Protecting your family in a nuclear emergency

Updated: March 13, 2013

NOTE: During a nuclear emergency, people living near the impacted nuclear facility should GO inside their homes, LISTEN to the radio or television or monitor the internet and FOLLOW the directions provided by authorities.

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Preparing for a nuclear emergency

If you live near a nuclear power plant, in the unlikely event of an emergency, you will have received information about what do to from the plant operator and/or provincial officials.

When you receive this information, read it carefully and store in an easily accessible place. You can also attend public information sessions held by local authorities and the nuclear power plant operator. If you require additional information, contact your local and/or provincial emergency management office.

As with any emergency, you can prepare your family by:

Visit Getprepared.gc.ca for more information on personal emergency preparedness.

Visit your provincial emergency management office for information on preparing for a nuclear emergency:

What to do – three steps

In the unlikely event of a nuclear emergency, you will be notified through public alerting systems, such as a telephone call or sirens. If this happens, follow these three steps – Go, Listen, Follow:

  • GO inside your house and turn on your radio, television or computer.
  • LISTEN to the media reports.
  • FOLLOW instructions provided by the provincial government.

As with any emergency, remember to stay calm.

What NOT to do

During a nuclear emergency, your provincial government is the lead in responding to the situation. They are best placed to handle an emergency, and to protect your family and the public. Follow these tips, so they can get their job done easily and smoothly:

  • Avoid calling 9-1-1, the operator or other emergency numbers in order to ask for situation updates. These phone calls may tie up phone lines used to co-ordinate the emergency response.
  • Limit any phone calls you make as much as possible, so that the phone lines are free for emergency responders.
  • Avoid rushing to evacuate the area immediately, and don't leave unless authorities tell you to do so. The safest place is often your home or workplace.

Who's in charge?

Onsite

Nuclear power plant operators, under the regulatory oversight of the CNSC, are in charge of responding to the situation.

Offsite

Provincial governments lead the offsite response to a nuclear emergency.

They work with regional, local and federal response organizations to protect the public and respond to a nuclear emergency.

Keeping your family safe

In the unlikely event of a nuclear emergency, officials will quickly determine the degree of risk and take immediate measures to limit the dangers to the surrounding community.

Residents may be asked to take certain actions. These instructions will be communicated through emergency broadcasts on local TV and radio. Should this occur, it is important that you listen to media reports and follow the instructions.

You may be asked to protect yourself by:

  • Sheltering (staying inside with windows and doors closed) and/or evacuating the area
  • taking potassium iodide (KI) pills, which can help protect the thyroid if radioactive iodine is ingested (note that you should only take KI if directly instructed to do so by public health authorities, since the substance is only helpful for specific situations, and some people may be allergic to the pills)
  • using masks or other protective equipment

You may also be asked to follow restrictions that are put in place to prevent the ingestion of radioactivity. These controls may include:

  • restrictions on drinking milk and water, and on foodstuffs (including garden produces)
  • restrictions at local farms, to prevent any contamination from getting into the food chain

All of these actions are termed "protective actions" and have been put in place to reduce the potential human health risks.

You may also be asked to officially register with authorities so that people needing medical examination or counseling are identified promptly.

For more information

Visit your provincial emergency management office for more information on how to prepare for a nuclear emergency: