The guiding principle of radiation safety is “ALARA”. ALARA stands for “as low as reasonably achievable”. This principle means that even if it is a small dose, if receiving that dose has no direct benefit, you should try to avoid it. To do this, you can use three basic protective measures in radiation safety: time, distance, and shielding.
- Time refers to the amount of time you spend near a radiation source.
- Minimize your time near a radiation source to only as long as it takes to accomplish a task.
- First responders can use alarming dosimeters to help them minimize the amount of time they are in an area with elevated radiation levels.
- Distance refers to how close you are to a radiation source.
- Maximize your distance from a radioactive source as much as possible.
- If you increase your distance from a radiation source, you will decrease your dose.
In a radiation emergency you may be asked to get inside a building and take shelter for a period of time.
- To shield yourself from a radiation source, put something between you and the source.
- In a radiation emergency, officials may instruct you to get inside and put as many walls between you and the outside as possible. This is another way to use shielding.
- Protective clothing can shield first responders from alpha and beta particles, but will not protect them from gamma rays. Standing behind a wall or a fire truck can also serve as a shield.