162 Emergency Response

162 Radioactive Materials

(Low to Moderate Level Radiation)

162 Emergency Response



  • Radiation presents minimal risk to transport workers, emergency response personnel, and the public during transportation accidents. Packaging durability increases as potential hazard of radioactive content increases.
  • Undamaged packages are safe. Contents of damaged packages may cause higher external radiation exposure, or both external and internal radiation exposure if contents are released.
  • Low radiation hazard when material is inside container. If material is released from package or bulk container, hazard will vary from low to moderate. Level of hazard will depend on the type and amount of radioactivity, the kind of material it is in, and/or the surfaces it is on.
  • Some material may be released from packages during accidents of moderate severity but risks to people are not great.
  • Released radioactive materials or contaminated objects usually will be visible if packaging fails.
  • Some exclusive use shipments of bulk and packaged materials will not have “RADIOACTIVE” labels.
  • Placards, markings, and shipping papers provide identification.
  • Some packages may have a “RADIOACTIVE” label and a second hazard label. The second hazard is usually greater than the radiation hazard; so follow this Guide as well as the response Guide for the second hazard class label.
  • Some radioactive materials cannot be detected by commonly available instruments.
  • Runoff from control of cargo fire may cause low-level pollution.


  • Some of these materials may burn, but most do not ignite readily.
  • Uranium and Thorium metal cuttings may ignite spontaneously if exposed to air (see Guide 136).
  • Nitrates are oxidizers and may ignite other combustibles (see Guide 141).


  • CALL Emergency Response Telephone Number on Shipping Paper first. If Shipping Paper not available or no answer, refer to appropriate telephone number listed on the inside back cover.
  • Priorities for rescue, life-saving, first aid, and control of fire and other hazards are higher than the priority for measuring radiation levels.
  • Radiation Authority must be notified of accident conditions. Radiation Authority is usually responsible for decisions about radiological consequences and closure of emergencies.
  • Isolate spill or leak area immediately for at least 25 to 50 meters (80 to 160 feet) in all directions.
  • Stay upwind.
  • Keep unauthorized personnel away.
  • Detain or isolate uninjured persons or equipment suspected to be contaminated; delay decontamination and cleanup until instructions are received from Radiation Authority.


  • Positive pressure self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and structural firefighters’ protective clothing will provide adequate protection.


Large Spill

  • Consider initial downwind evacuation for at least 100 meters (330 feet).


  • When a large quantity of this material is involved in a major fire, consider an initial evacuation distance of 300 meters (1000 feet) in all directions.



  • Presence of radioactive material will not influence the fire control processes and should not influence selection of techniques.
  • Move containers from fire area if you can do it without risk.
  • Do not move damaged packages; move undamaged packages out of fire zone.

Small Fires

  • Dry chemical, CO2, water spray or regular foam.

Large Fires

  • Water spray, fog (flooding amounts).
  • Dike fire-control water for later disposal.


  • Do not touch damaged packages or spilled material.
  • Cover liquid spill with sand, earth or other noncombustible absorbent material.
  • Dike to collect large liquid spills.
  • Cover powder spill with plastic sheet or tarp to minimize spreading.


  • Medical problems take priority over radiological concerns.
  • Use first aid treatment according to the nature of the injury.
  • Do not delay care and transport of a seriously injured person.
  • Apply artificial respiration if victim is not breathing.
  • Administer oxygen if breathing is difficult.
  • In case of contact with substance, wipe from skin immediately; flush skin or eyes with running water for at least 20 minutes.
  • Injured persons contaminated by contact with released material are not a serious hazard to health care personnel, equipment or facilities.
  • Ensure that medical personnel are aware of the material(s) involved, take precautions to protect themselves and prevent spread of contamination.