mixed with blood … usually deer … and that mud filled in a section at a time till it was all done. Those floors are kept swept and rarely wiped down with a damp rag. They shine and don’t wear away as a plain dirt floor would. Other Adobe homes were later built on raised mounded foundations that had sometimes had stones in the center but were 12″-18″ high dirt. Then halved logs were laid, split side up for floors. Adobe walls then were laid In 12″/18″ thick offset courses like brick or cinder blocks are normally laid. The frames of doors and windows were built in place and Adobe full or half blocks laid up to the frame as you went. Large tree trunks or good sized branches were cleaned and laid as trusses then smaller branches were cut to length and laid at an angle to fill in all the open spaces between the trusses. The roof was then finished with a thick layer of mud, or better, clay if available. A capstone then was laid around the edge of the roof and a few drain channels opened so the flat roof wouldn’t hold rain water but would drain quickly. The rain was often channeled into areas of clay or stone depressions to act as cisterns. The early Spanish families used rain Barrels or pots under the cannales draining their roof.
      Fireproof except the replaceable roof. Well insulated, and rain catchment all in a well designed desert home. Windows were just openings then later glassed in. The openings had shutters that either were hinged or just lifted into place to close at night or in bad weather. They were thick wood. Here near the Navajo and Pueblo people’s of the high mountain deserts it can get cold enough to rival Alaska most winters. I’ve seen -46* once, but -10 *– -20* nights are more common. After 40 years here I’ve come to appreciate what a hearty people it took to live here in the stone age. I wouldn’t want to hit this cold country in a tee shirt and flimsy tent except in June to August and you probably would still want long sleeves in the cool evenings.
      There are wild edibles but not in the abundance of wetter climates. The early residents were hunter, gatherer, farmers. They stored amaranth and larger grass seeds, beans, pinion nuts et in pots they made with openings small enough to keep out rodents. Corn, beans, chilis, and squash were all farmed here hundreds of years ago. Wild onions and wild celery were dried for seasonings year around. Getting Salt from a salt lake was an annual trip or a trade commodity. Some areas had communal farms and orchards of wild fruit.
      When there is a successful hunt the meat is often shared at a feast dinner and certain parts given to specific older relatives or community members. That was how communities survived all these centuries in harsh places.
      Good neighbors helping, protecting, working together have always been the best plan. Too bad to see so much of that being destroyed today. My greatest joy is sharing bounty from my garden or helping someone. Now that I’m turning 71 I’m enjoying the help coming my way when I need it.
      We would go a long way toward surviving bad times if we worked more at building family and community.
      Oh, I do enjoy the minor prophets and Micah 6:8 is key to everything that is important.

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  10. Enigma January 12, 17:05


    We’ve a similar history, except I grew up out in Old South rural places. No cities and towns, except for runs for Winter groceries and entertainment. Worst was outdoor privies and unheated baths. Very hard on older and sick folks.

    Don’t know what happened to familial hand tools and devices; probably a younger relative has them. Slowly built my own set over years.

    People interested in old-style cooking utensils may still find such in odd corners, or import them from places such as India. Long-handled frying pans were available back in 2009 from Canadian Tire, of all places. Wonder if the newer copper-based pots are better? Not cheap.

    Problem with old-style Indian dwellings is breathing wood smoke. Ultimately as bad as cigarettes, or worse. Raised wooden floors better, since chill of frozen Winter earth thus insulated. New-model hogans must have metal stoves sitting on metal sheets.

    Must have heated spaces and waters for times when flesh exposed, as in bathrooms. Interesting problem during Summer months, since a hot stove inside dwelling then a health threat. Some kind of shaded lanai / courtyard with outdoor grill then useful.

    Community built on consanguinity and shared values critical to long-term survival, for individuals, families, clans, and their larger society. Members of the Demonic Party (friend’s bon mot) frankly are insane.

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  11. Clergylady January 12, 18:11

    I enjoy these articles. They provoke thought and discussion.
    I actually spent most of my years from birth to age 11 in large cities. We moved to a community that grew up around a rural hospital that had been built in the 1800s. I fell in love with rural life immediatly.
    My parents were 40 and 42 when I was born so I grew up with mostly older adults around me. I loved learning about how they grew up and how each one has lived through the “Great Depression” and WWII. My dad’s sister lived in rural Idaho and didn’t have indoor plumbing till I was nearly grown. They moved the two holer from pit to pit as needed. The seat was worn shinny and smooth by the time I remember it and old catalogues sat on a shelf in front of you by the door. On snowy days you hurried back inside greatful to turn your backside to the big wood burning cookstove.
    I still cook outside for most summer meals. I love eating out under a hugh old Spanish apricot tree in the yard. I had built my grape arbor to eat under but just a few of the vines survived my 12 year absence. I have planned to make a nice outdoor kitchen there near the tree with a 7.5’x10.5′ fiberglass roof from an old pop up trailer. Shade and keeping off the summer rains will keep it be more usable. I’ll set it at a slight tilt because most years we get some pretty good snow amounts. This is a strange year with no snow so far.
    For me prepping is less about fighting or guerilla existence. It is about being prepared for the unexpected storm that isolates you or accidents and how to handle them. I grew up with parents that canned, sun dried or later froze food planning for off season and winters. With the next season you gardened again and canned again. I still do that.
    We always had something to share when neighbors hit hard times.
    We all were certified in First Aid .. just in case.
    When i was expecting my last child we carried a packed picknick basket, just incase. I discussed the contents with my Dr and he made sure we basicly knew what to do. The motor in our car froze up April 12, 1978. She was born April 13, 1978. Glad to be prepared. She came breach. My husband delivered her while unwrapping the cord that was around her neck. My beautiful 8 lb girl is a wonderful grown woman. Preperation and a bit of calm good sense saved our lives.
    Preperation and planning for lifes unexpected events and the winters of our lives and for eternity are life saving.

