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Radioactive Spills & Incidents

Problems involving radioactive materials, such as spills or personal contamination, do not typically create emergencies. Generally, such incidents can be readily handled with laboratory or other University resources instead of calling non-University emergency responders. A situation involving radioactive materials is only an emergency if it also involves fire, explosion, or serious injury.

For an emergency (Remember that an emergency only exists if there’s fire, explosion or the risk of serious injury)

  • Call Campus Safety and Security first. Call 911 from a campus phone
  • During normal working hours, also call Radiation Safety Office at 334-844-6238
  • Also contact any Laboratory or Departmental Emergency contacts listed on the Emergency Information poster found on or near the entrance to the laboratory

Minor Spills

A Minor Spill is any incident that involves all the following criteria:

  • Less than 10 micro-curies of radioactivity has been spilled.
  • Contamination is limited to a small area of no more than 2-3 square feet.
  • There is no clothing or skin contamination.
  • You are certain that you can manage the surveys and decontamination on your own without assistance.

Major Spills

A Major Spill is any incident that is not a Minor Spill and includes the discovery of contamination in unexpected places or in many places.


Notify everyone in the lab or possibly in the vicinity of the lab if it seems warranted. Please call Radiation Safety or Campus Safety and Security.

Personnel Protection

Assess your own condition and determine whether you need to decontaminate yourself or to remove contaminated clothing.

Access Control and Containment

Block off the area so that bystanders do not enter. Assemble people who were in the lab at the time of the incident in a place near enough to the contaminated area to minimize the spread of contamination but far enough to prevent the continued spread of contamination.


The effort to decontaminate the area is the responsibility of the Authorized User and lab staff, although Radiation Safety may assist to plan the effort and assist you with the clean-up.

Loss or Damage to Radioactive Material

The loss of any radioactive materials or damage to any sealed source must be reported to the Radiation Safety Officer immediately upon discovery. The RSO will determine what actions must be taken.