Emergencies Involving Radioactive Materials


Life threatening emergency or accident: 911 or (510) 642-6760.

Notify Environment, Health & Safety (EH&S) as soon as possible in case of area or personnel contamination or excessive exposure to radiation and prior to attempting extensive area decontamination.

Non-life threatening radiation emergency during normal business hours: (510) 642-3073.

Non-life threatening radiation emergency after normal business hours: 911 or (510) 642-6760.

1. Emergency Procedure for Radioactive Material Spills

  • Step out of the spill area and control access to the area.  Inform everyone in the immediate area of the spill and limit traffic near the spill.  Ask everyone to stay close by so they can be checked for contamination before leaving the lab. Call EH&S and discuss the spill with them. EH&S will make a determination regarding the spill, give you instructions, and will tell you how to proceed.

If the radioactive spill is from a volatile material (e.g. I-125) in addition to the above:

  • Immediately evacuate all lab personnel from the room and close the door.
  • Post someone nearby to prevent others from entering the room and call EH&S for help.
  • Do not leave the immediate area until EH&S arrives, performs surveys, and releases you.

Any contamination on people is the first priority. Remove contaminated clothing and flush contaminated skin with copious amounts of water. Call EH&S for immediate assistance.

Be conservative when you determine the area of the spill. Visual information will be helpful, but rely on survey instruments and swipes to be safe. Be sure to wear double gloves, a lab coat, and appropriate eye protection. Monitor your gloves and shoes frequently for contamination. If you find that significant shoe contamination exists, stop and call EH&S.

Procedure for Decontaminating an Area

2. Personnel Contamination

  • Remove contaminated clothing immediately and flush the skin with copious amounts of lukewarm water and mild soap.  Do not abrade the skin.  
  • Notify EH&S as soon as possible. Restrict the contaminated individual's movements and stay in  the area until EH&S arrives.
  • In case of an injury, call 911 or 510-642-6760 to obtain medical assistance, then notify EH&S immediately. Treat injuries first, without regard to radioactive contamination.

3. Radiation Producing Machines

  • If suspected exposure of fingers, eyes, or any body part to the primary beam or failure of a shutter or enclosure interlock occurs, call (510) 642-3073.

4. Loss or Theft

Notify EH&S immediately if you suspect the loss or theft of radioactive materials or radiation producing machines. If the event is a theft,  UCPD should be notified as well.