Emergency Response

Radioactive Spill Clean-Up

  • All spills must be cleaned up as quickly as possible.
  • Minor spills involving only a few microcuries of material where the radionuclide does not become airborne and emergencies where there is no personal injury can be handled by lab personnel utilizing the spill kit provided to each lab by Radiation Safety.
  • All spills must be reported to the Radiation Safety Program at 414-430-7507.
  • The authorized user is responsible for providing personnel to clean-up any contamination which results from work conducted under his/her authorization.
  • Custodial personnel shall not be asked to clean-up any contamination.
  • Radiation safety personnel will monitor and supervise the clean-up of all major spills and accidents.

For additional information contact the Radiation Safety Program at 414-430-7507.

Radiation Safety: Campus Emergency Phone Numbers

In case of a potential or actual radiation hazard, immediately call one of the following individuals for hazard evaluation, additional emergency procedures and corrective action information:

  • Kim Axtman, Radiation Safety Program
    • Office: 414-430-7507
    • Home: 414-335-9786
  • Melissa Spadanuda, Associate Director, University Safety and Assurances
    • Office: 414-229-3173
    • Home: 262-442-4429

Emergency Numbers:

UWM Police Emergency Dial 9-911 from any hard-wired campus phone
UWM Police Emergency Dial 229-9911 from a cellphone
UWM Police Non-Emergency Dial x4627 from any hard-wired campus phone
Dial 229-4627 from a cellphone

For additional information contact the Radiation Safety Program at 414-430-7507.

Radioactive Spill Response

Spill Response pdf format, Adobe Acrobat Required (Version for Printing)

Minor Spills & Emergencies Major Spills & Emergencies

Minor Spills and emergencies are those spills of a few microcuries of activity where the radionuclide does not become airborne and emergencies where there is no personal injury.

Lab personnel utilizing the spill kit provided to each laboratory by the Radiation Safety Program can handle most minor spills. Detailed procedures to follow are:

Major spills and emergencies are those spills involving millicurie or greater activity, where airborne contamination occurs, or personal injury or fire are involved. These situations require additional assistance and these procedures should be followed:
  1. Notify all individuals in the room at once.
  2. Limit access to the area to those persons necessary to deal with the spill. Do not let other persons into the area until the spill is decontaminated.
  3. Open the lab spill kit and obtain necessary supplies.
  4. Confine the spill immediately.Liquid Spills:
  5. Put on protective gloves and clothing.
  6. Drop absorbent paper or vermiculite on the spill.
  7. Dry Spills:
  8. Put on protective gloves and clothing.
  9. Dampen thoroughly, taking care not to spread the contamination. Generally, water may be used, except where a chemical reaction with the water could generate an air contaminant or a chemical or physical hazard. Mineral oil or another predetermined organic solvent should then be used.
  10. Notify Radiation Safety of the spill at the first opportunity. If after hours notify campus police (229-9911) who can contact members of the Radiation Safety Program staff.
  11. Survey personnel involved with the spill before they disperse; decontaminate or change clothes as necessary.
  12. Complete systematic decontamination based on a pre-established plan of action.
  13. Submit a written report of the accident to the Radiation Safety Officer. Include a complete history of the accident and subsequent corrective measures, which were taken, and signatures of all individuals involved.
  1. During working hours, notify the Radiation Safety Officer (414-430-7507 or 229-6339) at once. During holidays, evenings, and weekends, call the UWM Police (9-911 from campus phones; 229-9911 from CGLS or UWM Field Station). Campus police will contact a member of the radiation safety staff. Consult emergency phone list for additional numbers.
  2. Remove personnel from the area of the spill and hold them nearby until they can be checked for contamination by Radiation Safety Program staff.
  3. If an individual is injured, apply immediate first aid as necessary. Do not let the possibility of radioactive contamination hinder first aid efforts. Decontamination of wounds, etc., can always be done after the victim’s medical condition has been stabilized.
  4. If the spill is liquid and the hands are protected, right the container by hand; otherwise, use tongs, a stick, or similar lever.
  5. If the spill is on the skin, flush thoroughly with water and wash with soap or detergent.
  6. If the spill is on clothing, remove the article at once and discard it in a plastic bag.
  7. If the spill is airborne, evacuate the area at once. Switch off all ventilators and fans. Physical Plant should be contacted: 229-4742 during business hours or 229-4652 after hours.
  8. Vacate and seal the room and go to a safe area, avoiding additional contamination of personnel. As practical, take precautions to limit the spread of contamination to other areas.
  9. Shield the source spill if possible but only if it can be accomplished without further contamination or without significantly increasing your radiation exposure.
  10. Take immediate steps to decontaminate personnel involved.
  11. Decontaminate the area following a pre-established plan. The RSO or another member of the radiation safety staff will direct the decontamination procedure.
  12. Monitor all personnel involved in a spill and cleanup.
  13. Submit a written report of the accident to Radiation Safety Officer. Include a complete history of the accident, as well as corrective measures taken, and signatures of all individuals involved.

