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What to Do During a Radiation Emergency: Get Inside

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A nuclear power plant accident, a nuclear explosion or a dirty bomb are examples of radiation emergencies. If something like this happens, you may be asked to get inside a building and take shelter for a period of time instead of leaving. The walls of your home can block much of the harmful radiation. Because radioactive materials become weaker over time, staying inside for at least 24 hours can protect you and your family until it is safe to leave the area. Getting inside of a building and staying there is called "sheltering in place."

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If you are indoors during a radiation emergency:

  1. Stay inside. Close and lock all windows and doors. Go to the basement or the middle of the building. Radioactive material settles on the outside of buildings; so the best thing to do is stay as far away from the walls and roof of the building as you can.
  2. If possible, turn off fans, air conditioners, and forced-air heating units that bring air in from the outside. Close fireplace dampers.
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If you are in a car, bus, or other vehicle during a radiation emergency:

  1. Get inside a building right away. Cars do not provide good protection from radioactive material. If you can get to a brick or concrete multi-story building or basement within a few minutes, go there. But being inside any building is safer than being outside. Once inside, go to the basement or the middle of the building. Radioactive material settles on the outside of buildings; so the best thing to do is stay as far away from the walls and roof of the building as you can.
  2. Carefully remove your outer layer of clothing before entering the building, if you can. Radioactive material can settle on your clothing and your body, like dust or mud. Once inside, wash the parts of your body that were uncovered when you were outside. Then put on clean clothing, if you can. This will help limit your radiation exposure and keep radioactive material from spreading.

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If you have loved ones in schools, daycares, hospitals, nursing homes, or other places during a radiation emergency:

  • Stay where you are! Going outside to get loved ones could expose you and them to dangerous levels of radiation.
  • Children and adults in schools, daycares, hospitals, nursing homes, or other places will be instructed to stay inside until emergency responders know that it is safe to evacuate.
  • Schools, daycares, hospitals, nursing homes, and other places have emergency plans in place to keep people safe at the facility.
Icon of a person outside during a radiation emergency

If you are outside during a radiation emergency:

  1. Get inside a building right away. If you can get to a brick or concrete multi-story building or basement within a few minutes, go there. But being inside any building is safer than being outside. Once inside, go to the basement or the middle of the building. Radioactive material settles on the outside of buildings; so the best thing to do is stay as far away from the walls and roof of the building as you can.
  2. Carefully remove your outer layer of clothing before entering the building, if you can. Radioactive material can settle on your clothing and your body, like dust or mud. Once inside, wash the parts of your body that were uncovered when you were outside. Then put on clean clothing, if you can. This will help limit your radiation exposure and keep radioactive material from spreading.
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  3. Cover your mouth and nose with a mask, cloth, or towel if you must be outside and cannot get inside immediately. This can help reduce the amount of radioactive material.

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If you have pets:

Bring pets inside with you, if you can. Bring indoors any supplies from outside that your pets might need for at least 24 hours.

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If you are asked to let someone into your home or place of shelter after a radiation emergency for shelter:

  1. Providing shelter to someone who was outside during a radiation emergency can save their life without endangering your own.
  2. Ask them to remove their outer layer of clothing before entering the building or shelter. Once inside, ask them to wash the parts of their body that were uncovered when they were outside.
  3. Then ask them to put on clean clothing, if they can. This will help limit their radiation exposure and keep radioactive material from spreading. For more information,

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