M.S. Thesis Presentation by Jesse P. Aldridge
Tuesday, March 24, 1998

(Dr. Show-Hwa Fong, advisor)

"The Role of Health Physicists in Contemporary Radiological Emergency Response"

Abstract

One of the most frightening emergency scenarios involves the release of radioactive material. Fortunately accidents involving radioactive material are rare. Because radiation can only be detected by specific instruments and has a potential for serious health detriment if improperly handled, radiation specialists or health physicists must take an active role in emergency response. The nuclear power industry along with the Nuclear Regulatory Agency recognized the serious consequences that could result from a reactor accident and therefore have developed very comprehensive accident plans which are exercised and evaluated regularly. However, for radiological accidents that occur outside nuclear facilities planning is not as comprehensive. Furthermore, the deliberate release of radioactivity such as a terrorist attack could find the public and emergency services personnel unprepared. When asked to operate as part of a large emergency response organization responding to an incident in which radiation is only one of the concerns, health physicists may find that they are not functioning within the organization as smoothly as other functional groups in the organization.

Therefore, this study proposes an alternate method by which health physics personnel may respond to combined radiological-nonradiological incidents when functioning as part of a large relief organization. The other primary emergency response agencies have adopted the Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS) response as an industry standard response. Health physics personnel will be able to integrate into the organization more completely and operate more efficiently if they also adopt SEMS as the standard management system for radiological emergency response.