The asTeroid impacT survival guide
The following guide is adapted from the Committee to Review Near-Earth Object (asteroid and comet) Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies emergency management approach:
a loW-probabiliTy impacT is reporTed.
Governments and safety organisations should announce the low probability of an impact to avoid widespread panic.
a very small asTeroid (1-10m diameTer) is on impacT TrajecTory. imminenT impacT!
It is probably harmless so you needn’t to do much. Anyone near ‘ground zero’ should stay indoors and away from windows.
a small asTeroid (10-25m) is on collision course. impacT in days To Weeks.
Such an event may occur during this century and the impact could cause significant, and potentially lethal, damage to a zone of about 10 km wide. Evacuation of the predicted impact site is essential and the emergency services should be on standby.
a modesT-sized asTeroid (10-100m) impacTs. imminenT impacT!
This scenario is rather unlikely to occur without any warning. It could result in severe local conseTuences: building collapse, fires, injuries and death at distances up to 50 km away from impact site. Anyone living near ‘ground zero’ should immediately evacuate as soon as the news gets out. The emergency services will also need to launch a response-and-recovery plan for those caught in the blast for at least 72 hours after impact.
an unlikely, buT possible, impacT of a dangerously large asTeroid (30 To 100m) is reporTed. Warning Time: over Ten years.
If there is ample warning, there is no need for immediate panic. Should the probability of the impact increase and ‘ground zero’ be identified, then preparations to minimise losses to life and property should be made. If orbit-change measures fail, then you should get ready for the worst by preparing shelter, medical care, food, and stockpiling water and other provisions. Advanced planning for communications and evacuation is essential.
a dangerously large asTeroid (100 To many hundreds of meTers diameTer) is inbound. imminenT impacT!
The nature of such a disaster would be similar to large natural disasters such as the 2004 tsunami. Similar disaster response strategies would be required. Governments and international organisations need to carefully communicate the risks; misunderstandings based on popular culture may have negative repercussions – for example, the emergency services could get inspired by the movie Deep Impact and get a little over-excited...
a civilisaTion and species desTroying asTeroid (greaTer Than 1km diameTer) is due To hiT in The nexT couple of decades
Your best chance of survival is to hope that the orbital change strategies work. Consequences of the impact could include collapse of the entire social structure and mass fatalities. Or even worse. Attempts should be made to warn and inform; store provisions for medical care, food, water and shelter; and for international bodies to improve global infrastructure for financial, electronic and law-enforcement.
a civilisaTion desTroying asTeroid (greaTer Than 1km). imminenT impacT!
Don’t worry. If attempts to knock the asteroid off track haven’t worked then you don’t stand a chance. Start doing all those things on your ‘bucket list’. And start praying.
Chapman, C. R., & Morrison, D. (1994). ‘Impacts on the Earth by asteroids and comets: assessing the hazard’. Nature, 367(6458), 33-40. Committee to Review Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies. (2010). Defending Planet Earth: Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies: Final Report. National Academies Press. Mumfrey, W. H. (2010). The Official Underground 2012 Doomsday Survival Handbook. HOW Books.
The Earth Impact Effects Program NASA Asteroid and Comet Watch Guardian Data Blog map of every known meteorite fall on earth, back to 2300 BC WikiHow instructions to Survive a Super Comet Hitting Earth Neil Degrasse Tyson, expressing fears about the lack of public expenditure on asteroid defence technology (VIDEO) Wikipedia: The Deep Impact mission NASA: The Deep Impact mission
Becky Martin worked as an emergency planner before deciding to live dangerously and do a PhD in disaster management at the University of Southampton instead. Occasionally she stops contemplating potential impending doom and bakes some cupcakes. Tweet all your catastrophe questions to her @ Calamity Cake.