How Can I Prepare for a Radiological Emergency?

If you live within a radius of approximately 10 miles from a nuclear power plant, you will receive materials annually regarding the unlikely event of a nuclear power plant radiological emergency. Read the materials carefully and store them in a readily available location. NRC and other emergency management organizations work together to keep the public informed about such an unlikely event.

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Emergency Information Materials for the Public

Residents within a radius of approximately 10 miles from a nuclear power plant receive emergency information materials annually. This information is commonly distributed via phone books, calendars, brochures, utility bills, and so forth. These materials contain educational information on radiation, instructions for evacuation and sheltering, special arrangements for the handicapped, and contacts for additional information. If you, or someone you know, would need assistance during an emergency, contact your local emergency management agency. Become familiar with this information and store it where you can easily retrieve it if needed.

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Alert and Notification System

A prompt Alert and Notification System (ANS) is in place to notify the public within a 10 mile radius of a nuclear power plant. This system will be activated within approximately 15 minutes of a decision by the responsible local or State government agencies of a need to take protective actions. This system typically uses sirens, tone-alert radios, route alerting (the "Paul Revere" method), or a combination of these methods. If you receive an alert, tune your radio or television to an Emergency Alert System (EAS) station identified in your emergency information materials. The EAS stations will provide information and emergency instructions for you to follow. Citizens living near a nuclear power plant receive emergency information annually on how they will be notified of a problem at a facility and what actions to take.

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Learn About Obtaining Potassium Iodide

You can learn about obtaining potassium iodine, which reduces the absorption of radioactive iodide, by contacting your State or local government's emergency organization (see FEMA's State Offices and Agencies of Emergency Management). Potassium iodide can also be purchased from local pharmacies. You can learn more about the Use of Potassium Iodide on NRC website.

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Response to Dirty Bombs

Basically, the principal type of dirty bomb, or radiological dispersal device (RDD), combines a conventional explosive, such as dynamite, with radioactive material. In most instances, the conventional explosive itself would have more immediate lethality than the radioactive material. At the levels created by most probable sources, not enough radiation would be present in a dirty bomb to kill people or cause severe illness.

However, certain other radioactive materials, dispersed in the air, could contaminate up to several city blocks, creating fear and possibly panic and requiring potentially costly cleanup. Prompt, accurate, non-emotional public information might prevent panic sought by terrorists.

Here is what people should do after an explosion:

  • Stay away from any obvious plume or dust cloud. This will reduce exposure to any radioactive airborne dust.
  • Walk inside a building with closed doors and windows as quickly as possible and listen for information from emergency responders and authorities.
  • Turn on local radio or TV channels for advisories from emergency response and health authorities.
  • If facilities are available, remove clothes and place them in a sealed plastic bag. Saving contaminated clothing will allow testing for radiation exposure.
  • Take a shower to wash off dust and dirt. This will reduce total radiation exposure, if the explosive device contained radioactive material.
  • If radioactive material was released, local news broadcasts will advise people where to report for radiation monitoring and blood and other tests to determine whether they were exposed and what steps to take to protect their health.

For more information, see Fact Sheet on Dirty Bombs.

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