General on-scene response to a radiological emergency

Action Guide

Incident Commander or senior first responder
When to apply:
In case of potential or actual significant public external exposure or radioactive contamination

Actions (as appropriate and practical):

  • Being the senior first responder assume the role of the IC until relieved

Protect self and assess (size up) the situation

Save lives and prevent escalation

Note: Do not delay life saving actions because of the presence of radioactive materials

Ensure implementation of the following:

  • Rescue people in life threatening situations
  • Establish and mark the safety perimeter (inner cordoned area boundary) in accordance with instructions for assessment of hazard and establishment of inner cordoned area. Within this area:
    • Keep account of personnel
    • Limit entry to response personnel only
    • Follow personnel protection guidelines
    • Continue life saving actions, searching for and rescuing the injured
    • Evacuate the public
    • Assume that people from the area are contaminated
    • Deal with serious conventional hazards (e.g. fire)
  • Take actions to protect the public in accordance with public protection guidelines
  • Establish an incident command post (ICP) and a staging area outside the inner cordoned area
  • Conduct interviews to locate suspected radioactive devices and to identify possibly exposed individuals
  • For a transport emergency attempt to obtain the shipping papers from the driver or shipper and determine the UN number and description of the dangerous goods
  • Request, through the national EOC, a radiological assessor/team and obtain advice by phone
  • Obtain from a user of radioactive material (e.g. hospital, university, research reactor) a person equipped and experienced to perform tasks of first responder monitor (see first responder monitor's action guide)
  • Perform triage and provide first aid outside the safety perimeter (see instructions for field triage for mass casualties)
  • Transport the injured and inform the receiving hospital of potential contamination and the need to follow the local hospital's action guide and personnel protection guidelines
  • Register and monitor (if possible) people from within the inner cordoned area or who may be exposed (see instructions for public registration and monitoring of the public and responders)
  • Have first responder monitor support operations in accordance with the first responder monitor's action guide
  • Have the first responder monitor or radiological assessor/team screen public groups and locations, e.g. hospitals, to ensure that any sources with ambient dose rates above 100 µSv/h at 1 metre are isolated
  • Establish a security perimeter (outer cordoned area boundary)
  • Establish response areas and facilities as appropriate
  • Until proven otherwise, treat the scene as a crime scene
  • Inform all appropriate authorities of the situation and of the name of the IC
  • For a security event:
    • Provide security where there is interaction with the public at the scene and at the hospital
    • Search for weapons before registration, transport and decontamination
  • Inform the local hospital of the potential for receiving contaminated self-presenters and worried-well and advise them to implement controls
  • Interview people who may have information useful to a criminal or safety investigation
  • Control contamination at the inner cordoned area boundary in accordance with instructions for monitoring of the public and responders, public decontamination, response contamination control and monitoring/decontamination of vehicles and equipment
  • For possible contamination of public food, water, or transport (e.g. buses) act to limit possible public exposure until advised by the radiological assessor/team
  • Have the PIO issue appropriate public media releases (see sample press releases) coordinated locally and nationally and prepare for media interest (see public information officer's action guide)
  • For the public who may have left the scene have the PIO issue instructions on the actions they should take (see public protection guidelines)
  • Notify the national EOC if other States or their citizens may be affected (transnational emergency)
  • Take practical actions to limit the spread of contamination but do not let this interfere with life saving actions

Extension of the response

  • Re-evaluate the initial response
  • Have resource coordinator assess and obtain needed resources (see resource coordinator's action guide) and develop a 24 hour plan
  • Ensure that function specific action guides are followed
  • Confirm that responders are following personnel protection guidelines and that public protection guidelines have been implemented
  • Consider the possibility of a second event — commitment of all resources at one event is not advisable
  • Do not attempt recovery or decontamination of the scene until:
    • the recovery plan is prepared and radiological assessor has implemented procedures to control the dose and
    • coordinated with the FEMT, if applicable
  • For a major emergency, form a command group and prepare for long term operations

| Last update: Tuesday, 09 December, 2014.