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Sunday, February 6, 2005

Dirty War: Dealing with a Dirty Bomb

The HBO film "Dirty War" teaches some important lessons regarding how to deal with a dirty or radioactive bomb:

In a post-9/11 world, how do you prepare for the unthinkable? Is it possible to stop a coordinated radioactive-weapons attack by determined terrorists in an international city? And what, if anything, should the public be told about such a threat?

What is a “dirty bomb”: A dirty bomb, or radiological dispersion device, is a bomb that combines conventional explosives, such as dynamite, with radioactive materials in the form of powder or pellets. The idea behind a dirty bomb is to blast radioactive material into the area around the explosion. This could possibly cause buildings and people to be exposed to radioactive material. The main purpose of a dirty bomb is to frighten people and make buildings or land unusable for a long period of time.

What people should do following an explosion?
• Leave the immediate area on foot. Do not panic. Do not take public or private transportation such as buses, subways, or cars because if radioactive materials were involved, they may contaminate cars or the public transportation system.

• Go inside the nearest building. Staying inside will reduce people's exposure to any radioactive material that may be on dust at the scene.

• Remove their clothes as soon as possible, place them in a plastic bag, and seal it. Removing clothing will remove most of the contamination caused by external exposure to radioactive materials. Saving the contaminated clothing would allow testing for exposure without invasive sampling.

• Take a shower or wash themselves as best they can. Washing will reduce the amount of radioactive contamination on the body and will effectively reduce total exposure.

What We Learn About Radiation Threats from Movies—Fact or Fiction [Center for Disease Control]

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