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Information and public services for the Island of Jersey

L'înformâtion et les sèrvices publyis pouor I'Île dé Jèrri

Radiation and nuclear emergencies: how to protect yourself

About radiation events or emergencies

A radiation emergency is the release of radioactive material that may be harmful to health. 

The most significant radiation risk for Jersey is if there is an accident at the French nuclear facilities close to us.

The risk of this sort of emergency happening is extremely low, but we should be prepared and you should know what to do.

If a nuclear accident happens, some of the radioactive material could escape and affect areas downwind of it. In this case, the main risk to Islanders would be if very tiny radioactive particles released into the air. The particles could be carried by the wind and settle on people or objects people were in contact with. These tiny particles are unstable and give off radiation.

You could be exposed to radioactive particles by: 

  • inhaling contaminated air or gases
  • having contact with contaminated surfaces
  • eating or drinking contaminated food or water
  • having direct exposure from particles as they are blown by the wind

Nuclear event scale

If an event or accident happens at a nuclear site, the public will quickly be told how serious it is, on a scale of 1 to 7.

A level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES) is a major accident. For an event under level 5, it's unlikely the public would be told to take action.

The levels are:

  • 7: major accident (for example, Chernobyl)
  • 6: serious accident 
  • 5: accident with off-site risks (for example, Three Mile Island and the Windscale fire)
  • 4: accident mainly in installation 
  • 3: serious incident 
  • 2: incident 
  • 1: anomaly 
  • below scale: no safety significance

What radiation can do and how to stay safe

Radiation is a form of energy from natural or man-made sources and we’re exposed to it all the time. In some forms it can be harmful to humans and other living things because it can lead to biological effects such as cell changes. This can result in damage to organs or other long-term effects.

It’s possible that these changes may not show up until sometime after exposure to radiation.

The main way to stay safe if a radioactive accident happens is to stay inside with windows and doors closed. So none of the radioactive particles can reach you. 

Public Health Protection in Radiation Emergencies on GOV.UK.

Emergency plans for radioactive accidents in Jersey

If there’s a nuclear emergency in Jersey, there’ll be an announcement on our website, social media and local media channels.

Follow the instructions that you’re given.

What you should do in a radiation emergency

The procedure in an emergency is simple, you should:

  • go in
  • stay in
  • tune in

What to do in a radiation emergency

Go In

In a radiation emergency go indoors and:

  • close all your doors and windows
  • switch off fans, ventilation equipment or appliances such as central heating boilers and gas fires, which draw air from outside 
  • put out or damp down open fires

Stay In

Don’t go outside, where radiation could be higher, unless you’re told to. Make sure you:

  • keep pets indoors, to stop them bringing possible contamination into the house
  • if your children are at school, the school will look after them. Going to collect your children may expose you and them to radiation

Tune In

Keep reading, listening and watching the up to date information and advice we’ll publish on our website, media channels and social media.

Who you can call

Only call 999 if you have a health emergency. Do not call this number for general enquiries.

Don’t use your mobile or landline unless you urgently need help or advice as networks might be overloaded during an emergency. If you must make a call, keep it short.

Effects on food and drinks

It’s unlikely that tap water, food or drink that is covered or sealed, will be affected. Do not use food you grow in your garden unless picked before the emergency.

More advice and information on this will be given out as an incident progresses. 

Advice will also be given to farmers, fishermen and other food producers.

When the immediate danger passes

You should keep listening and looking for announcements and updates on the news.

The Government will liaise with responding agencies to deal with the release of information. As soon as it’s completely safe to go outside again, we’ll announce it on local radio, television, and social media channels.

In the days following the emergency, health experts will carry out checks on the air, water and soil to make sure it continues to be safe. There’ll be more information on any further action you need to take in all news channels, including the newspapers. An information phone helpline will be made available.

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