How to Perform a Survey for Radiation Contamination
Source of graphic: Radiation Emergency Assistance Center/Training Site (REAC/TS)1
- Perform survey instrument check2
- Check instrument for calibration certificate
- Perform battery charge check
- Select desired survey mode
- Obtain and record background reading
- Position person to be scanned1
- Standing upright on a clean pad
- Feet spread slightly
- Arms extended from body, palms up, fingers extended from the hand
- Conduct survey1
- Hold the pancake probe ~1/2 inch from the surface being surveyed.
- Scan surfaces at a rate of 1-2 inches per second.
- Pass the probe over the body in a systematic way over the front, back, sides, head, armpits, groin, soles of feet, etc.
- Hold the probe over areas of elevated readings for ~10 seconds to determine the "count rate."
- Scan one side of the body at a time; repeat systematically on the reverse side.
- Record survey results or "count rates" on a body chart diagram (PDF - 49 KB) before and after each decontamination cycle.
- For radiation events involving alpha particles or low-energy beta particles, consult a health physicist.
- CAVEAT: In a large mass casualty setting
- Acceptable levels of residual contamination may be revised upward by authorized response leaders3,4
- Acceptable levels of residual contamination
- Originally specified in a key 1992 EPA document as <2 times existing background levels5
- Newer guidance documents recommend considering a value of counts per minute (CPM) over background, taking into account several factors including3,4,6
- The number of people who need to be surveyed
- The type and settings of the survey equipment used
- The type of contamination identified (alpha, beta, gamma)
- The pattern of contamination identified (loose, fixed, both)
- How to Detect Radiation (Radiation Emergency Assistance Center/Training Site (REAC/TS))
- Management of Persons Contaminated with Radionuclides: Handbook (NCRP Report 161, Volume I), National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, Bethesda, MD, 2008, Chapter 5: Performing Surveys and Controlling Personnel and Area Contamination.
- Handbook for Responding to a Radiological Dispersal Device, First Responder's Guide - the First 12 Hours (PDF - 4.26 MB) (Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors, Inc., September 2006, Decontamination Guidelines, pages 35-38)
- Population Monitoring in Radiation Emergencies: A Guide for State and Local Public Health Planners (PDF - 3.66 MB) (HHS/CDC, August, 2007, pages C-5 through C-7, D-1 through D-3)
- Manual of Protective Action Guides and Protective Actions for Nuclear Incidents (PDF - 13 MB) (EPA, 1992, EPA 400-R-92-001, pages 7-23 through 7-25)
- Background information on FEM-REP-22: Contamination Monitoring Guidance for Portable Instruments Used for Radiological Emergency Response to Nuclear Power Plant Accidents (PDF - 643 KB) (FEMA, October 2002)