Guidance for Radiation Accident Management


Basics of Radiation



Safety Around Radiation Sources

Types of Radiation Exposure

Managing Radiation Emergencies

Managing radiation emergencies

Guidance for Prehospital Emergency Services

Introduction || Guidelines || Hazard Identification || Control Zone || Emergency Medical Management || Responding to a Fire || Responding to a Spill || Responding to a Nuclear Weapons Accident


Guidelines for Incident Command

1. Approach site with caution. Position personnel, vehicles, and command post at a safe distance upwind and uphill of the site, if possible.

2. Ensure safety of responders.

  • Identify all hazards (danger of fire, explosion, toxic fumes, electrical hazards, structural collapse, etc.).
  • Identify cargo.
  • Obtain information concerning the cargo from placards, labels, shipping documents, and other immediately available sources.
  • Consult DOT Emergency Response Guidebook.
  • Keep upwind of smoke, fumes, etc.
  • Follow usual protocols for respiratory protection, use of protective clothing, and turnout gear.
  • Monitor changing conditions that could create hazardous situations.

For nuclear weapons, rescue injured only. Establish a 2,500-foot exclusion zone around the weapon.

3. Locate victims and facilitate extrication, emergency care and transportation of the injured, following EMS guidelines. Medical problems take priority over radiological concerns. Do not delay rescue or transport of a seriously injured, contaminated patient.

4. Communications

  • Notify hospital of possible contamination/exposure of victim.
  • Notify state radiological assistance (emergency response center) of accident conditions.

5. Establish a control zone

  • Reroute traffic.
  • Mark controlled area by use of ropes or tapes.
  • Limit entry to rescue personnel only.
  • Order evacuation or sheltering as needed.

6. Prevent/fight fires as if toxic chemicals are involved.

7. Ensure radiation protection and contamination control.

  • Do not allow eating, drinking, smoking, or other activities within contaminated areas that might lead to intake of radioactive material.
  • Avoid direct contact with radioactive materials where possible. Utilize protective clothing and anything available for remote handling (shovels, branches, ropes, etc.)
  • Limit time near radioactive materials to the minimum necessary. Rotate staff as necessary.
  • Determine radiation levels within controlled area and monitor rescue personnel with individual dosimeters, if available.
  • Evacuate personnel from the immediate downwind area. Detain personnel who were in the accident area until they can be checked by radiological monitors. Follow instruction of radiation authority.
  • Remove protective gear/clothing at the control line.
  • Wrap, label, and isolate all clothing, tools, etc. used in the controlled area, and retain them until they can be cleared by radiation authority.
  • Determine if measures are needed to contain all accident debris in the control zone until cleanup is achieved. Prevent unnecessary handling of incident debris.

8. Documentation

  • Record the names and addresses of all persons involved, including those who insist on leaving the area; rescuers; those removed for medical attention; and ambulance personnel.
  • Make detailed records of the incident.

9. Remain calm.

  • Do not be overly concerned with the presence of radioactive material or allow it to disrupt usual emergency response activities. Remember, it is improbable that emergency personnel will receive any radiation injury during these operations.

10. Delay cleanup pending instruction from radiation authority. Coordinate cleanup activities at site with public officials.

Response actions may be performed before any radiation measurements. Some radioactive materials cannot be detected by commonly available instruments.

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