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Content developed in collaboration with National Organization on Disability's Emergency Preparedness Initiative


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Radiation Threat

A radiological dispersal device (RDD), or dirty bomb, uses a conventional explosive to spread radioactive contamination.  A dirty bomb is not a nuclear bomb; it would not result in the hundreds of thousands of fatalities that could be caused by the explosion of a nuclear weapon.  The total amount of radioactivity would be much smaller than from a nuclear bomb.  If you are not near the explosion, the greatest danger from a dirty bomb comes from inhaling radioactive dust.  

There are other ways to disperse radioactive material that do not use explosives so it might not be immediately clear that a radiological attack has occurred. 

How to identify a Radiological Attack

  • You may see or hear an explosion
  • Radiation is invisible; you will not know whether radioactive material is present until measurements are taken and you a warned by the authorities

How to Prepare for a Radiological Attack

How to Respond to A Radiological Attack

  • Cover your nose and mouth to prevent inhalation of radioactive materials

  • If you are outside at the time of explosion, seek indoor shelter in an undamaged building. If you are inside, remain in the building if it is undamaged.
  • Turn off ventilation systems, close all doors and windows
  • Once you are away from outdoor dust, remove your outer layer of clothing to reduce exposure to radioactive dust. Place the clothing in plastic bags.
  • Wash or rinse exposed skin and hair
  • Once the dust has settled, it is safer to move away from the area

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