NukAlert or Geiger-2: A Radiation Detection Comparison

NukAlert or Geiger-2: A Radiation Detection Comparison

by Aden Tate


If you're trying to up your nuclear preparedness, you've likely wondered about the NukAlert. This small, keychain-sized device can alert you if a nuclear bomb has been detonated, giving you the time and information you need to make lifesaving decisions.

But how does the NukAlert work? What are its strengths? And are there other options on the market? Let's take a look.

Table of Contents

  • 01

    Local Governments Regularly Use Nuclear Detection

  • 02

    What is a NukAlert?

  • 03

    How Does NukAlert Work?

  • 04

    MIRA Safety’s Answer: The MIRA Safety Geiger-2 Portable Dosimeter/Geiger Counter

  • 05

    Why You Need Nuclear Detection Ability

  • 06

    Frequently Asked Questions

Local Governments Regularly Use Nuclear Detection

There is more to this above statement than you may think. Everybody knows about soldiers and federal officers monitoring radiation, but have you ever thought about your local government? What about your police, fire, and EMS workers?

In many cases, they monitor radiation as well.

One of the ways that this is done is through Automated Radiation Measurement Stations (ARMS-2). If you see one of these atop a building in your locale, it may look like your county is getting its anti-air defense systems up and running, but what you are in fact looking at isn't a missile, but a radiation monitoring station.

These systems cost a little over $10,000 pre-inflation. They are used by local governments to help give them the accurate information they need to keep their constituents safe in the event of a radiological leak or nuclear attack.

What's really interesting about this concept is that several places use "micro" versions to distribute to their first responders to build nuclear preparedness.

The Story of Arizona

Arizona is likely the only state in the Union with a high degree of nuclear preparedness throughout most of its landmass. This all began in 2008.

Then, several organizations throughout the state began to express concerns about Arizona's degree of nuclear war preparedness. Should something happen, they argued, a lot of people would die in Arizona simply because basic precautionary measures had never been taken.

Crews dealing with waste after uranium leaked out of a barrel on a truck in Arizona in 2016.

Organizations began to meet and discuss what they could do to resolve these problems while identifying other issues in the process.

One of these organizations, Physicians for Civil Defense, began asking questions about how they could better prepare their state so that more Arizonans would survive a nuclear attack while using the almost non-existent funds they had available.

Arizona’s 91st Civil Support Team conducting a radiation detection drill, 2013.

Their answer was to create small "nuclear survival kits" that they then disseminated, free of charge, to first responders throughout Arizona. Each kit included a copy of Cresson Kearny's Nuclear War Survival Skills, two dosimeters/Geiger counters, and some extra training literature.

The theory was this: A community that knows where radiation is – and where it is not – can not only work to eliminate unnecessary casualties but can help to provide some sense of calm in what is guaranteed to be a community filled with panic. (This is what that panic looks like.)

This was something that Arizona had expressed concerns about just the year before these nuclear survival kits were passed out. The number of people running to the hospital without cause and the sheer number of people that would hit the roads would cause severe "highway obstruction" and "hospital surge shutdown due to psychological distress," they noted.

Texans fleeing Hurricane Rita, 2005. Imagine adding the threat of instant annihilation to the mix.

Arizona also had concerns that should there be some type of nuclear event on American soil, their ability to help keep Arizonans alive could be severely decimated if something happened to the first responders. Nuclear blasts don't just generate radiation injuries. They produce large amounts of trauma injuries as well. This is due to explosions being a common precipitating event of many nuclear accidents, and, of course, from the heat and shock wave created by a nuclear bomb.

Nuclear casualty triage dictates that EMS treat those with trauma wounds that could cause immediate death first – not radiation injuries. The problem here, though, is that after a nuclear event, many people will have both. Crushing injuries, lacerations, traumatic brain injuries, and burns are common post-explosion. When you combine radioactive fallout into the mix, you can very quickly end up with a contaminated ambulance or even a radiation-contaminated emergency room at the hospital.

This is from a 2008 US Air Force exercise, but this type of training occurs because wounds like these are common after any explosion. Explosions send glass everywhere.

Moving patients is physically demanding work too. EMS attempting to evacuate a casualty will have their clothes come into contact with the patient's clothes. This can then lead to the transfer of radioactive fallout from one to the other. There would already be enough casualties as a result of the nuclear blast. But if you were to add in a complete lack of healthcare workers because they all developed acute radiation sickness? Then the only result is even more Arizonans unnecessary deaths.

Supplying communities with small, convenient-to-carry dosimeters/Geiger counters was one of the easy ways that Arizona decided to combat this. And what type of product did Arizona hand out way back in 2008?

