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Control measure

Firefighter decontamination: Radioactive materials

Control measure knowledge

Once any contamination with a radiation source has been identified using appropriate instrumentation, decontamination procedures should be implemented. Decontamination for radioactive materials is usually a ‘dry’ or ‘safe’ undress process. Using large amounts of water, such as in showers, is discouraged as this will lead to the spread of contamination. Wet decontamination should only be used where emergency responders have been inadvertently contaminated; this should be restricted to using wet flannels and wipes wherever possible.

Whenever emergency responders have been contaminated with radioactive materials, medical attention should be sought at the earliest opportunity.

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Provide procedures and support arrangements regarding the hazards that may be encountered and actions to take to decontaminate emergency responders from radioactive contamination

  • Provide equipment to allow contamination monitoring and the decontamination of responders who have become contaminated by radioactive materials

  • Provide means for occupational health monitoring for responders who may have become contaminated

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Ensure an appropriate decontamination process is set up before committing responders into the radiation hazard area

  • Monitor for contamination of radioactive material before and after decontamination to determine the effectiveness of the process

  • Consider a safe undress/dry decontamination from chemical protection clothing (CPC) or firefighting personal protective equipment (PPE) where radioactive materials are involved

  • Where necessary, consider further decontamination with soapy water and flannels if skin has become contaminated – all contaminated waste must be contained

  • Seek medical attention for any emergency responder who may have been exposed to radioactive material