For the purpose of this manual, an emergency is defined as any incident resulting from the use of one or more sources of ionizing radiation which creates an internal or external hazard to personnel. The primary purpose of a planned response to a radiation emergency is (a) to minimize internal contamination by radioactive material due to ingestion, inhalation, absorption or entry through wounds, (b) to hold exposure to external ionizing radiation to the lowest possible level, and (c) to provide appropriate first aid or medical care on a basis consistent with (a) and (b). 
An emergency may vary in magnitude from an apparently insignificant spill of low-level radioactivity to a fire or explosion involving hazardous quantities of radioisotopes. The following steps are applicable to responding to all emergencies. Detailed suggestions for handling specific types of emergencies are given in Section 9.5.4; they should be modified by each Authorized User to meet the specific requirements of each restricted area for which he/she is responsible.


  1. Evaluate the situation in regard to levels of external radiation exposure and the risk of contamination by radioactive material. If a situation develops where an emergency involving radioactivity also has a potential for producing other serious hazards, e.g., flammable or toxic fume accumulations, consider all hazard potentials and act accordingly.
  2. If external radiation levels are high, evacuate personnel from the accident area. If the possibility exists that personnel are contaminated, confine their movement until they have been monitored.
  3. The quantities of radioactive materials approved for use by Authorized Users at CUA are low enough that medical attention for serious injuries should always take precedence over decontamination procedures.
  4. Obtain RSO and other appropriate assistance promptly.
  5. Give first aid if needed. Monitor all persons who may be contaminated. Perform simple decontamination, if necessary, and re-monitor.
  6. Obtain a careful history of the accident.


Authorized User Responsibility

The Authorized User is primarily responsible for preparing himself/herself and those for whose work he/she is responsible to respond promptly and correctly to emergencies. Each Authorized User shall:

  1. Ensure that all personnel authorized to work in the affected areas are familiar with the emergency response procedures described in Section 9.5.
  2. Prepare a complete written history of each emergency and subsequent related activity, including corrective and preventive actions. This report shall be delivered to the RSO within 15 days of the emergency.


Emergency Notification

Authorized Users of sources of ionizing radiation on the CUA campus are required (by Section 9.3.2) to post at the entrance to each restricted area the name and telephone number(s) of the individuals to be contacted in case of an emergency.

The CUA Radiation Safety Officer may be reached on extension 5206. Call Public Safety at extension 5111, for all events requiring emergency assistance.


Procedures For Specific Types Of Emergencies

Airborne Contamination: Radioactive dust, mist, fumes, gases, vapors

  1. EVACUATE all personnel from the room immediately.

    To the extent possible, as you leave the area, close windows and turn off window air conditioning units. Turn ON all hood blowers.

    Leave the room promptly.

    Close and lock the door to preclude unauthorized entry.
  2. HOLD all personnel involved immediately outside the room and instruct them to stay in one location to prevent the spread of contamination.
  3. ISOLATE the adjacent corridor against traffic and spectators.
  4. NOTIFY the RSO; hold personnel for RSO's arrival, and assist in evaluating hazards, determining re-entry times, and monitoring for personnel contamination.

Contaminated Personnel - Without Injury

  1. External Contamination: See Section 9.5.5., Decontamination.
  2. Internal Contamination: See Section

Contaminated Personnel with Serious Injury

  1. Immediate Action

    Should any injury require off-campus hospital and medical assistance call Public Safety (5111) and request activation of the Washington, D.C. Emergency Action Response Plan. Provide minimum decontamination while awaiting ambulance response. Minimum decontamination is accomplished by cutting off or removing patient's outer clothing and putting on clean coveralls or lab coat. If this cannot be done, drape patient in a blanket, plastic, or sheet.

  2. Supporting Emergency Plans

    Radiation Emergency Plans have been prepared by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs of the Government of the District of Columbia. These plans provide for response, as appropriate, by the Fire Department (Fire and Ambulance Services), Police Department, Hospitals, and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. The contact point for initiation of DC government assistance is the Office of Emergency Preparedness, manned on a 24 hour basis. All hospitals in the District of Columbia except the George Washington University Hospital and Sibley Memorial Hospital are prepared to receive and treat contaminated casualties. Because of its facilities and proximity to the University, the Washington Hospital Center, located at 110 Irving Street, NW (approximately one mile west of the campus), is the hospital of choice for contaminated casualties originating on campus.

  3. Emergency Action

    1. DIAL 727-6161. You will hear a recorded message. Immediately press 4 to reach the District Office of Emergency Preparedness which is manned 24 hours/day.
    2. REPORT. Identify yourself and state "I have a radiation emergency."

