Radiological Emergency

A nuclear or radiological emergency might be the result of an accident at a nuclear power plant or the use of a small nuclear weapon. Radiation's health effects can be mild, like reddening of the skin, or very serious, like cancer or even death.

Before a Radiological Event

  • Have your emergency supply kit ready.
  • Know where and how to get information from your city or town.
  • Know the evacuation routes for your neighborhood.

During a Radiological Event

  • MONITOR AND PREPARE to follow instructions from public officials.
  • Monitor the news and social media for updates and guidance.
  • Check with your neighbors to make sure they are aware of the emergency.
  • Do not use the telephone unless it is absolutely necessary. Telephone lines are needed by local officials to respond to the emergency.
  • Consider a short text message instead of a call.
  • Please do not call local authorities unless you need special assistance.
Shelter in Place
  • Shelter in place may be recommended during a nuclear power station event. Shelter in place means going indoors and remaining indoors until the emergency is over. Such action will reduce an individual’s exposure to radiation resulting from a radioactive release of short duration.
  • If driving, close windows/vents and turn off air conditioner or heater.
  • Go home or to a public building.
  • Keep family and pets indoors.
  • Close all windows and doors.
  • If possible, turn off all devices that draw outside air.
  • Extinguish stove/fireplace fires and close flues when possible.
  • Avoid using telephones, including cell phones, to prevent overloading the system and interfering with emergency use.
  • Remain indoors until officially notified that the emergency is over.
  • Do not evacuate unless told to do so.
  • Continue to monitor your local Emergency Alert System (EAS) radio/TV station.
  • If you must go outside, cover your mouth and nose with a moist cloth to help prevent breathing in radioactive particles. Move quickly and limit outdoor exposure time to as little as possible.
  • Food already in your home is safe to eat, although food grown locally may have to be tested by state monitors before it is consumed.
  • Use this checklist to prepare to evacuate if/when directed.
  • Gather together those household members who are present.
  • Pack the following items as necessary:
    • Clothing, money, credit cards, checkbook, cash
    • Prescription medicine or special medical equipment
    • Potassium Iodide (KI) Tablets
    • Blankets, pillows, soap, towels, toiletries
    • Diapers, bottles, milk/baby formula, toys
    • Identification and important personal papers/documents
    • Portable radio, flashlight, batteries
  • Close and lock all windows and doors.
  • Turn off devices that draw outside air.
  • Turn off lights and electrical appliances (except refrigerator and freezer).
  • Continue to listen to a local Emergency Alert System (EAS) radio station in your vehicle.
  • Leave food and water for pets, or have alternate plans for their care. Reception Centers and some shelters may have provisions for your pets, but the best thing to do is plan ahead for their care.
  • Check with your neighbors to see it they need a ride and carpool with them, if possible.
  • Go to your assigned evacuation centers.
Sealing a Room

During a chemical, nuclear or radiological emergency, the air outside may be dangerous. For short periods of time, "sealing the room" can help protect you and your family from harmful air outside. If you see large amounts of debris in the air, or if local officials say the air is dangerous, you may want to take this kind of action. Choose one room in the middle of your home or a room with no windows as your shelter. When you move to your shelter, use duct tape and plastic sheeting to seal any doors, windows, or vents in case a chemical or radiation plume is passing over (listen to your radio for instructions). Within two or three hours, you should take down the plastic and duct tape and air out the room. You can suffocate if you keep the room tightly sealed for more than five hours. To seal a room:

  • Seal all windows, doors and air vents in one room with 2–4mm thick plastic sheeting and duct tape. You might want to measure and cut the plastic sheeting in advance to save time.
  • Cut the plastic sheeting at least six inches wider than the openings and label each sheet.
  • Duct tape plastic at corners first and then tape down all the edge.

After a Radiological Event

Check your local TV and radio stations and the Internet for official news, information, and instructions.