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#12693 - 02/09/03 07:52 PM Geiger Counters?

The possibility of a nuclear or radiological event seems likely, if one believes recent media accounts. I'm aware that the best protections are time, distance, and shelter, but also wonder whether I should include detection/monitoring on the list of things to consider. There is a proliferation of Civil Defense geiger counters available and I'm wondering whether they are worth including in one's survival kit, assuming that a geiger counter is an appropriate addition to the kit. Are there other sources/brands/etc. to be considered? Also, what about companies that calibrate and repair surplus CD geiger counters? I'm thinking of KI4U, Inc. at www.radmeters4u.com. Any thoughts?

#12694 - 02/09/03 10:16 PM Re: Geiger Counters?
Chris Kavanaugh Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/09/01
Posts: 3824
Merchandised items such as Geiger counters are good for measuring one thing; a community's fears and individual's greed. Everyone has this mindset that a major disaster will create an immediate and permanent void in government services. This is true in the immediate sense; We were on our own for many needs just after the Northridge quake.This is what being 'equipped" is all about. I would leave the Geiger counters to the people who also have helicopters and M.A.S.H. units in their PSKs <img src="images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />

#12695 - 02/09/03 10:29 PM Re: Geiger Counters?

it's all about your scenario. I would agree that a gieger counter alone is relatively useless. This tool is designed to provide information about how much radiation you are being exposed to, without some other plans / equippment / location / transport / shelter to make that information actionable what you accomplish with a gieger counter is a precise understanding of exactly how f%^*ed you are. This doesn't really increase your chances of survival. OTOH if you actually have a place to go that is secured from radiation and a way to get there that is likely to be usable during a disaster (bomb shelter and helicopter) then you might be able to use the gieger counter to let you know when to get into the helicopter.

#12696 - 02/10/03 01:59 AM Re: Geiger Counters?
Raptor68 Offline

Registered: 01/19/03
Posts: 8
Loc: KY/TN Borderlands
There is a pretty good "what if" discussion of this issue available in Pulling Through by Dean Ing. It is a scifi story, but the last 1/3 of the book is an indepth discussion by some writers and engineers on this very issue. They discuss what shelter would be necessary, why, and how to provide a lowtech version at home, as well as how to create a positive pressure room. Also how to create a filtered air supply system with on hand materials, as well as a radiation counter (this last item straight from Civil Defense instruction pamphlet). Pretty interesting reading; I keep a copy of it in our disaster library box.
"Lost - nah, I aint never been lost. Been fearsome confused fer a month or two though..."

#12697 - 02/10/03 05:54 AM Re: Geiger Counters?

As someone who did take the civil preparedness radiological monitoring course (The big orange book). I would add that you need to learn how to use and read the counters. You also need a basic understanding of the nature of radiation and its half life.

Also, there are two models of counters that were issued by the government and are now on the market. One is for remote sensing and one is for direct sensing. You need the right one for the job.

And finally, if you want to give someone the willys, stick your geiger counter in box of styrofoam peanuts. The static electricity will have it clicking like crazy. <img src="images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />


#12698 - 02/10/03 06:32 AM Delete


#12699 - 02/10/03 08:29 AM Re: Geiger Counters?

