What is Radiation?

Radiation is energy that travels in the form of waves or high speed particles. Radiation can be naturally occurring or man made. It is all around us in varying forms ranging from radio waves to x-rays to cosmic radiation from space. While there are various different types of radiation, some more energetic than others, there are two primary classifications :
Non-Ionizing Radiation: Radiation having enough energy to excite atoms (make them move more rapidly), but not enough to ionize them (alter them physically). Examples of non-ionizing radiation include microwaves, radio waves and visible light.
Ionizing Radiation: The most energetic forms of radiation, capable of removing electrons from atoms (ionization) and damaging the DNA within living cells. X-rays, gamma rays and alpha & beta particles are examples of ionizing radiation.

Radiation: Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do if a radiological emergency occurs?

If an accident or other emergency involving radioactive materials occurs, call 911 immediately.
Below is a summary of the types of actions and preparations you will need to protect yourself and your family in the event of a radiological emergency:

  • After a release of radioactive materials, local authorities will monitor the levels of radiation and determine what protective actions to take. The most appropriate action will depend on the situation.
  • Tune to the local emergency response network or news station for information and instructions during any emergency.
  • If a radiation emergency involves the release of large amounts of radioactive materials, you may be advised to “shelter in place,” which means to stay in your home or office; or you may be advised to move to another location. If you are advised to shelter in place, you should do the following:
  1. Close and lock all doors and windows.
  2. Turn off fans, air conditioners, and forced-air heating units that bring in fresh air from the outside. Only use units to recirculate air that is already in the building.
  3. Close fireplace dampers.
  4. If possible, bring pets inside.
  5. Move to an inner room or basement.
  6. Keep your radio tuned to the emergency response network or local news to find out what else you need to do.
  • If you are advised to evacuate, follow the directions that your local officials provide.
  • Leave the area as quickly and orderly as possible.
  • In addition – Take a flashlight, portable radio, batteries, first-aid kit, supply of sealed food and water, hand-operated can opener, essential medicines, and cash and credit cards. Remember to take your pets.