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Sheltering & Evacuation

Exposure to very high levels of radiation can make you sick. In extreme cases, it can be fatal. Emergency plans are designed to protect you in the unlikely event of a nuclear station emergency. State and local governments have guidelines about when people should be protected from radiation.

These guidelines call for protective actions at levels far below those that can make you sick. To protect yourself if radiation levels at or above those guidelines were expected, you might be told to stay indoors, evacuate and/or take potassium iodide (KI). Sometimes staying indoors is safer than evacuating. Emergency officials will know which is better. Follow their instructions.

You may be told to do one of the following:

Stay Indoors - Shelter in Place

  • Stay indoors until you are told it is safe to go out.
  • Close all windows and doors. Turn off fans, air conditioners, heat pumps and forced air heat, which bring in outside air.
  • Go to the basement, if possible. If you donít have a basement, go to a downstairs room in the center of the house. It should be a room without windows or outside doors.
  • Listen to local radio stations for instructions from emergency management officials.
  • Commercial supplies of water, milk and food will be checked for radiation, if necessary. Government officials will tell you if these are safe.

Evacuate to a Reception Center

  • Do not try to take all of your belongings with you. You could be away from home for a few hours or a few days.
  • Turn off appliances and faucets. Lock all windows and doors.
  • Service animals (dogs trained to benefit those with disabilities) are welcome and will be accommodated at reception centers.
  • Get into your vehicle and close all windows and vents. Drive to your reception center and register. You can stay at the reception center or, after you register, you may stay with friends or relatives outside the protective action zone(s). It is important to go to the reception center because:
    • If any radioactive material were found on you, it would be removed by changing clothes and washing. This process is called decontamination, and is important to reduce radiation dose to yourself and others.
    • Local emergency management officials would need to know who has evacuated. They would also need to know where you are, so you could be contacted.

Take Potassium Iodide - KI

Potassium iodide, also known as KI, is a non-prescription drug that may prevent the thyroid gland from absorbing radioactive iodine. KI is one protective action that might be recommended during a nuclear emergency. KI is available to Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) residents at no cost through county health departments. It should be taken only at the direction of public health officials. For more information on KI, contact your county health department.

For more online KI information, visit: