- Emergency Classifications
- Evacuations and Sheltering
- Special Assistance
- Farmers and Ranchers
- Pet Owners
There are four classifications used to describe nuclear emergencies. We contact federal, state and local authorities in each of the follow situations.
Unusual Event: This is the least serious of the four classifications. It means there is a minor operational or security problem at the plant. There is no impact to the public: No public action is needed.
Alert: This is the second classification in increasing significance and involves an operational/security event that may affect plant safety. There is no impact to the public. Emergency officials would prepare emergency centers for use if needed.
Site Area Emergency: This is the third in increasing significance and involves a major operational/security event that could affect plant safety. Sirens may sound to alert the public to listen to local radio/television stations for information. Radioactivity levels outside of the plant should not exceed federal guidelines.
General Emergency: This is the most serious of the four classifications and involves a serious operational/security event. Sirens may sound and state and local authorities would take action to protect the public. Local radio/television stations would give information and instructions. People in affected areas would be advised to stay indoors or evacuate.
Radiation isn’t new or mysterious – it’s a natural part of our environment. It’s found in sunlight, minerals and even in the food we eat. However, extremely large amounts of radiation can be harmful, even fatal. Fortunately the radiation given off in the normal operation of a nuclear power plant is very small; smaller, in fact, than the amount you’d receive during a coast-to-coast airplane flight.
Radiation is measured in units called “rems” and “millirems.” A rem is a unit of measurement that takes into account the effect different types of radiation have on your body.
Amounts of Radiation from Common Sources Millirems
Average annual radiation exposure from ALL sources
Natural background radiation
Consumer products (air travel, smoking, building materials, etc.)
Remainder (including living near a nuclear power station)
Less than 1
Emergency plans are designed to protect you in the unlikely event of a nuclear station emergency. State and local governments have guidelines about when people should be protected from radiation. These guidelines call for protective actions at levels far below those that can make you sick. If radiation levels at or above those guidelines are expected, state and local officials will provide guidance to protect the public.
If there is an emergency at the nuclear station, state and county officials will provide information to the public via radio and television. You might be told to go inside and stay inside, shelter in place, evacuate and/or take potassium iodide (KI). Shelter in place, evacuating and taking potassium iodide are ways to reduce exposure to radiation. Sometimes staying indoors is safer than evacuating. Emergency officials will know which is better. Follow their instructions.
Go inside/stay inside
- Go inside a building (home/office/etc.).
- Stay indoors until officials tell you it is safe to leave.
Shelter in place
- Go inside a building and stay there until you are told it is safe to leave.
- Close all windows and doors. Turn off fans, air conditioners, heat pumps and forced air heat, which bring in outside air.
- Go to the basement, if possible. If you don’t have a basement, go to a downstairs room in the center of the house. It should be a room without windows or outside doors.
- Listen to local radio stations for instructions from emergency management officials.
- Commercial supplies of water, milk and food will be checked for radiation, if necessary. Government officials will tell you if these are safe.
Evacuate to a reception center/shelter
- Do not try to take all of your belongings with you. You could be away from home for a few hours or a few days.
- Turn off appliances and faucets. Lock all windows and doors.
- Service animals (dogs trained to benefit those with disabilities) are welcome and will be accommodated at reception centers.
- Get into your vehicle and close all windows and vents. Drive to your reception center and register. You can stay at the reception center or, after you register, you may stay with friends or relatives outside the protective action zone(s).
It is important to go to the reception center because:
- If any radioactive material was found on you, it would be removed by changing clothes and washing. This process is called decontamination, and is important to reduce radiation dose to yourself and others.
- Local emergency management officials would need to know who has evacuated. They would also need to know where you are, so you could be contacted.
Take potassium iodide (KI)
Potassium iodide, also known as KI, is a nonprescription drug that may prevent the thyroid gland from absorbing radioactive iodine. KI is one protective action that might be recommended during a nuclear emergency. KI is available to Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) residents at no cost through county health departments. It should be taken only at the direction of public health officials. For more information on KI, contact your county health department.
North Carolina Public Health
South Carolina Department of Health Environmental Control
County emergency management offices assist people without transportation or with special needs by notifying them of an emergency and assisting with evacuation if necessary. If you or someone you know needs transportation, is visually impaired, hearing impaired, physically disabled or has special needs, contact your county emergency management office today.
If instructed in an emergency, you should be prepared to take the following actions:
- Monitor and follow instructions given over the emergency alert system. Specific recommendations for the protection of farm animals and agricultural products will be issued by appropriate state and county officials.
- Remove all dairy animals from pasture, shelter if possible, and provide them with stored feed and protected water. Protected self-feeders and automatic livestock waterers are best.
- Store feed in buildings, or cover if outdoors. Feed stored in buildings will be protected from contamination. Cover the feed with plastic or canvas.
- Cover open wells and water tanks.
- The states of North Carolina and South Carolina have published special brochures concerning livestock, crops and gardens. Residents may request a copy by contacting their county cooperative extension agent.
Pet owners are responsible for their pets. The best way to protect pets from exposure to radiation is to bring them inside as soon as possible. If you plan to evacuate with your pets, check with your county emergency management office to determine what accommodations are available at your assigned reception center. Depending upon health risk assessments, some centers may arrange alternate holding facilities for pets that may be away from human shelter sites.
If you have to leave your pet home, make sure to leave them inside with food and water. Do not give them potassium iodide (KI) unless instructed by your veterinarian, since it may be poisonous to them. Consult your veterinarian about additional concerns.
If you are told to evacuate, it's a good idea to bring the following items to the reception center/shelter:
- Two changes of clothing
- Two blankets or a sleeping bag for each person
- Important personal papers
- Toiletries such as soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.
- Personal medications and prescriptions
- Special baby formulas and/or food, and diapers
- Battery operated radio, flashlight and batteries
- If you're going to a reception center/shelter for housing or other assistance, if possible bring some form of identification that shows your address.