Radiation Protection

Protecting Yourself from Radiation

Radiation is part of our life. Background radiationHelpBackground radiationRadiation that is always in the environment. The majority of background radiation occurs naturally and a small fraction comes from man-made elements., coming primarily from natural minerals, is around us all the time. Fortunately, there are very few situations where an average person is exposed to uncontrolled sources of radiation above background. Nevertheless, it is wise to be prepared and know what to do if such a situation arises.

One of the best ways to be prepared is to understand the radiation protection principles of time, distance and shielding. During a radiological emergency (a large release of radioactive material into the environment), we can use these principles to help protect ourselves and our families.

Time, distance, and shielding actions minimize your exposure to radiation in much the same way as they would to protect you against overexposure to the sun: 

EPA's use of time, distance and shielding in radiation protection

In a large scale radiological release, such as a nuclear power plant accident or terrorist incident, the following advice has been tested and proven to provide maximum protection.

If a radiation emergency occurs, you can take actions to protect yourself, your loved ones and your pets: Get Inside, Stay Inside and Stay Tuned. Follow the advice of emergency responders and officials.

Get Inside

In a radiation emergency you may be asked to get inside a building and take shelter for a period of time.

Get Inside

Stay Inside

Staying inside will reduce your exposure to radiation.

Stay Inside

  • Close and lock windows and doors.
  • Take a shower or wipe exposed parts of your body with a damp cloth.
  • Drink bottled water and eat food in sealed containers.

Stay Tuned

Emergency officials are trained to respond to disaster situations and will provide specific actions to help keep people safe.

Stay Tuned

  • Get the latest information from radio, television, the Internet, mobile devices, etc.
  • Emergency officials will provide information on where to go to get screened for contamination.

Learn more about protecting yourself from radiation:

If you identify or come in contact with a radioactive source, locate and contact your state radiation control office. Exit