CDM | Centre for Disaster Management (Haryana Institute of Public Administration)


These days, nuclear technology is used in several applications. Some of these include: medicinal, power and of-course military. Out of these, nuclear energy based power is getting popular. In any case, because of growth in applications, based on nuclear technology, there are several nuclear installations being found at industrial scale. In general, nuclear installations are highly sophisticated, and, have lots of control measures in place to prevent any major hazard. Still, it’s a fact, that inspite of all these sophistications etc. accidents could still occur. The problem with nuclear accidents is – though, less frequent (due to high degree of sophistication and control measures), but, once an accident occurs, the impact is severe.

Some of the worst known nuclear accidents have been at:

  • Three Mile Island, near H Harrisburg Pennsylvania, USA in 1979
  • Chernobyl (in current Ukraine), in (then) USSR, in 1986

Besides, once in a while, smaller incidents of minor amounts of leaks get reported from around the world.

Do's and Don't
Do's and Don't
Some other precautions and guidelines that you should follow:
  • Unless you are competent and authorized to be working on the disaster relief/mitigation, do not drive/venture into the zone having risks. First of all, by entering into this area, you could be endangering yourself, and, secondly, you could be hampering other efforts which could include: movement of rescue vehicles, disaster response teams, and, maybe possible evacuation. Remember, a nuclear accident is not a show-item, that you have to watch. Stay away.
  • While staying indoors, try to stay in closed rooms – away from doors and windows, in basements etc. All mechanisms of air-circulation should be turned off. Once again, the idea is to avoid contamination from radioactive material, which is there in the atmosphere and air. For this purpose, when you build your house, it should be so constructed, such that all openings should be totally coverable – to prevent the entry of contaminated air into your house. The material chosen for building should also be such that it can effectively screen contaminated material, e.g. timber is very poor in its ability to screen radiation. So, timber houses would be very risky – in terms of contamination.
  • Care should be taken that you should be able to continue to receive further information that might be provided by the disaster management team.
  • One of the most active action that one can take is: take Iodine tables. Iodine tables actually saturate the thyroid glands, and thus, they prevent radio-active iodine (released due to the accident) from getting accumulated into the thyroid gland. Considering that, you might not want to get outdoors – during a disaster, to collect iodine tablets – it might be prudent to have a supply of such tablets, if you are staying in an area, which has a risk of seeing nuclear accident. It should be understood that ability to have uncontaminated proper food is more effective than having iodine. So, if uncontaminated food can be consumed, that should be given the first preference.
  • Iodine tablets also have severe side-effects. Hence, an overdose of iodine tables is not advisable. In general, older people should avoid iodine tables. The side-effects on them could be more harmful than the advantages that it might provide. Similarly, children and pregnant women should take a lower dosage.
  • The exact dosage of iodine tablets would be dependent on several factors, several of them being very local. Hence, local experts should be consulted on the exact dosage to be taken. WHO recommendations could act as an indicative information on dosage.
  • If evacuation is to be involved, it should be done before the formation of the radioactive clouds. However, there is only so much that one can do in his/her individual capacity – in the sense that we would need to depend on the disaster management authority to advise as to when should we start evacuating. However, when evacuating, try to do so in an orderly manner, without clogging the roads etc. Once again, try to stay tuned to sources of traffic information, so that you can use the least congested routes to evacuate.
  • Theoretically, post-evacuation, the law enforcement agencies are responsible for ensuring no-burglary/break-ins in your house. However, there is a limit to how much can they control/patrol. Hence, it would be good to secure your house properly. Also, since, its not known how long you might have to stay away, try to arrange for sufficient fodder for your livestock.
  • If you are not contaminated, you should NOT crowd the emergency Centres and/or hospitals. As it is, dealing with nuclear radiation needs specialized knowledge, and, you don’t want to overburden the system, which would be already too stretched in case of a nuclear incident.
  • As soon as you are out of the effected area, or, are entering a non-contaminated area, you should:
    • Discard your contaminated clothing (so that the virgin area does not get further contaminated)
    • Wash those areas of your body, which were exposed, e.g. hands, face etc. If needed, take a bath. Needless to say, this step needs to be done using uncontaminated water. Imagine, you are just entering your house – from outside. Since the water stored in overhead tanks could also be contaminated, there is only a limited supply of decontaminated water. Hence, you should use your judgement, as to whether to take a whole-body wash, or, just washing the uncovered areas of your body.

Emergency kit
  • Geiger Counter/Radiation detector: Whether it’s an old-school Geiger counter or a NukAlert system, you need something that tells you where it’s safe
  • Dosimeters: These devices will keep track of just how much radiation you’ve been exposed to
  • Thyrosafe: These potassium iodide tablets will keep your thyroid gland safe from radiation
  • Radioactive masks: You’ll need masks specifically designed to protect from radiation, not those masks that guard against the flu
  • Safe food and water, and containment: Any survival kit you purchase for nuclear purposes will probably have some food bars and safely packaged food, but you also need to make sure that you have safe containers for food and water around your shelter
  • Water filter: You can never be too safe during nuclear fallout. Make sure you have a filtration system for your drinking water
  • Plastic and tape: You may need to quarantine yourself in a location. Plastic will keep the basic fallout particles out

Zone Map
Zone Map
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