      State the nature of the emergency, the number of contaminated casualties, their exact location, and the general nature of the injuries.

      Request Ambulance, Fire Equipment, Police, as appropriate.

      Tell the person answering the call to alert the emergency room at the WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER.
    3. NOTIFY the University's Radiation Safety Officer (ext 5206). Contact Public Safety (ext 5111), if assistance is needed in contacting the Radiation Safety Officer during non- business hours.
    4. STANDBY to assist emergency response personnel as required. Post someone outside the building to direct emergency personnel to the scene.
    5. PREVENT the spread of radioactive contamination by keeping bystanders away so that a radioactive spill is not spread unnecessarily. Unless prevented by fire, fumes, etc., keep the casualty in place to await arrival of emergency personnel.
    6. FIRST AID measures, such as CPR or control of bleeding, should be used in the same manner as for a similar uncontaminated casualty. The quantities of radioactive material in use at the University are insufficient to pose a significant threat to the helper or attendant during the period from initial injury to treatment and decontamination at the hospital.
  4. Minor Wounds Which May Be Contaminated

    Minor cuts, abrasions, punctures, burns, etc., which may be contaminated, do not necessarily require activating the DC Government Radiation Emergency Plan. If a casualty can be transported to the Washington Hospital Center without risk of contaminating a District of Columbia ambulance, the following procedure may be preferable:

    1. CALL Washington Hospital Center Emergency Room (202-877-6701). Tell them the nature of the casualty and the contaminant and that the casualty will be brought to the Emergency Room.
    2. CALL the University's Radiation Safety Officer (ext 5206). Contact Public Safety (ext 5111), if assistance is needed in contacting the Radiation Safety Officer during non-business hours.
    3. REMOVE contaminated clothing from the casualty. Replace it with a lab coat or other available garment. Cover contaminated shoes with plastic.
    4. WASH contaminated skin with water and soap or mild detergent.
    5. WRAP non-injured, contaminated skin areas with plastic, paper or cloth to minimize the likelihood of contamination of other clothing, skin and vehicle.
    6. INSTRUCT the ambulance crew or vehicle driver to transport the casualty to the Washington Hospital Center Emergency Room, 110 Irving Street, NE, for wound decontamination and treatment.
  5. Minor Wounds Not Requiring Medical Attention

    If the concentration of radioactive material in the contaminating solution is known to be less than the maximum permissible concentration for unrestricted release (10 CFR 20, Appendix B, Table 2), the decision to seek medical attention can be made solely on the basis of the nature of the physical injury. If medical attention is not required, the following procedure will provide adequate decontamination:

    1. Encourage bleeding to flush the wound, while irrigating with copious quantities of water.
    2. Use the decontamination procedures of Section 9.5.5.


Proper response to an explosion involving radioactive material consists of appropriate responses to the physical and radiological health hazards which accompany the explosion:

  1. Airborne Contamination: See Section
  2. Contaminated Personnel: Without Injury: See Section
  3. Contaminated Personnel with Serious Injury: See Section
  4. Fire: See Section


  1. ACTIVATE the Building Fire Alarm

    If the fire cannot be immediately extinguished (within a few seconds), activate the building fire alarm. Similarly, if an extinguished fire seriously compromised radioactive material storage areas or was likely to generate airborne radioactivity from an experiment in progress, activate the building fire alarm. If smoke or fumes interfere with breathing, the same procedure applies.

  2. CALL Public Safety (Dial ext. 5111)

    State the nature of the emergency, the exact location, and request the fire department.

    The Fire Department is summoned through the CUA dispatcher in Public Safety (ext. 5111). Tell the dispatcher that radioactivity is involved. In turn, the dispatcher requests fire and related emergency response service. The dispatcher also sends officers from Public Safety so that personnel can be kept out of the building until the situation is brought under control and for assistance in directing Fire Department responders to the scene.


    If electrical or electronic equipment is smoking or burning, the fault which caused the trouble could have by-passed switches and fuses. Most such fires go out when the plug is pulled. If fire threatens to spread, turn off all other electrical equipment (including window air conditioners) except hood blowers and evacuate the area.


    Attempt to verify that all students and personnel correctly responded to the building fire alarm and evacuated the area to a safe distance. Ensure that CUA personnel responding to the emergency are aware of any potential radiological hazard.


    Take note of the events, people present, etc., while it is fresh in your mind. If there is any possibility that anyone is contaminated by radioactive material, request that they remain in the vicinity until they have been monitored for contamination.

