Emergency Planning for Licensees

What type of emergencies should licensees plan for?

The types of emergencies that licensees may have to plan for include:

  • Damage to packaging containing radioactive materials
  • The loss or theft of a radioactive substance or X-ray equipment
  • The accidental leakage of radioactive materials in a laboratory, hospital or workplace
  • An accident during transportation of materials or equipment
  • An illegal disposal of radioactive material
  • A fire involving radioactive material

What to do in a radiation emergency

A radiation emergency is an event which could expose members of the public, workers, or the emergency services to abnormal levels of ionising radiation.

The following general advice covers all emergencies:

  • Avoid panic
  • Never touch a radioactive source
  • Prevent unauthorised access to the site of the incident
  • Retire to a safe distance before planning and implementing further actions
  • Seek expert advice if you are unsure what to do
  • Seek additional assistance where necessary

All licensees should have an emergency procedure which forms part of a radiation safety manual. In certain circumstances, the EPA Office of Radiological Protection may direct you to prepare an intervention plan. 

The following specific advice covers all emergencies:

Report the emergency

Immediately notify the EPA Office of Radiological Protection, the emergency services and the relevant local authority as appropriate. Include, where possible, details of:

  • The precise nature of the incident
  • Its origin
  • Its extent
  • Any other relevant information

Assess the scope and seriousness of the incident

Make an immediate, provisional assessment of the circumstances of the emergency, and its possible consequences. Submit the assessment in writing to the EPA Office of Radiological Protection as soon as possible, but not later than 24 hours from the start of the emergency.

Activate the emergency procedures or intervention plan as appropriate.

Organisations operating irradiating equipment or handling radioactive materials should already have procedures in place for dealing with an emergency. The procedure will vary depending upon the specific circumstances of the licensee.

The first priority in an emergency situation is to provide medical assistance to any person with serious or life threatening injuries.

Prevent the spread of contamination

  • Isolate the affected area
  • Where possible, prevent the spread of contamination
  • Evacuate the area immediately
  • Delineate the contaminated area clearly with warning notices and/or radiation warning tape
  • Ensure that clothing and footwear which may be contaminated are removed and sealed in a polythene bag

Treat potential casualties

Immediately monitor anyone who may be contaminated, and make appropriate arrangements for their decontamination. Wash contaminated parts of the body thoroughly under medical supervision. Irrigate contaminated wounds with water or saline solution, taking care to ensure there is no spread of contamination to other areas of skin. Provide first aid treatment as appropriate.

Protect personnel involved in emergency procedures

Restrict access to the contaminated area until radiation levels are safe. Those requiring access to carry out emergency procedures should wear protective clothing which should be removed when they leave the affected area. All personnel entering contaminated areas should be monitored for radiation dose.

Decontaminate the affected area

When the emergency is under control and all personnel have been attended to, the area must be decontaminated under the supervision of trained personnel and/or the EPA Office of Radiological Protection.