Saturday, September 26, 2015

#NatlPrep: Radiological Emergencies


Photo Credit CDC PHE


Note: This is day 26  of National Preparedness Month . Follow this year’s campaign on Twitter by searching for the #NatlPrep hash tag.

This month, as part of NPM15, I’ll be rerunning some edited and updated older preparedness essays, along with some new ones.




Those of us old enough to remember the 1950s and 1960s can recall a time when the unthinkable – a nuclear attack – was not only thinkable, it was all but expected.  Add in a fledging nuclear power industry, above ground nuclear testing,  and the occasional `lost’ atomic bomb – and well, we had a lot of reasons to have the atomic jitters.


Every school kid was taught `duck and cover’ by  Bert the Turtle in civil defense cartoons, we saw weekly CONELRAD testing on the radio and TV ("This was a test. Had this been a real emergency, you'd have been instructed to turn to your local CONELRAD broadcaster for more information. This was only a test"), and prime time TV shows (like this 1955 episode of MEDIC) painted a grim picture of nuclear holocaust.

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During the Cuban Missile crisis, when I was about 8, I got the short course in radiation sickness, fallout shelters, `duck & cover’ drills, and emergency evacuations from my local elementary school.  I recounted some of those experiences in a blog called NPM11: Creating A Family Communications Plan. 


Today, thankfully, while we no longer live under the pervasive threat of nuclear annihilation, some radiological threats remain, either through deliberate acts, accidents or natural disasters. One need look only as far as the Fukushima disaster of 2011 to see how quickly a radiological emergency can affect a large population. 


This from the CDC’s PHE website:

A radiological or nuclear incidents occurring within the U.S. homeland or elsewhere could take a number of forms, including: contamination of food or water with radioactive material; placement of radiation sources in public locations; detonation of radiological dispersal devices that scatter radioactive material over a populated area; an attack on a nuclear power plant or a high-level nuclear waste storage facility; or an improvised nuclear device.


The CDC’s Public Health Emergency Website lists six types of radiological threats, with links to tell you more about each of them.



While your chances of having to deal with a radiological emergency are far less than an earthquake, tornado, or blizzard, the risk is far from zero.  And there are many who would argue that risk increases with each passing year.   Which is why the CDC reminds us:



September is National Preparedness Month

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Radiation Emergencies: Protect Yourself, Your Family and Your Community

Additional LinksRadiation Basics  |  Educational Videos  |  Treatments  |  FAQs  |  Virtual Community Reception Center

If a radiation emergency occurs, you can take actions to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your pets.



You’ll find some terrific information at the above links, along with number of recently released videos


The goal of National Preparedness Month is to foster a culture of national preparedness, and to encourage everyone to plan and be prepared to deal with any disaster where they can go at least 72 hours without electricity, running water, local services, or access to a supermarket.


These are, of course, minimum goals


Disruptions that accompany hurricanes, floods, pandemics, and yes . . . even radiological disasters  . .  can potentially last for days or even weeks, and so – if you are able to do so - being prepared for 10 days to 2 weeks makes a good deal of sense (see When 72 Hours Isn’t Enough).


While a radiological hazard may be far down your list of `probable’ threats, the common sense steps you take to prepare for any disaster will serve you well, even in a radiation emergency.  For more on `all hazards’ preparedness, I’d invite you to visit:






And you can search for other AFD posts on preparedness using this search link.

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