MadSci Network: Medicine

Re: How do we rescue people who has gotten into contact with radiation?

Date: Wed May 30 11:40:47 2001
Posted By: Bernadette Baca, Health Physicist, Division of Reactor Safety
Area of science: Medicine
ID: 989977861.Me

A guiding publication referenced by many fields is the National Council on 
Radiation Protection and Measurement (NCRP) report titled "Management of 
Persons Accidentally Contaminated with Radionuclides", NCRP Report 65 
(1980).  This report deals with significant radiation and contamination 
events as well as the medical response to such events.  There are also 
Hazardous Material handling and response procedures that can also be 
applied to radiation accident situations.  HAZWOPER (Hazardous Waste 
Operator) training instruct individuals in the proper response to many 
hazardous situations.  However, the basic premise for responding to any 
accident situation, whether chemical, radiation, biological, a car wreck, 
etc., is to respond to the medical emergency first BUT without putting 
yourself or any one else in danger.  This is a VERY important concept.  You 
would not be doing much good to rush into an accident situation and cause 
yourself to become a victim and need rescuing yourself.

One of the items taught by many emergency response groups is the STAR 
concept.  S = Stop, T = Think, A = Act, R = Review.  When faced with an 
emergency situation, STOP.  THINK about the situation and the best way to 
help. The best thing may be to wait until firefighters arrive so that you 
do not put yourself  in significant danger.  Then ACT appropriately and 
timely.  Finally, REVIEW your actions to make sure you are doing things the 
right way and if there is anything else or another way you could be 
responding.  And can you imagine having to think of all these things while 
responding to an emergency?  Well, this is why many facilities have 
emergency drills to practice proper response to a wide variety of emergency 
situations.  And in the case of emergency response, practice makes perfect.

As mentioned before, emergency responders are taught to give medical 
emergencies the highest priority.  This is because often times, the risk of 
chemical or radiation exposure is much lower than having the other 
individual die.  Would you not risk a cut or burn in order to save an 
individual from a burning car?  It's the same concept.  Also the quicker 
the response to the medical emergency, over the exposure to whatever 
chemical or radiation may be present, affords the victim an increase in 
surviving the accident and actually limits their exposure to the harmful 
substances.  It's much easier to decontaminate an individual from a 
hazardous substance once bleeding is stopped.  Plus, what good would trying 
to remove a substance from an individual or waiting until conditions were 
just right before providing life saving procedures if the individual died 
while waiting for these life saving procedures?  So, this is the first 
thing emergency responders are taught, in addition to keeping themselves 
safe while they perform their emergency actions.

Many facilities have emergency response procedures and some are required by 
law.  OSHA, FEMA, EPA, and the NRC have guidelines for emergency response 
procedures and require a number of facilities in their jurisdictions to 
have written procedures for dealing with emergency situations.  However, 
they all have the same principles: evacuate the area and attend to the 
medical needs of those affected, notify appropriate individuals or have 
some one else do that immediately, isolate the area as much as possible, 
and attempt to contain a spill or leak if you know how.

I have included a few web sites that have emergency response procedures as 
well as other emergency response information and contacts:   or


Also try web seraching with keywords such as "emergency procedures", 
"emergency response", "emergency rescue", "radiation accidents", etc. if 
this is still not the information you are seeking.

Hope this will help with your report.

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