A Doomsday Disaster Guide for Anyone Freaked Out Over Hawaii’s False Alarm

Caleb Jones' 7-year-old daughter looks out toward Pearl Harbor from their home in Honolulu
Associated Press correspondent Caleb Jones' 7-year-old daughter looks out toward Pearl Harbor from their home in Honolulu on Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. Jones was with his daughter at their home on Saturday when an emergency alert warning of a missile strike was sent out to mobile devices across the state. Caleb Jones/AP Photo

What happened over the weekend — you know, the false alarm trumpeting a nuclear blast in Hawaii — was an absolute disaster. Especially since it could have been prevented by a more careful web developer from happening in the first place.

But compared with the alternative — an actual nuclear ballistic missile attack — things could have been, uh, a lot worse.

Imagine enjoying a nice weekend, only to look down at your phone to see this: BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

Now what do you do?

Given the growing tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, people were understandably freaked out.

But even given the incredibly small chance of an actual nuclear attack, there are some ways to prepare — and on a budget, at that!

How to Prepare for a Nuclear Attack With a Low-Cost Disaster Kit

You can put together a pretty run-of-the-mill disaster preparedness kit to be ready for a hurricane, flood, snowstorm or a highly unlikely attack from a nuclear ballistic missile.

There are five easy strategies for building up an emergency kit on a budget: Decide what you need, find free options to gather supplies, use your DIY prowess, collect items on sale, and always, always plan ahead.

However, for a nuclear attack, you’ll need more than bottled water and batteries. First, make sure to have up to two weeks of supplies you can survive on, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Potassium Iodide tablets help slow the spread of some types of radiation, so those might be useful to grab before any possible attack, though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control suggests taking them only on the advice of a health official or physician. And a radio is going to be one of the most important pieces of equipment in order to hear emergency transmissions.

Here’s a rundown of the cost of some of these items:

Potassium iodide tables — $8.35

Hand-crank radio — $15.99

Bottled water — $22.96 (for 22 gallons per person)

Here’s How to Survive a Nuclear Attack

The Department of Homeland Security has a comprehensive to-do list in the event of a nuclear disaster.

The main point: Get as far away from the blast as humanly possible. Shelter yourself in dense buildings — think concrete and bricks. And be ready to stay indoors for a while — radiation loses its greatest threat within two weeks.

If you’re caught outside during a blast, don’t look at the explosion, take cover behind anything possible, and lie down flat and cover your head. And when you can get inside, get clean as quickly as possible.

But think of it this way, in the extraordinarily unlikely event of a nuclear attack: At least we won’t be worrying about student loans, rising rents or other more present problems that have been dogging us. So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder.