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As with any complex event, conducting an effective response to a radiological emergency requires careful and extensive preparation. The hazards associated with radioactive materials make preparation all the more important.
EPA's Radiological Emergency Response Team (RERT) systematically trains its members so they have the knowledge, skills, equipment, and support systems needed to respond to emergencies involving radioactive materials.
The RERT prepares and helps state and local first responders prepare through a variety of activities:
On this page:
- Developing Response Plans and Procedures
- Providing Guidance and Training for First Responders
- Conducting and Participating in Exercises
Developing Response Plans and Procedures
Planning in advance for radiological emergencies can help minimize potential public health and environmental threats if and when an actual emergency occurs. During the planning process, emergency response organizations think through how they would respond to each type of incident and the resources that would be needed.
EPA works with other federal agencies (both military and civilian), state and local governments, and even other countries to develop radiological emergency response plans and procedures. Personnel in EPA's Regional Radiation Programs also review emergency response plans for state, local and tribal emergency response programs.
You can read more about the different kinds of plans on the Plans page.
Providing Guidance and Training for First Responders
Local and state emergency response organizations are usually the first on the scene of an emergency—they are true "first responders." One important role that EPA plays is providing guidance and advice to first responders on when and how to protect people from exposure to elevated radiation levels.
EPA's Protective Action Guides (PAGs) are a key tool for first responders. The guides provide criteria that help responders decide whether they should take certain actions to protect people and the environment during radiological emergencies.
Conducting and Participating in Exercises
The RERT and other emergency response organizations test response plans through exercises that simulate radiological emergencies. Exercises may simulate a number of types of accidents:
- U.S. commercial nuclear facilities
- foreign nuclear facilities
- lost or abandoned radioactive sources
- accidents transporting nuclear weapons
- satellite re-entry.
The main goals of these exercises are to test and validate policies (plans) and procedures, test the effectiveness of response capabilities, and increase the confidence and skills of personnel in responding to emergencies. In addition, exercises identify strengths and weaknesses so they can be corrected before an actual incident occurs. Interagency exercises also allow the personnel of various agencies to become familiar with each other and learn to coordinate and operate together.
You can find descriptions of the simulated radiological emergencies in which EPA has participated on the Response Exercises page.