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Radiation Incidents - Public Information 

What is a Radiation Incident?

Radiation is used safely every day by industry, in medicine, and in colleges and universities for a wide range of uses. Some uses include measuring the density or thickness of materials such as metal or paper; medical procedures such as stress tests, CT scans and x-rays; and academic uses such as estimating the ages of rocks (Uranium series dating) or formerly living things (Carbon-14 dating) and genetic research. 


These uses are licensed by the Ohio Department of Health, who ensures that radioactive material is used and stored safely. 

Despite this, problems can occur which can result in small, easily handled spills, such as spilling a radiopharmaceutical intended for a diagnostic test, or spilling a vial used for research. This is the most common event, but it does not occur very often.  An even rarer event, such as Chernobyl or Fukushima Daiichi, could happen, but the local, state and federal government have plans in place for such events.


Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD)

Radiological Dispersal Devices (RDDs) are any device or action that causes the intentional spread of radioactive material in order to contaminate people, buildings, or areas. This can result in loss of use, disruption of functions, or radiation dose to the public. However, the primary result of an RDD is fear and anxiety.

There are two types of RDDs - Explosive RDDs and Non-explosive RDDs.


An RDD can impact a street, a single building, a city block, or several square miles, depending on the type of device and the amount radioactive material. 

With few exceptions, the contamination and radiation associated with an RDD are not life threatening, nor will they result in other physical effects.  Any fatalities or injuries would probably be due to the explosion, not radiation.

Regardless of size or type, the main product of an RDD is panic, not radiation effects.


What Should I Do in the Event of an RDD?


If you are at the site of an RDD event:

  • Stay away from obvious plume or dust clouds Cover your mouth and nose to avoid inhaling the material 
  • Go inside a building with closed doors and windows as quickly as possible
  • Listen for information from emergency responders and authorities
  • Remove contaminated clothing as soon as possible and place them in a plastic bag
  • Gently wash skin to remove any possible contamination, taking care to prevent the radioactive material from entering the mouth

You may be directed to a Community Reception Center (CRC), a facility where members of the public can be checked for contamination or radiation effects.



Radiological Exposure Device (RED)


Radiological Exposure Devices (REDs) are devices intended to expose people to significant doses of ionizing radiation without their knowledge.


An RED could be constructed from an unshielded radioactive source hidden in a public place or high traffic area (e.g., under a subway seat, in a food court, or in a busy hallway), exposing those who sit or pass close by.


What Should I Do in the Event of an RED?


Report a suspected RED to law enforcement officials and BEHRP immediately. Stay as far away from the suspected object as possible.


If an RED has been identified, and you believe you have been exposed, listen for instructions from emergency officials and contact your doctor.


Nuclear Power Plant Accidents

Nuclear power plants have safety and security procedures in place and are closely monitored by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).  An accident at a nuclear power plant could release radiation over an area called a plume.


What are the main dangers of a nuclear power plant accident?


Radioactive materials in the plume from the nuclear power plant can settle and contaminate people who are outdoors, buildings, food, water, and livestock.  Radioactive materials can also get inside the body if people breathe it in, or eat or drink something that is contaminated.


What should I do to protect myself?


If you live near a nuclear power plant in Ohio, you can get emergency information materials from First Energy or your local emergency management agency.  If a nuclear power plant accident happens, the best thing to do is to Get Inside, Stay Inside, and Stay Tuned for instructions from emergency officials.


If radioactive iodine is released, you may be instructed to take potassium iodide (KI).


Where Can I Get More Information on Radiation Emergencies?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Radiological Emergencies

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Emergency Preparedness and Response

Radiological Medical Emergency Management

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Radiation Emergencies

FEMA Radiological Emergency Preparedness Program

US Environmental Protection Agency Radiation Emergencies

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Dirty Bomb and RDD Fact Sheet

Ottawa County Emergency Management Agency - Davis Besse Nuclear Power Plant

Lake County - Perry Nuclear Power Plant

Columbiana County Emergency Management Agency - Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Plant

In the event of an emergency or incident involving radioactive material or radiation generating equipment, call the BEHRP's 24-hour telephone number.

The emergency number is (614) 722-7221.

Non-Emergency Telephone: (614) 644-2727


Updated: 5/10/2018