The NukAlert.


Other communities also advocated for this type of approach. The 2006 Doctors for Disaster Preparedness meeting saw Dr. Donald W. Miller, the professor of surgery at the University of Washington School of Medicine, also advocate for the widespread adoption of small, personal dosimeters/Geiger counters.

What is a NukAlert?

NukAlert is a small device that is supposed to be carried on one's keyring as one goes about their daily life. It functions as a miniature Geiger counter/dosimeter, giving the user a rough estimate of how much radiation they absorb.

The device is incredibly popular, and it's even rumored that members of Congress carry these types of devices on their keyrings. Should somebody carry a NukAlert keychain while a nuclear blast takes place, they can then make better decisions about how protected they are from gamma and X-ray radiation (but not alpha or beta radiation).

(A larger version known as the NukAlert-ER is what runs the ARMS-2 systems discussed above.)

How Does NukAlert Work?

Inside the NukAlert meter are a cadmium sulfide photoconductive cell and a gadolinium oxysulfide scintillating phosphor. That's a fancy way of saying that there is a substance that reacts to radiation and a means to "read" and measure that radiation inside of the NukAlert.

Anytime a phosphorescent substance is hit with radiation, it begins to glow. With this specific type of phosphor, the more radiation that hits it, the brighter it will glow. The NukAlert computer can then measure this glow to determine how much radiation the phosphor has likely been hit with. Using its programmed metrics, the NukAlert will then begin to chirp.

Phosphorescence at work in a Soviet dosimeter. (Image courtesy of StingerMD at Wikimedia Commons. )

The more frequently the NukAlert chirps, the more radiation the inner computer detects. The less frequently it chirps, the lower the radiation levels in the ambient environment are. While just hearing a NukAlert chirp is concerning, the user can get a better picture of how much radiation he absorbs by using the chart on the back of the device.

The lowest level of radiation that a NukAlert can detect is 0.1 roentgen/hour, and if you hear a chirp once every 35 seconds, that will be what you are hearing. So, if you hear your NukAlert chirp nine times while you stay in your ad hoc nuclear blast shelter for an hour, you'll know that you've absorbed 25.6 roentgen.

The NukAlert radiation detector is admittedly sensitive to sudden temperature changes and has a slower response time (3-4 minutes) than many other Geiger counters and dosimeters. Still, it has been tested by the Naval Air Warfare Center for EMP immunity; it has a ten-year warranty and will still work even after being submersed down to six feet.

In short? It's a tough little piece of gear that will help to give you a reliable means of measuring radiation.

But it's not the only product on the market.

MIRA Safety’s Answer: The MIRA Safety Geiger-2 Portable Dosimeter/Geiger Counter

If you're looking for a feature-packed dosimeter/Geiger counter that will work for years, we highly recommend checking out the MIRA Safety Geiger-2 Radiation Detector.

This is the newest version of our iconic MIRA Safety Geiger-1, and we have seen a massive influx in orders over the past few months.

This pocket-friendly dosimeter/Geiger counter is just slightly larger than a ballpoint pen. It can easily be stowed away in any pocket, purse, or backpack, giving one fast access to easy-to-read radiation levels.

The large, color LCD screen provides easy visuals of the radiation in your area, providing you a constant amount of information even if you've been temporarily deafened by the roar of a nuclear blast. The device will audibly alert you if you are in a radiation danger zone as well so that you can hear this information, even if you've been temporarily blinded by a nuclear blast.

The MIRA Safety Geiger-2 has a simple two-button operation that's so easy to use that even a child can use. The device is discrete as well. There is no ticking, so if you are in a quiet classroom, interview, or office space, nobody will be any the wiser that you are carrying the gear necessary to give everybody the lifesaving information they need should there be a nuclear detonation.

The cloud from the Tsar Bomba test.

Being made from impact-resistant polymer and with an integrated solar panel, our device is also built for the long haul. A post-nuclear blast world is an austere environment, and this solar panel will help give you the battery power needed to keep your gear still, giving you accurate information on the potentially radioactive ground around you even well after the blast. The MIRA Safety Geiger-2 comes with a charging cable to aid with faster charging, so you can easily plug it into a backpacker's solar panel for faster charging.

Our device can detect all the way down to 0.999 microsieverts/hour, will give you an accurate reading within 20 seconds of analytics, and you'll know that the measurement you're seeing is solid as we use the same SBM20-01 Geiger Muller tube that the American military uses in its Geiger counters as well.

The NukAlert detects down to 0.1 roentgen/hour. One roentgen is equal to 114025085.519 microsieverts. The MIRA Safety Geiger-2 being able to detect all the way down to 0.999 microsieverts/hour, has a broader detection range.

