What to do if you hear the Radiation Emergency Alarm

If you are downwind of a nuclear site that has had an accident and is releasing radioactive material (dusts and/or gases) to the atmosphere there is a risk that you may inhale some of the radioactivity as the plume passes, be exposed to external radiation as the plume passes or settles on nearby surfaces or eat or drink substances contaminated by the radioactive material. You can reduce your radiation dose by following the instructions issued by the local authorities and the government.

If you have just been notified of a radiation emergency you should:


See Shelter for more information to how to shelter well.


You are advised to use text messaging rather than voice to reduce the load on local telephone systems and because they have more chance of success in congested systems.

tune in

Frequently asked questions

What if my children are at school during a radiation emergency?

Schools in or near a DEPZ will have emergency arrangements and will keep your children safe until it is possible and safe to reunite you. You should not risk exposing yourself or your children to higher levels of radiation by going to collect them.

Listen to local radio for updates and advice.

Where could we go?

If you are unable to get home or have been asked to leave it and have nowhere else to go then the local authority should provide you with shelter. Local authorities have identified emergency shelters that they can open at short notice.

Each would be staffed by a mixed team of people to provide a range of support services to help you stay as comfortable as possible until you could return home or go to other temporary lodgings.

Information on where to find the shelters would be provided by local media, by the police and by other members of the emergency response teams in the area involved.

What about care homes and other places providing care for vulnerable people?

Like schools, these establishments will have emergency arrangements and will act to keep their occupants (including the staff safe).

What about farms and other places where animals are kept?

Farmers and animal business owners should not go outside to tend to animals. Instead they should await further advice via local media, animal health officers or other emergency responders. The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) will also support farmers and livestock owners about what to do with their animals, feed and milk products.

If time allows between the alarm and the start of the release, farmers should remove animals from open fields and feed them from covered stores if possible. The aim is to avoid the animals consuming contaminated feed or grazing.

Re-entry to any evacuated areas during the emergency will be restricted by the Police to persons having compelling reasons for doing so. Arrangements could be made, for example, for essential feeding of livestock by farmers.

What about pets?

Pets should be kept indoors where possible although they are unlikely to come to any great harm outside.

If a pet does come in having been outside during the plume transit then rub them down with a towel and bag the towel (to remove any loose contamination they may have picked up).

Supporting neighbours and friends

Neighbours and friends may need support during the event and in the days and weeks after the event. If you are helping someone who has been affected by the event, there are simple techniques that you can use to offer support. These include (adapted from[1]):

What is happening else where?

When the alarm is raised it triggers a response in many organisations and results in a number of command centres being set up.

These include:

The on-site ECC will be coordinating the site's response to the emergency and will be trying to bring the situation under control and will be providing advice to the local authority and the emergency services about the severity of the event and how the situation might change as it progresses.

The SCC will provide a co-ordination hub for the off-site responders including the local authority, the emergency services, the health services and the technical expertise to understand the event and formulate advice to protect the public, including agreeing which protective actions to recommend in which areas.

Chilton Emergency Operations Centre at The Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards (CRCE) will be collecting and organising information from the site and the surrounding area and providing advice to official bodies such as the Scientific and Technical Advisory Cell (STAC) and the Recovery Advisory Group (RAG) at the SCC, the Military Co-ordinating Authority (MCA) in the case of a Ministry of Defence (MoD) emergency, the relevant lead government department and the health services.

For more information on the national plan see conops.

What is likely to happen next?

This is a good question well worth trying to answer

Information provision

You should listen to the local BBC radio channel and follow the social media accounts of your local authority and local police force for further information and updates on the situation (see Tune In (above)).

REPPIR Regulation 22 requires the local authority to "supply information to the public in the event of an emergency". This information should be relevant to the emergency in question so cannot all be written before the event. Nonetheless some of the information is reasonable generic and the page Information in the event of a radiation emergency provides this.