Radiation preparedness is no longer just a necessity for jurisdictions neighboring nuclear facilities. In fact, there is concern from experts that the threat of a radiological emergency is growing across the nation. Moreover, there are readily available and often poorly protected radioactive materials in use throughout military, academic, research and industrial agencies1. While the probability of catastrophic radiation events such as an incident at a nuclear facility or a terrorist attack using a radiation dispersal device is relatively low, the consequences are severe and can cause devastating impacts in the affected community. Although many jurisdictions have general purpose sheltering plans for natural disasters and other non-radiation related emergencies, these plans are not sufficient for those displaced by a radiological incident. Due to the serious threat brought by widespread radiation exposure, both in terms of national health and security, effective response requires the participation of the entire impacted community. Yet oftentimes, local organizations essential to these efforts do not fully grasp their responsibilities.
In order to aid local jurisdictions and other key stakeholders with radiation preparedness efforts, NACCHO released several new resources. First, the NACCHO Toolbox now includes two recently developed radiation-related toolkits, each described in more detail below. NACCHO’s Medical Countermeasures and Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions webpage was also updated with more information about NACCHO radiation initiatives, radiation toolkits, partnerships with radiation-focused organizations, and links to additional resources.
Building and sustaining radiation preparedness response strategies requires a comprehensive set of accessible and consistent guidance, tools, trainings, and resources that are easy to digest and adapt to a community’s particular needs. The NACCHO Radiation Toolkit was created to equip local health departments (LHDs) with this type of access, housing the many radiation resources available to public health and emergency management professionals, all in one place. Resources available include documents detailing the many aspects of radiation preparedness, links to helpful trainings, and related organizational websites.
Radiological Sheltering Tabletop Exercise Toolkit
In addition to ensuring radiation preparedness, LHDs must also consider that in the event of a large-scale radiation event, they may be called upon by nearby communities to support shelter operations for displaced individuals. For example, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, over one million people were left without a home and had to seek refuge in outside, unaffected communities, sometimes including new states. Now, imagine a similar scenario with individuals not only in need of a new home, but who are also potentially contaminated with radiation.
To address these added risks, NACCHO, in collaboration with the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), created the Radiological Sheltering Tabletop Exercise Toolkit. This new tabletop exercise toolkit can be used to assess the radiation preparedness considerations needed for the sheltering of evacuees from an impacted community. It includes information from the CDC 2015 Guide to Operating Public Shelters in a Radiation Emergency and Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation program (HSEEP) compliant tabletop exercise document templates, which were refined and piloted at five local jurisdictions. This tool is applicable for LHDs at all levels of planning and can be used as a resource to enhance radiation preparedness capabilities and knowledge for both health departments and their response partners.
To learn more about NACCHO’s preparedness work in the area of radiation, visit our website, here.
1Hon, Z., Kuna, P., & Patočka, J. How serious is threat of radiological terrorism? Acta medica, Jan 2009. Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/41026885_How_serious_is_threat_of_radiological_terrorism