So if you're looking for the most in-depth knowledge in the most portable package possible for nuclear threats, we highly recommend the Geiger-2.


By the early 1960s, so many nukes had been tested that every single point of the world could show radioactive evidence of such. No matter where you were.

Why You Need Nuclear Detection Ability

Men used to carry swords to protect themselves because swords were the standard weapon of the day. If a man was traveling from one town to another and he was to be attacked by an enemy, it was likely another sword that he would encounter.

Fast forward to the modern day. We no longer fight wars with swords and spears but with nuclear warheads, rifles, tanks, and fighter jets, amongst many other weapons. As such, people today purchase their own rifles, body armor, armored vehicles, and the like.

But what about nuclear preparedness? Why not also prepare for the granddaddy of all weapons? Sure, you won't be able to fire a nuke back personally, but at the very least, you can have the gear necessary to keep your family alive after the blast. Because the fact of the matter is that you are likely to survive when there is a nuclear attack. Nuclear war doesn't automatically mean that you will be instantly incinerated. Having one's shadow permanently etched into a concrete building will most certainly be the fate of many people when a nuke drops, but there will be a whole lot more who won't die from the heat or shock wave but from the radiation weeks after the blast instead.

Nuclear war survival scientist Cresson Kearny pointed out that your odds of surviving the initial blasts are very good. What isn't good are your chances of surviving the radiation that will follow over the next several months. If you've read our recent post about the common types of radiation injuries, you know that dying in this manner is torture, and watching your family die in this manner is even worse.

But if you can detect the radiation levels in the atmosphere around you, you will be much better equipped to protect your family from radiation.

Consider the current state of the world as well. Russia and Ukraine are at war, with NATO heavily supplying Ukraine and Russia constantly warning NATO to back off or risk a nuclear attack. Things have gotten so precarious that the Doomsday clock has actually been moved closer to "midnight" than we've ever seen before.

Other things that you may want to know about?

And these are just some of the current nuclear/radioactive threats we see. Where is this smuggled uranium going? Why are nuclear-capable launchers being set up all over Ukraine? Are nuclear weapons being smuggled in through the Texan border?

What happens as well if civilians have to be the ones to discover these types of events? It was the Swedes who first raised the alarm on Chernobyl. How many people in Ukraine were exposed to lethal radiation levels because their government didn't tell them about it? Lack of transparency is something of a trend in governments throughout history. Just like you wouldn't want to trust all of your food, medical, and shelter needs to a government organization post-disaster, you probably don't want to outsource all of your information on where dangerous radiation is either.

Knowing this and wanting to protect his fellow Americans from radioactive threats, Cresson Kearny advocated using homebrew radiation detectors, most notably, the Kearny Fallout Meter (KFM). The problem with this method is that the gear Kearny recommended using for these projects is far from as standard in the average American home today as in 1979 when he wrote the book Nuclear War Survival Skills.

For example, do you have doorbell wire, unwaxed dental floss, or four mil-thick plastic vinyl around your house? Probably not. Yet, if you want to build Kearny's homebrew fallout meter, that's just some of what you need.

No, your best bet here is to have the gear you need well before you actually need it and well before some type of nuclear event has happened overseas that has caused America's supply of Thyrosafe, gas masks, and Geiger counters to completely dry up overnight. This is where MIRA Safety can help you. We not only have the dosimetry gear that you need, but we also have the PPE as well.


While the Kearny Fallout Meter works excellently, it is difficult to build and not considered rugged enough for field use. Stocked away in a fallout shelter, it would serve you fine. However, you could not carry a KFM around daily without it becoming damaged.

Final Thoughts on NukAlert and Radiation Detection

Our intentions here aren't to bash a competitor's product. The NukAlert is a fine piece of gear that works great and will save lives when the next nuke falls. But it's also not the only nuclear detection gear on the market, and if you're looking for something with more features, MIRA Safety has you covered.

So give the MIRA Safety Geiger-2 a look over. We know you'll be impressed with what it offers before and after a nuke goes off.

Have any thoughts on Geiger counters in general? Have you ever used a NukAlert? Have you found any verification that members of Congress actually do carry these styles of devices? Tell us what you're thinking in the comment section below.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I really need some means of detecting nuclear radiation?
How do I know if my NukAlert is working?
How does a Geiger counter or dosimeter keep you safe?
What do these decisions look like?
Is there a low battery warning for a NukAlert?
Where can I get the batteries replaced with a NukAlert?
Where to buy a NukAlert
Why does my NukAlert click?
Are NukAlerts still manufactured?
Will a NukAlert alert me in time to seek shelter?
What should I do if my NukAlert starts chirping?