Nuclear Incident

Improvised Nuclear Device (IND)

An improvised nuclear device (IND) is a weapon bought, stolen or otherwise obtained from a nuclear state, or a weapon fabricated by a terrorist group from illegally obtained nuclear weapons material.

How will I know if I'm in an area with nuclear fallout?

Fallout from a nuclear weapon looks like sandy particles that fall from the sky. If you see sandy particles falling from the sky or already on the ground, go indoors immediately. Seek cover if the buildings around you have been damaged by the blast or if they are on fire.

What should I do to protect myself and my family?

If you or your family members are outdoors in areas where radioactive fallout has been deposited, then radiation levels can be dangerously high for many hours or even many days. You and your family members should stay inside until instructed that it is safe to evacuate. To help keep yourself and your family safe:

  • Go inside - as deeply into the building and as far from the roof as possible (into a basement, a lower floor, and the core of the building)
    • If you are coming in from an area where there is fallout already on the ground take your shoes off just after entering the building to avoid spreading contamination
  • Shut your doors and windows (if they were open)
  • Change clothes and take a shower if possible (wash your hair also, but don't use conditioner)
    • If it is not possible to shower you should use moist wipes (such as baby wipes) or water from a container to clean your hands, face, and especially around your mouth, nose, and eyes.
  • Turn on the television or radio and listen for more information and instructions.

What about my pets?

Wash and dry off your pets. Keep them indoors. Do not shave your pets' fur.

Is radiation the only danger from a nuclear attack?

No. A nuclear explosion can:

  • Ignite fires up to a mile away
  • Damage buildings up to a mile away
  • Break glass up to several miles away
  • Cause temporary blindness up to several miles away
  • Damage subway tunnels, bridges and utility lines up to a few miles away

Can I eat the food in my home after a nuclear attack?

Most fallout particles are too large to drift into your home, even through open windows. Any particles that do enter your home should settle very close to the open doors or windows. If fallout entered your home, it can settle on anything exposed to the air, just as exposed objects can collect dust. You can eat canned goods, food that is in your refrigerator or freezer, boxed foods and food in bottles or jars. Plates, glasses and silverware should be rinsed before using them. It is safe to eat fruits that have to be peeled (bananas, oranges, etc.). Fruits and vegetables that are not normally peeled (apples, carrots) should be rinsed thoroughly before eating.

Can I drink water from the tap?

It depends on several factors and whether or not the City's or your building's water supply has been affected. The tap water is most likely safe to drink however, until you hear from public health authorities that NYC tap water is safe to drink, bottled water is the only source that we are certain is free of contamination.

Can I drink bottled water, soda and fruit juices?

Any drinks that are in cans, bottles, juice boxes, cartons or other sealed containers are safe to drink. The outside of any cans, bottles, etc. in the affected area should be rinsed with a water supply known to be free of contamination prior to opening and/or drinking.

Where should I go to be checked for exposure to radiation?

New York City is setting up Community Reception Centers (CRCs) to check the public for exposure to radiation. Information on the locations of these centers will be provided shortly.

Can I take medicine for radiation exposure?

Probably not, but you should go to a Community Reception Center (CRC) to be checked. CRC staff can determine if you need medicine and what kind. If you need medicine, you will be told where you can obtain it. Because there is always the risk of harmful side effects, you should never take medicine unless instructed to do so.

What should I do if I think I am contaminated?

After removing your clothing, you should take a warm shower. Wash your hair, but don't use conditioners because they can bind radioactive material to hair protein, making decontamination more difficult. Change into clean clothes.

Where should I put my contaminated clothing?

Contaminated clothing should be placed in a plastic bag and sealed with tape. Place the bag into a second bag that is also sealed. Then store the bagged clothing where it won't be stolen but is out of the way (for example, in a basement, on a porch, in a closet you don't use often or in a hallway).

Should I do laundry to decontaminate my clothing?

No. Decontaminating clothing requires specialized laundries.

Should I evacuate the area?

The safest place to be is indoors because you will receive less radiation exposure if you stay inside. Turn on the television or radio and listen for instructions. If you are in a location that needs to be evacuated you'll be informed when it is safe to do so.

Should I pick up my children from school or day care?

No. Everybody (yourself included) is safest staying indoors. Schools and day care centers understand how to keep children safe. Anyone who goes outside in the first hours after a nuclear attack might die from radiation exposure.

How do I know when it is safe to evacuate?

Listen to the radio or watch television for evacuation instructions. Emergency management officials will tell you when it is safe to evacuate.

Why is it important to evacuate along a specified route?

Nuclear fallout will not settle on the ground uniformly, and not all radioactive fallout can be easily seen. You need to evacuate along a path that will expose you to the lowest radiation levels possible. The safest evacuation route/s are those determined by emergency management officials.

What should I take when I evacuate?

The New York City Office of Emergency Management has put together a list of what should be in your Go Bag .

Can I bring pets with me when I evacuate?

You can bring legal pets with you (dogs and cats, for example)

How do I know if my home is contaminated?

City, state and federal agencies will map the areas of the city that have been contaminated. If you are not in a contaminated area then your home will not be contaminated. If you are in a contaminated area, then you should assume that your home is contaminated. Workers will conduct a radiation survey to verify whether your home has been contaminated.

If I am in a contaminated area, when will a radiation survey be done?

It will depend on the size of the contaminated area and the number of workers available to conduct the surveys.

Will I have to move out if my home is contaminated?

Not necessarily - it will depend on the amount of contamination. The government will determine whether it is necessary to move to minimize your exposure to radiation.

When can I return if I have to move out?

It depends on the number of homes that have to be decontaminated and the number of workers available to do the work.

Where should I go to the hospital?

You should go to the hospital if you were injured in the attack or if you have a medical condition (injury, illness, etc.) that would normally cause you to go to the hospital. You should not go to the hospital to be screened for contamination or if you're worried about radiation exposure but are not otherwise sick or injured.

Is radiation exposure going to give me cancer one day?

Radiation can cause cancer, but it takes relatively high levels of exposure. The only people likely to have received enough radiation to put them at risk for cancer are those who were closest to the attack. But even their risk is likely to be fairly low. If you were not at the scene of the attack, your radiation exposure most likely will be less than what you would receive from a medical x-ray. Health officials will monitor people affected by radiation emergencies for long-term health effects, including cancer.

Will the radiation harm my unborn child?

Although high doses of radiation can cause problems during pregnancy, very few women are likely to be exposed to enough radiation to cause a concern. The only women who could have been exposed to high enough levels of radiation are those who were able to see and hear the explosion and who were covered with dust or debris or were injured in the attack. If you don't meet these conditions, your unborn child is not at risk. You can visit a Community Reception Center for screening or contact your physician for more information.

How will I cope?

A nuclear explosion can be very stressful, especially if it is large scale event. It can disrupt your everyday life and make you and those around you feel less safe. You may experience fear and uncertainty. Prepare Today, Cope Better Tomorrow - Stress during Disasters provides basic information and practical advice on dealing with the stress and anxiety caused by disasters. It is available in seven languages. If there is a nuclear explosion affecting the city and you feel overwhelmed and unable to cope, or if you are concerned about someone else, you can find help by calling (888) NYC-Well (888-692-9355). NYC Well is a free, confidential helpline for New York City residents, available 24/7, with trained staff ready to take your calls and offer advice.