Radiation Protection

Protective Action Guides (PAGs)

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The Protective Action Guide (PAG) manual contains radiationHelpradiationEnergy given off as either particles or rays. dose guidelines that would trigger public safety measures, such as evacuation or staying indoors, to minimize or prevent radiation exposure during an emergency. EPA developed Protective Action Guides to help responders plan for radiation emergencies.

Download PAG Manuals and Resources

The PAG Manual is a planning guide for emergency responders, and does not change federal, state or local environmental standards. The PAG guidelines are only for use during a large-scale emergency, when radiation levels could be high enough to cause health effects unless public safety measures are taken.

In January 2017, the EPA incorporated non-regulatory guidance that authorities can use to protect residents from experiencing the harmful effects from radiation in drinking water following a nationally significant radiological emergency into Chapter 4 of the PAG Manual.  (See Federal Register Notice, 82 FR 6498, January 19, 2017.)

The drinking water PAG is a level that can be used to determine when alternative drinking water should be provided and the use of contaminated water supplies be restricted. The drinking water PAG identifies doses of radiation that should be avoided during an emergency event. They do not represent acceptable routine exposures. PAGs apply to emergency situations only. They trigger safety measures—in this case, provision of alternative drinking water—to keep doses to the public as low as possible.

The updated 2017 PAG Manual includes lessons learned from actual radiological emergencies, including the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident. It can be used for response to a radiological dispersal device (RDD) or “dirty bomb,” or an accident at a nuclear power plant. The PAG Manual provides a list of considerations for planning and initiating a cleanup process as the emergency is brought under control. The PAG Manual does not set cleanup levels. One of the recommendations in the Manual is a community involvement process for setting cleanup levels.

Download the 2017 PAG Manual.

Revisions to the 1992 Manual

In 2013, EPA sought public comment on a revision to the 1992 PAG manual. A key goal of the revision is to update dose calculations based on current science. EPA believes that guidance based on the best available science can help local authorities save lives and minimize the impact of a radiological emergency. Comments were accepted until September 16, 2013. EPA assessed public comments before issuing the 2016 PAG Manual. EPA issued a 2017 version of the PAG Manual that incorporates drinking water guidance.

View Federal Register notices and public comments related to the EPA PAG Manual in EPA's official docket (EPA-HQ-OAR-2007-0268) on Regulations.gov.

Significant changes from the 1992 PAG Manual include:

  • Applying the PAG Manual to incidents other than just nuclear power plant accidents.
  • Referring users to current food guidance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • Providing guidance for potassium iodide (KI) based the latest FDA guidance.
  • Providing basic planning guidance on reentry, cleanup and waste disposal.
  • Incorporating late phase (cleanup) guidance from the Department of Homeland Security’s Radiological Dispersal Device/Improvised Nuclear Device Planning Guidance.
  • Adding a two-tiered drinking water guidance addressing the people at the most sensitive life stages and the general population.

Information for consumers about the drinking water PAG.

Information for public water system on the drinking water PAG.

Frequently asked questions about the PAG Manual and drinking water PAG.


The Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Emergency Management Institute has two Independent Study Courses on Radiation:

  • IS-3 - Radiological Emergency Management.
  • IS-301 - Radiological Emergency Response. Unit 5 of this course, "Protective Actions & Protective Action Guides" provides an excellent introduction to the use of PAGs in an emergency.

Radiation Emergency Response Guidance

In addition to EPA’s PAGs Manuals and Resources, the following radiological emergency response guidance is available:

Nuclear Detonation and Radiological Dispersion DeviceHelpRadiological Dispersion DeviceA mix of explosives, such as dynamite, with radioactive powder or pellets. Also known as a dirty bomb. A radiological dispersal device is not a nuclear weapon. (RDD)

​Assessing Doses

Potassium Iodide (KI)

Population Monitoring


Reentry and Return