External Radiation Exposure

There are no sources of ionizing radiation on the CUA campus of sufficient intensity that emergency response to external exposure could be required, therefore, no detailed plan for dealing with external radiation exposures is provided. However, the following guidelines are valid for any such incident:

  1. Evacuate the victim from the radiation field to a non-radiation area.
  2. Treat the victim for shock - keep the victim warm.
  3. Use the Contaminated Casualty Plan, Section, to call for assistance.

Radioactive Spills

When radioactive material in liquid or powder form is spilled, the primary considerations are to (1) prevent the spread of the contamination, (2) prevent additional persons or objects from becoming contaminated, and (3) minimize the evaporation or suspension of the material into the room air.

  1. Minor Spills

    1. NOTIFY persons in the area

      • Cover liquid spills with absorbent paper.
      • Dampen dry spills thoroughly, taking care not to spread the contamination. Use water unless chemical reaction with water could generate airborne contamination, in which case oil should be used. Cover dampened spill with absorbent paper.
      • Exclude unnecessary personnel from the spill area.
      • Mark off spill area with chalk, marker pen or grease pencil; rope it off and post warning signs to create a personnel barrier.
      • Hold potentially contaminated personnel in a nearby area until skin, clothing and footwear can be surveyed.
      • Remove contaminated clothing before moving personnel to a clean area. Preserve the clothing for RSO evaluation.
    3. CLEAN UP

      Use disposable gloves (and remote handling tongs, if appropriate). Fold and insert absorbent paper into a plastic bag and discard in the radwaste container, together with other contaminated materials, such as disposable gloves. Follow RSO guidance with respect to further decontamination requirements.

      NOTE: Except in cases of incapacitation, the primary responsibility for cleanup and decontamination rests with the person(s) responsible for the spill. The RSO's responsibility is to provide guidance and instruction so that it is done safely and adequately.

    4. SURVEY

      With a GM survey meter (other techniques may be required for tritium and some other isotopes), check the area around the spill, plus the hands, clothing and footwear of all potentially contaminated personnel.

    5. NOTIFY the RSO (ext. 5206) as soon as possible. Permit no one to resume work in the area until RSO approval is obtained.
  2. Major Spills

    A major spill is defined as a spill which entails a risk of airborne contamination in excess of the maximum permissible concentration in restricted areas (10 CFR 20, Appendix B, Table 1), or external radiation exposure rates in excess of 2 mrem/hr at 30 centimeters.


      Notify all persons not required for response to the spill to vacate the room.


      • Cover a liquid spill with absorbent paper, pads, or vermiculite, but do not attempt to clean it up.
      • Dampen a dry spill with water (oil if chemical reaction with water could generate airborne contamination), then cover the spill as above.
      • Confine the movement of potentially contaminated personnel until survey indicates they are uncontaminated.

      WARNING: Do NOT attempt clean up unless properly trained or following RSO guidance.


      • If spill is on the skin, flush thoroughly with water and follow decontamination procedures in Section 9.5.5.
      • If spill is on clothing, remove outer clothing at once. Place it in a plastic bag and preserve it for evaluation by the RSO.
      • Shield the source, if penetrating radiation is involved AND if it can be done without further contamination or significantly increasing your radiation exposure.
      • Switch OFF window air conditioners; leave hood blowers ON. If the room is served by an air conditioning system which also serves other rooms, evacuate all rooms served until they can be surveyed.

      Leave the room and lock the doors to prevent entry.


      Notify the RSO (ext. 5206) as soon as possible. Permit no one to enter until RSO approval has been obtained.


Decontamination Procedures

General Principles of Decontamination

Successful decontamination calls for planned action. A spur-of-the moment action or attempt at decontamination can cause more harm than good. The person responsible for the spill in a contamination accident will usually take the first steps in bringing the situation under control. Those persons responsible for a spill shall, unless physically unable, be responsible for all decontamination of the area, under the supervision of the RSO. The first consideration shall be personnel safety; persons not involved in the emergency response shall leave the area. Subsequent considerations should involve the following procedures:

  1. Prevent the spread of contamination by shutting off ventilation fans, applying absorbent material in the case of liquids (applying appropriate liquid and then absorbent material in the case of dry spills), and roping off, barricading or locking the area.
  2. Immediately notify your supervisor and the RSO (ext. 5206).
  3. Allow no one who has been in the spill area to leave a nearby holding area until the person has been checked for contamination.
  4. Make full use of monitoring instruments and available assistance. Each step of the decontamination should be monitored. One person free of contamination should remain to operate instruments and do other monitoring. (If the survey instrument becomes contaminated, further progress will be impaired.) Protective clothing, footwear, gloves, and respiratory equipment shall be used as needed.

