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What to do in a Nuclear Power Plant Emergency Situation?

written by: Ricky • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 8/4/2008

It is really a great honour to live near a popular place be it a tourist destination, a historical building or an engineering marvel. But the price of fame could be dear at times, so just check out what you need to do in case you live near a nuclear power plant and God forbid - "something happens"

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    There are various aspects of safety concerning a nuclear power plant but we are not here to discuss the aspects which are internal. This means to say that the aspects which are taken care of by the engineers and management of the nuclear power plant during design, construction or post construction. We are talking here from the external perspective considering that you are living near a nuclear power plant. There are certain things which you should know in such a case and they are as follows.

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    Levels of Classification

    Although every possibility where a mishap can occur can be said to be an emergency situation, but this would not be a very feasible alternative from the practical point of view. Hence a better method is to classify the level of emergency and this is done as follows.

    1. Notification: this is the least serious type of emergency situation and whenever some event occurs which is not normal or is unusual, the emergency authorities are notified. Generally the normal public does not have any role to play in such a situation.
    2. Alert: sometimes an event might occur which is unusual or abnormal but still it is not a serious one, as the nuclear power plant has back up options for it. In such a case the situation is classified as an alert though the practice is same as that in an event, namely authorities are notified but the public isn’t expected to do anything.
    3. Site Area Emergency: if the event that has occurred grows to a proportion where it can possibly cause harm to the environment such as radiation leaks etc, but the possibility of occurrence is only within the boundaries of the power plant it is said to be a site area emergency. The authorities take appropriate steps to solve the same though the general public is still out of the picture.
    4. General Emergency: finally if the event assumes such proportions that radiation damage is expected to occur into the area beyond the boundaries of the nuclear power plant, it is the most serious form of emergency and appropriate action is taken to safeguard and evacuate the general public in the vicinity of the plant which is at risk.
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    What Should You Do?

    Whenever there is a general emergency situation a siren is sounded so that the general public becomes aware of the emergency situation. The very first thing you should do on hearing the siren is to muster courage so that you do not fall prey to an enemy which is thousand times deadlier than the radiations of the nuclear power plant – fear and panic. Whatever you do in panic is certainly going to go wrong so just be cool and tune in to your local radio or TV station. If you are still not sure of something or if your radio/TV is not working due to any reasons simply ask your neighbours rather than assuming anything. Calling numbers such as 911 would not be a good idea as lines might get jammed if everyone personally calls the emergency services.

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    Follow Instructions

    Listening to advice is of no use unless you act upon it. So do follow whatever professional advice is given to you such as remaining indoors, shutting down of the ACs and so on. Remember the usual rules which apply during say flooding or earthquake such as evacuating buildings, do not apply here.