Radiation refers to the transmission of energy. This can include ultraviolet light, nuclear energy, sound, heat, and x-rays. Radiation accidents often occur in industrial workplaces especially those that involve handling of radioactive materials or radioactive waste materials. It can also occur as part of acts of terror.
Volunteer first aider, paramedics and EMTs may be called up to respond in radiation accidents. You should know how to provide first aid in such unique situations to avoid putting yourself in danger. As a first aider, you should always remember that your role is to provide first aid procedures. You do not have the adequate training to handle and contain radiation.
Industrial experts should be available at the scene to lead the rescue efforts. If you are the first to respond, call the local authorities or, if it involves workplaces, the company. Note important details such as the type of radiation involved, the number of victims, and the injuries sustained. Look for radiation hazard labels. These labels usually have propeller sign on yellow background and include the radioactive material identification number. Notify the authorities so that they can send in the right equipment and experts immediately. If the authorities instruct you to leave the scene, do so immediately and safely. Stay in a safe place. Concrete or thick metal walls, construction equipment, heavy vehicles, and earth banks offer some additional protection or shielding.
Do not attempt to initiate rescue efforts if you have no adequate training and protective equipment. It is recommended that you wait for the experts to arrive and to direct your activities.
Emergency care and management of radiation accidents is an advanced first aid skill. It requires completing an advanced training in order to ensure your personal safety. Prolonged exposure to radiation can cause changes in the body cells. If enough radiation is absorbed by the body, serious health complications may result. In fact, some types of radioactive energies, at a certain dosage, can lead to death.
Your duties at the scene of aradiation accident should include:
- Protecting yourself from exposure to radiation.
- Noting any hazard information or labels that indicate a radiation hazard.
- Calling local disaster and emergency services for expert assistance.
- Providing first aid procedures you are trained to do, given that you have go signal from the experts, adequate protection, and appropriate equipment.
- Providing first aid for victims who have been decontaminated.
- Helping in crowd control and management of the scene.
- Helping prevent further spread of radiation by controlling contaminate objects.
Before emergency care can be given, the patient should be decontaminated. If you have no training in decontaminating radiation, let the experts do so. The patient should also be moved to the safe zone before you provide care.