General Procedures for Personnel Decontamination

Ordinarily, the same procedures used for personal cleanliness will suffice to remove radioactive contaminants from the skin, but the specific method will depend upon the form (grease, oil, etc.) of the contamination. Soap and water (sequestering agents and detergents) normally remove more than 99% of the contaminants. If it is necessary to remove the remainder, chemicals can be used on the outer layers of skin upon which the contamination has been deposited. Because of the risk of injury to the skin surface, these chemicals (citric acid, potassium permanganate, sodium bisulfite, etc.) should be applied with caution, preferably under medical supervision. Lanolin-based creams can be used to offset local irritation of skin surfaces after decontamination. Contaminants should be removed to the maximum feasible extent at the site of the incident.

Remove any clothing or personal protective equipment found to be contaminated before determining the level of skin contamination.

Decontaminate any areas of the body found to be significantly more contaminated than surrounding areas. This spot cleaning is necessary to reduce the spread of contamination to clean areas of the body which might otherwise occur during showering. Open wounds should be sealed or covered during this spot cleaning to prevent additional contamination from being washed into wounds.

If the contamination is general over large portions of the body surfaces, a very thorough shower is necessary. Special attention must be paid to such areas as the hair, hands and fingernails. After showering and subsequent monitoring, the residual contamination can be removed by spot cleaning.

Avoid the prolonged use of any one method of decontamination. Repeated ineffective decontamination methods may irritate the skin and thus hamper the success of more suitable procedures. No one chemical treatment is known to be specific for all of the elements with which one may become contaminated.

Avoid the use of organic solvents. Organic solvents may increase the probability of the radioactive materials penetrating the skin.

Hand Decontamination

Numerous excellent products are commercially available for general purpose decontamination. If one or more of these is available it can be used safely to remove hand contamination. In most instances nothing more will be required. A partial list of such products would include the trade names Lift Away, Micro, Rad-Con, and Radiac Wash. If none of these is available, or if their use is unsuccessful, one or more of the following techniques can be tried. 
Wash the skin thoroughly with soap and water, paying special attention to areas between the fingers and around the fingernails. Repeat the procedure if monitoring indicates that there has been improvement but that there is contamination remaining on the skin. 
Contact the RSO for guidance if successive washing does not remove the contamination.

Area Decontamination

When an area becomes contaminated, preparation for decontamination should be started promptly. This not only minimizes the likelihood of spread, but usually makes the job easier.

  1. Cover clean areas in the vicinity with absorbent paper.
  2. Control the flow of contaminated liquids: apply absorbers, establish barriers (absorbent dikes, etc.), seal cracks in floors, bench tops, etc.
  3. Consider all run-off solutions, mops, rags and brushes used in the clean up to be contaminated until demonstrated otherwise.
  4. Notify the RSO (ext. 5206), who will assist in determining the extent of and the hazard associated with the contamination.
  5. Decontamination Methods

    NOTE: The following items require RSO Guidance or an RSO-approved procedure prior to start.

    1. Detergent solutions; Radiac Wash, etc., may be used to decontaminate many smooth, non-porous surfaces.
    2. Metals: Low-value metallic objects should be discarded to radwaste. Oily surface films may have to be removed before decontamination measures are effective. Various commercial degreasers and organic solvents may be considered, depending on the nature of the film to be removed. High normality acids, concentrated acids, or aqua regia may be used if needed and if the surfaces will withstand such treatment.
    3. Concrete or brick: Solutions of hydrochloric acid (muriatic acid), used with commercial scrubbers may be employed. As concrete and brick are relatively porous, decontamination probably will not be completely successful.
    4. Glassware: Appropriate solvents or detergents, or discard to radwaste.
    5. Linoleum, asphalt tile, vinyl tile, etc: If well-waxed before contamination, removal of wax with solvents or scouring powder and steel wool may adequately decontaminate. Or, the floor covering can be replaced. In some cases, a radioactive liquid will penetrate, via cracks and joints in the floor covering, to the main floor surface. It will then be necessary to remove the floor covering in the affected area and decontaminate the main floor surface.
    6. Wood: Sand (with careful attention to dust control), plane, or discard to radwaste.
    7. Painted surfaces: Paint removers.
  6. Decontamination Standard

    An area is considered free from radioactive contamination when a wipe test shows removable contamination to be less than 22 dpm/100 cm2 for alpha emitting nuclides and 220 dpm/100 cm2 for beta-gamma emitters (see Table Higher limits may be tolerable in restricted areas and for release of certain equipment (see Section 9.3.12). Even so, the goal shall be to attain the lowest level that can be accomplished with reasonable effort.

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