Preparing for a Nuclear Threat

Nuclear Threat
A nuclear blast is an explosion with intense light and heat, a damaging pressure wave and widespread radioactive material that can contaminate the air, water, and ground surfaces for miles around. During a nuclear incident, it is important to avoid radioactive material, if possible. While experts may predict at this time that a nuclear attack is less likely than other types, terrorism by its nature is unpredictable. Learn more about how to prepare for a nuclear emergency at

Radiation Threat
Small amounts of radiation, such as from X-rays, are considered safe. However, radiation can be harmful if you are exposed to too much of it.

A radiation threat, commonly referred to as a "dirty bomb" or "radiological dispersion device (RDD)", is the use of common explosives to spread radioactive materials over a targeted area. It is not a nuclear blast. The force of the explosion and radioactive contamination will be more localized. While the blast will be immediately obvious, the presence of radiation will not be clearly defined until trained personnel with specialized equipment are on the scene. As with any radiation, you want to try to limit exposure. It is important to avoid breathing radiological dust that may be released in the air.

These three general guidelines will minimize your exposure to radiation:
  1. Time: Radioactive materials become less radioactive over time. Be ready to shelter in-place until authorities alert you the threat has passed.
  2. Distance: The greater the distance between you and the source of the radiation the better. Authorities may decide that people in areas close to the release must evacuate.
  3. Shielding: Put as much heavy, dense material between you and the source of the radiation as possible. Authorities may advise you to stay indoors or underground for this reason. Close and seal your windows and doors. Turn off air conditioners, heaters or other ventilation systems.

Additional steps to reduce your exposure to radiation include:
  • If you are outside, get inside. Remove all clothing and wash thoroughly.
  • Cover your nose and mouth so dust cannot get in.
  • If there’s an event indoors, try to get out of the building without passing through the contaminated area. If you cannot escape, it may be better to shelter in place.
  • Once you are inside, stay where you are. Watch TV, listen to the radio, or check the Internet often for official news and instructions as they become available.

Treatment with Potassium Iodide
Potassium Iodide (known as KI) is a kind of salt that can prevent damage to your thyroid gland. It is used only if you are exposed to radioactive iodine. It will not help you in other radioactive environments, and must be administered within a few hours of exposure to be effective. KI is generally only recommended for children, adolescents, pregnant women and others with growing thyroids. Montgomery County currently distributes KI to schools, businesses and person living in a 10-mile radius of the Limerick Generating Station.

More Information
Get more information about nuclear blasts and other radiation emergencies from: