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Iowa Department of Health and Human Services

Bureau of Radiological Health - Radiation Emergency Response

The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services (Iowa HHS) Bureau of Radiological Health is responsible for all dose assessment and technical advice for radiological incidents or emergencies in Iowa.

To Report a Radiation Incident or Emergency Call (515) 725-4160.

Important information to provide when reporting a radiological incident or emergency include:

  • Your name.
  • Telephone number and contact information.
  • Date, time, and location of incident.
  • What has happened or what is happening?
  • Radioactive materials and quantity involved in the incident.
  • Responsible party or the incident (property or business owner name, transportation firm name, etc.).
  • Have the local officials (fire, police, sheriff) been notified of the incident?

Iowa HHS Bureau of Radiological Health will coordinate dose assessment and technical advice through:

  • Analysis of radiological incident risks.
  • Collection and mapping of field measurements and data using field survey and sampling teams from Iowa State University, State Hygienic Lab at University of Iowa, and the 71st Civil Support Team.
  • Review of incident-specific information to recommend appropriate guidance for responders, and 
  • Advising on recommendations for protective actions based on the radiological risks to protect the public and emergency workers.

In the event of a catastrophic accident, Iowa HHS may also request and coordinate with assets from federal or adjoining state partners depending on the size and scope of the event.

What is a Radiological Emergency?

Radiation emergencies can be intentional acts designed to hurt others or they may also be the result of accidents that occur during normal use of radioactive material.  A nuclear power plant accident, nuclear explosion, or a radiological dispersal device (RDD, dirty bomb) are examples of radiation emergencies.

What is a Radiological Incident?

Radioactive materials are transported and safely used in everyday industry.  Types of uses include: commercial power production, medical procedures, teaching and research at colleges, measuring density or thickness of materials, and nondestructive testing of materials to name a few. Although these are regulated activities, a wide range of accidents can happen, and it is important that Iowa HHS trained staff are involved with the response to accidents involving radioactive materials to protect the public health and safety.

What should I do to protect myself?

A nuclear power plant accident, a nuclear explosion or a dirty bomb are examples of radiation emergencies.  During a radiation emergency, the goal is to keep your exposure to radiation as low as possible.  It's important to listen for guidance on how to respond to keep you and your family safe.

Get Inside - During a radiation emergency, you may be asked to get inside a building and take shelter for a period of time instead of leaving.  The walls of buildings can block much of the harmful radiation.  Because radioactive materials become weaker over time, staying inside for 24 hours can protect you and your family until it is safe to leave the area.

Stay Inside - Stay inside until you are told to leave by the police, fire department, or government official.  While you are inside you can take simple steps to remove any radioactive material that might be on your body.  Taking off the outer layer of clothing (like jackets and pants), washing you skin with water and putting on clean clothes will remove radioactive material.
Stay Tuned - It will be important to stay tuned once you get inside for updated instructions from emergency response officials.  As officials learn more about the emergency, they will communicate the latest information to the public. Television, radio, and social media are some examples of ways that you may receive important safety information.
Get Inside.  Stay Inside.  Stay Tuned.
Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Where Can I Get More Information on Radiation Emergencies?

For questions about emergency response planning or other non-emergent issues use the "Contact Us" page to submit online or you can call (515) 281-3478.