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  12. Enigma January 12, 19:06

    “For me prepping is less about fighting or guerilla existence. It is about being prepared for the unexpected storm that isolates you or accidents and how to handle them. I grew up with parents that canned, sun dried or later froze food planning for off season and winters.”

    Clearly you have been long a survivor. A breech birth is a serious thing even in hospital.

    Desiccation is another food-preserving method; smoked meats and other foods are basically desiccated, not cooked. What Old South folk did aforetime was heavily salt meats killed in Autumn or Winter, then smoke them thoroughly all Winter and into Spring.

    However, the sharing and caring days of your youth, and those of your parents and grandparents, are gone. Intensely Biblically-educated people are now rare in North America, and the cities and towns are now Sodoms on the Subway / LRT / highway.

    Materialism, hedonism, licentiousness, and greed rule this hour, and the coastal and urban millions who don’t die immediately during an enduring crisis would soon become ravening mobs.

    Failing any powerful and well-intended central authority, which becomes evermore unlikely in the US, matters would rapidly become medieval. So, caution, OpSec, concealment, distance, and yes -weapons- (but not automatic ones) will be necessary for survival in any profound and/or enduring crisis.

    Loose lips may ‘sink’ your grandchildren’s ‘lifeboats’. You should NOT have items delivered directly to your abode or site. Surviving delivery persons may recall where you live or plan to go.

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  13. Clergylady January 12, 22:31

    I agree with your assessment of modern society that is frankly often un social, anti life, and too often anti God. Sadly my grand children don’t live nearby and won’t be close enough to share preperations with.
    I teach old time skills but doubt I’ll ever again be surviving in the wilderness.
    Yes breathing smoke from any source is not healthy but the real downfall of the old Hogan wasn’t so much smoke as the lack of fresh air in an enclosed space and the contagen of TB. Once there were Windows and an understanding that night air isn’t automatically deadly, things changed. The more modern woodstove or fireplace with a flu to carry off smoke has improved health for most people.
    Many living in Hogana today cook under a brush covered shelter in the yard when we do get a hot spell.
    I like food cooked outside best. I’ve even gone out in the snow to build a fire and cook, just because I like the taste of food cooked over a wood fire.
    I hope younger people are learning to really be survivors more than warriors. I have never shot someone, never faced a bear, but have killed at least a dozen rattle snakes. I have killed poisonous spiders. If you can kill a rattle snake, find food and start a fire and make a shelter you can probably survive a tough outdoor situation. If I goes long term you need medical skills and a trade.

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  14. Enigma January 14, 06:20

    An important feature of any well-sealed heated space is an air-exchanger. It’s a device which uses outgoing air to warm incoming fresh air in cooler temperatures.

    Today’s entertainment media hourly emphasizes the ‘drama’ of conflict, yet anyone with any real age understands that’s bad fiction. I expect the urban infestations to soon die, or kill each other off, during any long-running crisis. Real issue for preppers/survivalists will be staying unnoticed by -and likely distant to- urban crazies and their like while they’re writhing in their self-imposed agonies.

    Perhaps a depraved attitude, yet if you’re damaged or dead yourself, you will not be able to help any worthier survivors. “Be cautious as serpents, yet as innocent as doves.”

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  15. Clergylady January 14, 11:43

    Outside air for your heated space is needed with the possible exception of a time after radiation from a bomb is released.
    Uncivil society could well destroy itself if left unchecked for a while. Colateral damage is the risk if looters and demonstrators run wild wanting to have life their way. That’s a good reason to avoid cities if possible.
    Create your own” civil family group”.

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  16. Enigma January 17, 18:17

    A religiously-cognizant community is more resilient. Avoiding in formation process the extremes of a Jim Jones, David Koresh, and an Inquisition. Some diversity useful, but without doctrinal conflicts.

    Utopian ideals coupled with a charismatic leader, even in secular contexts, likely very destructive. Or leads to community demise like those of the Shakers and Koreshan group.

