A radioactive contamination threat, from such sources as a "dirty bomb", a "radiological dispersion device (RDD)", or radioactive contaminant leaks from a nuclear power facility can cause great concern, but reacting calmly is your number one defense. In the case of dirty bombs and RDDs, a deliberate attempt is made to set off conventional explosives that spread radioactive materials over a targeted area; they are not a nuclear blast because the force of the explosion and radioactive contamination will be more localized. In the case of a nuclear power plant radioactive contaminant leak, the leak will usually be triggered by an accident, and the extent of the leak will be dependent on the force behind the rupture, the weather patterns, the location of the plant, and other factors.

While a blast will be immediately obvious, the presence and extent of leaks and radiation will not be clearly defined until trained personnel with specialized equipment are on the scene. As with any radiation, you will need to try to limit your exposure immediately. In particular, it is important to avoid breathing radiological dust that may be released in the air.

Radiation Threat

1. Understand from the outset that to limit the amount of radiation you are exposed to, you will need to focus on three things – time, distance and shielding.

2. If you are in a larger geographical area that has been exposed to radiation, getting away from the contaminated area must take place quickly, otherwise you will need to take other preventive measures.

3. If you are already inside, check to see if your building has been damaged but shelter in place. If your building is stable, stay where you are.

4. Clean up quickly. If you think you have been exposed to radiation, take off your clothes and wash them as soon as possible. Armin Ansari advises that it is best to think of decontaminating radioactive material in the same way as getting rid of mud - be careful to think about not traipsing it indoors, not getting it all over the place, and not washing it deeper into yourself.

5. Eat food and drink liquids that are covered. Any food or drink that has been left out in the open has potentially been exposed to radiation and may not be safe. Food straight from the fridge or cupboards should be safer, as well as food from closed containers.

6. Stay where you are and keep informed. Watch TV, listen to the radio, or check the Internet for official news as it becomes available.

7. Take great care when evacuating. One of the major concerns is panic and when there are traffic jams and long line-ups for fuel, you won't find evacuating easy going. It won't help you any if you have a car accident and get hurt or killed, so be very careful when relocating and keep it orderly.