If radioactive substances are released following an accident at a nuclear power station, it is important that people outside the evacuation and shelter zones adopt, as a precaution, some actions to protect themselves. These simple actions can greatly reduce the risk of coming into contact with radioactive substances and thus prevent people and places of residence becoming radiologically contaminated.
Possibility of a radioactive cloud
If radioactive substances are released and a radioactive cloud forms, the population should:
- limit any time spent outside as much as possible, in particular when raining, in order to avoid contamination from falling particles;
- use waterproof clothing and rubber boots (easier to decontaminate) to avoid contamination through clothing onto the body;
- remove shoes and clothes worn outside before entering a place of residence;
- store clothing worn outside to avoid spreading contamination;
- promptly wash all the exposed areas of skin and most importantly hair by taking a shower;
- not consume products from vegetable plots and private gardens;
- stop pets playing outside in gardens and other open spaces as far as possible;
- wash pets before allowing them back into the house.
It is advised that in the presence of a radioactive cloud, people who cannot avoid leaving the shelter of a building or stable structure should ensure they pay particular attention to protecting their airways. Tissue, soft absorbent paper, clothing or other objects can be held to the mouth and nostrils to provide this protection. This simple method can effectively reduce the dose inhaled in the presence of a radioactive cloud. This protective measure requires particular vigilance with babies and young children due to the danger of suffocation.
Clothing does not protect against irradiation, but only against deposited radioactive particles. To ensure that this protection is as effective as possible, clothing should be changed after each trip outside or exposure to radioactive rain.