First Response to Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD) and Nuclear Attacks


J. Alvarez, M. Landis


First responders to radiological dispersal device (RDD) and nuclear attacks need information concerning the hazards and guidance for response. The radiological hazards following a nuclear attack are related to the distance from ground zero and guidance follows distance and time. The closer to ground zero, the less likely there will be survivors. Where the radiation dose rate is high, more than a few tens of mGy/h, any victims will have received such high doses that there is little or no chance of survival. Debris and rubble will make rescue so slow that doses to first responders may not be acceptable. Entry into high-dose areas should be delayed based on the 7–10 rule of dose rate decrease. The radiological hazards following an RDD attack depend upon the radionuclide used and the amount of dispersion achieved. A small amount of dispersion with a gamma emitter could create a very high dose rate near ground zero. Rescue of badly injured victims in a high-dose-rate region may not be advised because of the dose to first responders. Alternatively, a small amount of dispersion with an alpha emitter could allow rescue with little external or internal dose using protective clothing. Very high dispersion could mean that dose rates are low—less than 10 mGy/h. Low dose rates would allow rescue using protective clothing. All first response will require adequate, easy-to-use instrumentation. Training and instrumentation are necessary for first response to terrorist events involving radioactive material.


This abstract was presented at the 38th Annual Midyear Meeting, "Materials Control and Security: Risk Assessment, Handling, and Detection", Emergency Response Planning and Programs – Part I Session, 2/13/2005 - 2/16/2005, held in New Orleans, LA.

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