Setting Guidelines to Protect the Public
Ready to Respond
- Main Page
- EPA's Response to the Chernobyl Incident
- Setting Guidelines to Protect the Public
- Establishing the Federal Radiological Monitoring & Assessment Center
- EPA Radiological Response, Role and Capabilities
- EPA Contingency Plans for Space Shuttle Launches
- EPA Cleans Up New York Hotspot
- Coordinating the Federal Response
- EPA's Response to the Three Mile Island Incident
- EPA's Response to the Reentry of Cosmos Satellites
- Ready to Respond: Federal Agency Roles in Emergency Response
EPA Personnel Respond
to a Radiological Emergency
at a Superfund Site
During a radiological emergency, public health officials must act quickly to protect public health. EPA has developed a Manual of Protective Action Guidelines (PAGs) to help officials make critical decisions. These guidelines identify the radiation levels at which State and local officials should take various actions to protect human health during an accident.
State and local officials also use PAGs to develop their emergency response plans and to guide preparation of their response exercises. EPA's PAGs are widely distributed to the nuclear industry and local, State, and Federal officials.
PAGs identify three phases of an emergency: early, intermediate, and late.
- In the early phase, usually lasting from several hours to several days, evacuation and sheltering are the principal actions to protect the public from exposure to direct radiation and inhalation of airborne radioactive material.
- In the intermediate phase, which can last from weeks to months, protective actions may include limiting food and water consumption to decrease ingestion of radioactive material, and relocating people to protect them from radiation exposure.
- In the late phase, which can last from months to years, the PAGs address the decontamination of property.
During an actual emergency, the Federal agencies may activate an Advisory Group on Environment, Food, and Health, which is chaired by the EPA, the Department of Health and Human Services, or the Department of Agriculture, depending upon the nature of the accident. This group would make recommendations on protective actions to the Coordinating Federal Agency and state officials.