Guest blogger Curt Emanuel is County Extension Director in Boone County, Indiana. He is also an EDEN delegate representing Purdue University.
Are you a livestock owner located within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant? Is there a site nearby where radiological materials are stored or manufactured? Is your farm near a highway or railway over which nuclear materials are transported? Are you near a nuclear waste storage facility, nuclear weapons complex, or shipyard where nuclear-powered vessels are docked or serviced? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then planning for a radiological incident should be part of your farm’s emergency plan.
Many people, on hearing the word, radiation, have visions of a nuclear holocaust. However, a radiological incident from a domestic source will most likely be a low level release involving contaminated airborne particles. The landscape will not begin to glow, your hair will not begin to fall out, and you won’t suffer immediate radiation sickness. But this does not mean this type of release poses no hazard. You should still protect yourself and your family and, if you own livestock, you should protect your animals.
The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (U.S. NRC) is the lead agency for planning for a radiological emergency. In cooperation with other agencies, the U.S. NRC has developed a series of steps, known as protective actions, which livestock owners may be instructed to take in case of an incident. Knowing what these steps are and making sure you are able to perform them is the key to developing your emergency plan.
How to Protect Your Livestock
Protective actions for livestock are designed to keep the animals from getting radioactive materials in them, through inhalation or ingestion, or on them. If a radiological incident occurs you may be instructed to:
- Bring your animals in to shelter
- Only feed and water animals from protected sources
- Restrict grazing on pasture
- Reduce the ventilation in your livestock barns to prevent radioactive particles from entering buildings
- Cover any unprotected feed and water sources
There are many resources available to help you develop your plan. States with a nuclear power plant have instructions on what to do in a radiological event, including information specifically for owners of livestock. Even states without a nuclear power plant have plans to address radiological emergencies. Check with your state Emergency Management Agency, Health Department, or Department of Agriculture.
Among other things, your plan should insure that you have enough protected feed and water for seven days. You should have tarps or six mil (minimum) thickness plastic to cover unprotected feed, such as hay stored outside, and water sources and water troughs. You should know how you will quickly move your animals to shelter and how low you can safely adjust the ventilation of confinement buildings.
Most importantly, you should be aware of how you can listen to emergency messages. Remember that you should never put you or your family at risk to protect an animal.
And always listen to and
follow all emergency messages!
Free Webinar on this Topic
Curt and Dr. Julie Smith recently conducted a webinar on radiological events and animal agriculture. Watch the recording for additional tips on preparing for such an emergency.