Nuclear threat: How Yorkshire residents were told to protect themselves in the 1980s
Back in the 1980s the threat of a nuclear attack loomed over every household in the UK, but to calm the fears of those waiting for the alarm call, there was a detailed booklet which advised people of what to do in the event of a nuclear attack.
This booklet was distributed to every household as part of a public information campaign and included announcements on the television, radio and in the press.
It explained that the dangers which individuals and families could face in a nuclear attack this situation could be reduced if they did what the booklet advised them to do.
‘Lie in a ditch’
If you were outside at the time a nuclear attacked happened, the advice in the booklet was to try and find a building nearby. However, if this wasn’t an option, the booklet instructed you to use any kind of cover possible or to ‘lie flat in a ditch’, ‘covering the exposed skin of the head and hands’.
‘Stay at home’
The advice was that your local authority would be able to help you in the case of a nuclear attack and if you moved to a different area the authority there would not help you with accommodation, food or other essentials.
Also, if you did leave your home, your local authority would potentially take your empty house in order for others to use, so the advice strongly stated to stay at home.
‘Provide variety’ when stocking up on food
The booklet advised you to make a ‘Fall-out Room’ in case of a nuclear attack, protecting yourself from the outside world and stocking it with essentials for your stay in this room.
In regards to food, the information tells you to ‘stock enough food for fourteen days’ and to ‘choose foods which can be eaten cold, which keep fresh, and which are tinned or well wrapped’. It also states that you should ‘Provide variety’, stocking up on ‘sugar, jams or other sweet foods, cereals, biscuits, meats, vegetables, fruit and fruit juices’.
It was also advised to ‘Eat perishable items first’ and ‘Use your supplies sparingly.’
Take a tin opener
When going into your ‘Fall-out Room’ you were reminded to not forget to take a tin opener, cutlery and crockery with you.
Stock up on Vaseline
The booklet advised taking a First Aid Kit with you into your refuge room, stating to including ‘household medicines and prescribed medicines’, alongside ‘aspirins or similar tablets, adhesive dressings, cotton wool, bandages, disinfectant, ointment’, specifically telling readers to take 'Vaseline’.
Make a lean-to
Within your fall-out room the booklet advised readers to make an inner refuge, ‘using sloping doors taken from rooms above or strong boards rested against an inner wall.’
You could ‘prevent them from slipping by fixing a length of wood along the floor’, ‘build further protection of bags or boxes of earth or sand - or books, or even clothing - on the slope of your refuge’ and ‘partly close the two open ends with boxes of earth or sand, or heavy furniture.
Wear stout shoes
After an nuclear attack had taken place, the booklet told readers to stay inside for at least 48 hours and then gave specific instructions of what to do when then leaving the house.
It stated that people should limit their activities ‘to a few minutes for essential duties’ and that those who go outside ‘should avoid bringing dust into the house, keeping separate stout shoes or boots for outdoors if they can, and always wiping them’.