Accidents

Accidents Involving Airborne Radioactivitypdf format, Adobe Acrobat Required (Version for printing)

Accidents Involving Airborne Radioactivity

  1. Notify others to vacate the area at once. Lab personnel should go to a safe area, avoiding additional contamination of themselves or others.
  2. Shut windows and doors. Switch off any ventilators or fans within the lab. Vacate the area.
  3. Call the Radiation Safety Program office at 414-430-7507 or 229-6339 at once. During holidays, evenings and weekends call the UWM Police at 9-911 from campus phones, 229-9911 from a cellular phone, or 229-4627 from the WATER Institute. Campus police will contact a member of the Radiation Safety staff. Consult emergency phone list for additional numbers.
  4. Physical Plant will need to be contacted to ensure ventilation is properly shut off. They can be reached at 229-4742 during business hours or 229-4652 after hours.
  5. Do not re-enter the area. Radiation Safety personnel will assess the situation and direct any decontamination activities following a pre-established plan

Accidents Involving Personal Injury

  1. Administer first aid and/or call Campus Police at 9-911 from any campus phone or 229-9911 from a cell phone (from WATER Institute call City Police at 911) for emergency medical assistance. Medical treatment or assistance is the first priority.
  2. Inform emergency response personnel that radioactive materials are involved before the treatment takes place so they can take appropriate actions to protect themselves as well as prevent the spread of contamination.
  3. Call the Radiation Safety Program office at 414-430-7507 or 229-6339 at once. During holidays, evenings and weekends call the UWM Police at 9-911 from any hard-wired campus phone or 229-9911 from the WATER Institute. Campus police will contact a member of the Radiation Safety staff. Consult emergency phone list for additional numbers.
  4. After the injured person is treated and removed from the site, Radiation Safety personnel will assess the situation and direct any decontamination activities following a pre-established plan.

Response Actions to Radioactive Release

Allan Brodsky, National Health Physics Society

If you have warnings from the news that release of radioactive materials has occurred upwind from where you are, you probably have time to take some of the following actions:

  • At home, close windows and doors and put you ventilation fan on recycled air. Raise the temperature in your home; expanding air provides positive pressure, pushing air through cracks to the outside. Tape around windows to prevent outside air from entering. Stuff towels under doors, etc. If you have a below ground basement, go to a spot in the corner below ground and remain there unless local police or emergency personnel provide instructions either in person or on the radio to evacuate to a given area. One foot of concrete (solid block) will cut most radiation to one-hundredth so you will very likely not be harmed from radioactive fallout dispersed from either a conventional explosive of the type of nuclear bomb that might be obtained by terrorists. Inviting neighbors to bring supplies and join you will improve, not decrease, your protection.
  • Do not evacuate unless instructed to do so by authoritative personnel. You can be more exposed outdoors or in a traffic jam if you are in an area where harmful agents are dispersed into the air.
  • If you are in or near a high-rise building, go to a middle floor to use the concrete floors to shield you from radiation coming from the roof or ground or to get away from agents that are probably concentrated near ground level. Within hours, these agents will probably be dispersed by the wind, and you will probably be advised it is safe to venture our for food or to evacuate to a safe location.
  • If you are in a department store or place with many people and know that radiation has been dispersed, go to the basement or ground level and get everyone to form a group where individuals take turns standing in the center and the outside. People are mostly made of water, and four to five inches of water will reduce any gamma radiation by a factor of one-half.