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  17. Clergylady January 18, 13:46

    A group of friends with a designated leader as opposed to a dictator leader.. . Yes.
    Natural leaders tend to emerge or be choosen.
    Strengths and dangers abound.
    I will follow if there is a proven leader. I’m a bit of a rebel at heart. Not too fond of rules but time and gravity always rule us anyway.
    Experience is to be valued.

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  18. Enigma January 19, 15:04

    Charisma is a dangerous factor. Evident in both Bill Clinton and David Koresh. Usually charismatic individuals are unskilled except in manipulating persons and groups, but a charismatic who has both that quality and some useful skill is super-dangerous.

    Occasionally a charismatic gets raised by wiser parents so as to have both the quality and wisdom, as with a Marcus Aurelius or George Washington. Nigh as I can tell from history, however, such persons are exceedingly rare. Or something happens to them in youth, Washington came very close to being killed multiple times in his career.

    Re choosing or recognizing leaders, that’s why studying and knowing history is critically important. In stable traditional societies matters may rub along in mediocrity and nigh everyone do OK. But for a stressed society, one wherein traditional values are relentlessly decried and false economic ideas (ie. socialism) are authoritatively promulgated, all sorts of opportunists arise. And some will be psychopaths.

    My touchstone is the Decalogue. Anyone who speaks and acts to violate its principles bound to lead his/her followers to grief.

    E.g., abortion. Moderns tout a supposed enhanced ‘freedom’, but what is actually occurring is child sacrifice. Those engaged in that Planned Infanticide industry are out for some kind of gain. Just as ancient Canaanites were seeking success in war, timely rains, and better harvests.

    E.g., socialism. The very bad idea that a central ‘authority’ seizing earnings and assets so as to then fund and attain Utopian society-structuring goals is good.

    A semi-isolated society which is uniform as to culture and religion may make socialism work for some time, but any sort of real stress (ie., alien ethnic inflows) will make such a system implode. (As Scandinavia is now discovering.)

    My upshot: a good leader will not only be skilled at persuasion, but must know how to work with his (more rarely – her) hands.

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  19. Clergylady January 20, 12:20

    Enigma, your examples are good. Bible and modern history give us examples of both good and bad leadership. Clinton and Clinton remind me a lot of Ahab and Jezabel. The I will do as I please or as he’s silently manipulated and the enableler.
    A Moses is rare, as is a George Washington, or perhaps a Daniel or Joseph of the colorful coat.
    Jim Jones or David Koresh started out doing good and looking good but a flaw inside each gave them a God complex once they had a following and enough money flowing in to become powerful. Like all abusers of weaker people they isolated their followers and exercised power in evil ways.
    We are warned about money. A dollar isn’t inheritantly evil but a million of them might be. It’s greed and power over others that becomes seductive.
    Jesus was an awesome example of leadership. The record says he went about doing good. He used his powers to help and improve others lot in life and taught his followers how to replicate that lifestyle. Sadly a lot of not so good people have lived evil lives claiming to be his followers. But many follow and teach that lifestyle and quietly go about aiming to do only good to and for others.
    Sadly power and money seduce many to look down on others and use them. It’s common enough to bring caution in choosing who to follow or even who to lead. You need cooperation but not blind servitude. It’s a fine line to find the right balance. We need good generals but need to beware of Hitlers.

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  20. Enigma January 21, 21:29

    Leadership: Iesous (Jesus) too high a standard for humans. Making the perfect the enemy of the merely good a mistake. An excuse for not doing anything, or for shirking responsibilities.

    Moses at least twice sinned due to anger at Israelites. I for one would have overlooked his errors, since frankly the Israelites have always behaved badly whenever *en masse*. Recall the First Century mob pressuring Pontus Pilatius for that crucifixion? (The original ‘lynch mob’…)

    Near as I can tell, Koresh (that’s the real name of the Persian king Cyrus) was after sex and power more than money. Jones I know less about, seemed to be in the Jim Baker mode, but murderous to boot.

    The Clintons do resemble Ahab and Jezebel; killing a Naboth for his vineyard right in their line.

    General governance theory American Framers selected was/is a (small-R) republican one, with balanced purviews and powers. Akin to the Five Nations, but that lacked a ratified constitution. In the US version, the ‘shaman’ / ‘priest’ function gets excluded from governance groups but is protected from majoritarian tyranny via a ‘free exercise’ clause.

    Any community likely to benefit by studying the Constitution of circa 1792, and by striving to imitate its principles. There are ethnically-diverse countries older than the US, but today relatively few have their original governance methods.

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  22. Clergylady May 16, 15:14

    I like these articles and discusdions. Information stays pertinant.

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  23. Enigma May 17, 18:27

    Existo servire – sed, nil semper tamen appetitur.

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  24. HJ February 24, 06:57

    Suddenly, those Cold War nuclear PSA/lessons about getting under your desk don’t seem as dumb. Smarter than hiding out in a fridge, for sure.

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