To answer the question – NO. Best chances are to evac right away or let the people who also have helicopters and M.A.S.H. units in their PSKs pull you out and inform you of your exposure. Most importantly I must stress that Chris K. has the best and most reasonable response. Because of that I want to help nip this thread in the bud as the saying goes. Chris T. explains the reason that a Geiger counter like any other tool is only good if the tool between your ears has the KNOWLEDGE and training to use the other tools to yield rational results. The reasons are many and have been explained by the both Chris K. and Chris T. The surplus Geiger’s work but without training and a real need are nothing but a way to give someone money. An example of the problems is that you must have an accurate source for calibration. That means something like a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) traceable radioactive source and the tools and training to calibrate the Geiger. As a general rule you can figure that a surplus Geiger is pretty much so far out of calibration that it is useless. At the school where I am now, the departments that use surplus Geigers treat them as no more useful without bi-annual calibration than the old aluminum foil trick to detect radiation. In other words, “Well it’s showing some but how much, from where and of what kind who knows.” Don’t waste your time, money or energy worrying about this scenario.
This is the first time I remember a question about survival in a nuclear event on this forum and I hope the last. ETS has a link to another forum where this kind of thing is talked about on a semi-regular basis. As part of where I live now and what I am doing I have friends with serious experience and education in the fields of physics and chemistry. I asked one of these friends to visit the link from ETS and give me his opinion on some of the threads that had been posted on survival and nuclear ‘events’. This friend of mine has two PhDs (physical chemistry and nuclear physics) with previous jobs at the national labs at Argonne, Los Alamos, and Livermore. After reading the posts and laughing his head off at the advice that in his words was ‘so full of ignorance and bad science that the you would be better off sticking your head in the sand’, he offered this advice. “A stolen atomic bomb (not thermo-nuclear) is a possibility but would not create any problems beyond a relatively small geographic area. No EMP beyond the totally destroyed area, no long-term affects on the site, and would allow help to arrive within hours. And the ‘dirty bomb’ is not really possible in the way the media and others use the idea, because not even the US has the technology to make such a weapon.” He pointed me the web site of the “Wisconsin Project” and the “Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists” which have realistic assessments of the dangers of WMD. By the way the ‘expert’ on the linked site is a 14 year old kid – yes you read that right 14 as in not old enough to drive so the question is do you really want to trust the advice of a 14 year old or the people at the Wisconsin Project and the Bulletin. My experience is that after working for a firm where radioactive drugs were being made I can attest to the uselessness of KI. As an MD said to me “Great idea protect your thyroid while the rest of your body gets a fatal dose.” (i.e. if you really have a need for KI your death would be from some other kind of radiation induced cancer.) Don’t believe the hype and as always let the buyer beware.
As always -- Stay safe!
Craig J. in Wisconsin
An aside for Chris T. -- Here in the lead region of Wisconsin we don’t need to stick a Geiger in a box of ‘peanuts’ we can just go outside and put the thing near the ground to make them go ‘ape#*t’. Raw lead ore (Galena) is radioactive. Always freaks out the freshman physics students.
<img src="images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />

#12700 - 02/10/03 01:16 PM Re: Geiger Counters?
johnbaker Offline
old hand

Registered: 01/17/02
Posts: 384
Loc: USA

I think you've raised a good question with some realistic scenarios. As much as a I love this forum, it does not tend to consider nuclear questions. However, you should definitely do a search for the thread: "? Post Nuclear Event Survival" running from 2/16/02 thru 5/30/02. It was an anomaly. Be sure to check the websites, e.g., TACDA, KI4U, & Rocky Mountain Survival Guide (which I believe is back online again). Be sure to consider the books suggested by the first 2, e.g., Kearny, etc. I've had unsuccessful experience with surplus geiger counters. Sorry, I don't mean to be cryptic, I need to run this morning.


Nice to hear from you again. Glad the nuclear issue brought you out again.

John, Esq.

#12701 - 02/10/03 06:16 PM Re: Geiger Counters?
Greg_Sackett Offline

Registered: 12/14/01
Posts: 225
Loc: KC, MO
With respect to Craig and Chris, who each bring up good points about not running out and buying something you don't have the knowledge to use, I fail to understand the hostility towards those interested in radiation safety issues. While I agree that we don't need people runing out digging shelters like in the 60's, there are some appropriate steps that people can take in the event of a radiological emergency. Now maybe I am biased because I'm a Radiation Safety Officer and Certified Health Physicist in real life, and I deal with it every day.

Fear generally comes from ignorance, not stupidity. If you stifle discussion of these issues, you only further that ignorance or send people to nonsense web sites written by 14 year olds and bad sci-fi writers. You shouldn't ask me about a complex medical question, because I'm not a doctor. By the same token, you shouldn't be taking radiation safety advice from someone who isn't a health physicist.

We discuss earthquakes and natural disasters all the time. While a radiological event may be man-made, I do not see why we shouldn't discuss it here. If Doug and Chris truly feel this is inappropriate, then I would invite people to contact me privately with their questions. I will do my best to steer you clear of all the mis-information out there.




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