Assessing Your Risk: Probability and Consequence

Most people consider the risk of a nuclear attack to be very small. No such attack has ever occurred in our country, therefore, they consider the probability of such an event to be near zero. Keep in mind, however, that a true risk assessment must consider both probability and consequence.


Most of our national security strategists agree that the possibility of a nuclear attack from terrorist countries and organizations grows daily. The technology is well known and the nuclear fuel for such weapons is available on the “black market” China and North Korea have made veiled nuclear threats against our borders, terrorist organizations claim to have “suitcase bombs” and Russia and China continue to modernize every aspect of their strategic nuclear arsenal.

Edward Teller, the father of the Hydrogen Bomb, recently said, “Every day we go without a nuclear terrorist attack is a gift.” The probability of a nuclear event is greater than most people think.

The consequences of a nuclear attack, in loss of human life and collateral damage, would be huge. The relatively few lives lost in the U.S. from hurricanes, flood, or the recent 9/11 terrorist attacks would pail to the tens of millions of lives lost from a potential nuclear attack.

When multiplying both the growing probability factor, with the huge consequence factor, we see a resulting risk that is very large. We believe this assessment easily justifies the expense and effort of installing hardened NBC shelters.

There are certain classes of facilities that attract nuclear warheads in the first round of an attack. Any facility connected with America’s nuclear forces will be brought under attack in the first salvo including ICBM fields and launch control facilities and command and control centers such as NORAD in Colorado Springs and the Air Force command center in Omaha. Air Force bases hosting long-range bombers, refueling/tanker aircraft, and continental air defense fighter aircraft are obvious first-tier targets.

Any airport with a runway capable of landing a commercial jet would be a recipient of at least one nuclear warhead, most likely fused to burst at or near the ground so as to crater the runway, or at least heave gobs of contaminated material onto and around the runway. Strategists plan this to deny recovery of any surviving bomber or tankers. Any city of more than 200,000 will most likely have runways of this length nearby.

The resulting fallout will kill many thousands of citizens and military personnel. Blast and fire will be a factor for a radius of 6 to 12 miles depending on weapon yield, weather, height of burst, etc. Be aware that weapons and delivery systems malfunction and can miss the intended target (but inevitably hit someone else). Also remember that a “rain-out” can occur increasing the gamma dose-rate by a factor of ten or more, (possibly 10,000 rads per hour) effectively killing everyone in the local area not shielded with an earth cover more than 5 feet thick.


A correctly designed and installed shelter will effectively protect the health of its occupants in this environment, and will do so within 1/2 mile of the center of the detonation. In addition, the sheltered will be relatively comfortable, not just alive.
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