Planning Guidance for Response to a Nuclear Detonation – TOC – Forward

This guidance was developed by a federal interagency committee led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Office of Emerging Threats (OET) with representatives from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Defense (DoD), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Future editions and interagency interaction related to Planning Guidance for Response to a Nuclear Detonation will be coordinated by FEMA.
Please refer comments and questions to the FEMA OET (

Foreword for Third Edition
The First Edition (2009) of this planning guidance focused on a small nuclear detonation at ground level in an urban environment—specifically, National Planning Scenario (NPS) #1.1 The Second Edition (2010) provided updated terminology, added the concept of the Hot Zone (HZ), and added a chapter specifically to address public preparedness and emergency public communications in the post-detonation environment.
The Third Edition (2022) has been updated and expanded to provide guidance for a wider range of nuclear detonations, including larger detonations and air bursts. It also incorporates new research, best practices, and response resources. Additionally, this edition includes a new chapter on the Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS), which enables state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) officials to send warnings and key messages during the response.

Table of Contents
Foreword for Third Edition
Table of Contents
Structure of This Document
Critical Considerations
Radiation Units

  1. Nuclear Detonation Impacts
    1.1. Blast
    1.2. Prompt Thermal Effects and Fire
    1.3. Eye Injuries
    1.4. Initial and Residual Radiation
    1.5. Height of Burst (HOB) Considerations
    1.6. Radiation Zones
    1.7. Radiation Injuries and Fallout Health Impacts
    1.8. Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Effects
  2. A Zoned Approach
    2.1. Hazard Zones
    2.2. Emergency Worker Safety
    2.3. Critical Infrastructure Decontamination
    2.4. Waste Management
  3. Shelter & Evacuation
    3.1. Timely Messaging
    3.2. Adequate Shelter
    3.3. Sheltering Guidance
    3.4. Situational Awareness
    3.5. Evacuation Guidance
    3.6. Self-Evacuation
    3.7. Contamination Concerns
  4. Acute Medical Care
    4.1. Injuries: Identification, Triage, and Treatment
    4.2. Initial Mass Casualty Triage in Scarce Resource Environments
    4.3. The Radiation Triage, Treatment and Transport System (RTR) and Other Medical Response Venues
    4.4. Fatality Management
  5. Population Monitoring
    5.1. Contamination Considerations
    5.2. Screening for Contamination
    5.3. CRC and Mass Care Shelter Operations
    5.4. Long-Term Registry and Follow-up
  6. Communications and Public Preparedness
    6.1. Pre-Incident Communications Planning
    6.2. Immediate Response Communications Priorities
  7. Alerts, Warnings, Notifications, and FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS)
    7.1. Importance of Public Alerts, Warnings and Notifications (AWN)
    7.2. Public Alerting Authorities
    7.3. Public A&W Systems for Mass Notification
    7.4. Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) Components
    7.5. Public Alerting, Warning and Notification in Operational Planning
    7.6. Community Lifelines and Emergency Support Functions (ESFs)
    7.7. AWN Planning Factors for a Low-Altitude Nuclear Detonation
    7.8. Planning in Post-Detonation Scenarios
    7.9. Planning for Use of A&W Pathways
    Appendix 1.1: Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP), High-Altitude EMP (HEMP), and Geometric Disturbance (GMD)
    Low-Altitude SREMP
    Appendix 1.2: Residual Radiation Variability
    Residual radiation fields (HZs and DRZs) differ greatly based on contextual variables
    Meteorological conditions may cause significant variations in fallout patterns
    Fallout clouds and patterns from a nuclear detonation in an urban environment may vary significantly from nuclear tests
    Appendix 2.1: Alternative Techniques to Determine Dose
    Dosimetry in the Early Phase of the Response
    Appendix 2.2: Decontamination of Critical Infrastructure
    Appendix 2.3: Waste Management Operations
    Appendix 4.1: LD50/60
    Appendix 4.2: Subsyndromes of ARS
    Gastrointestinal Subsyndrome (GI-ARS)
    Cutaneous Radiation Subsyndrome (C-ARS or CRS)
    Neurovascular Subsyndrome (N-ARS)7
    Appendix 4.3: Burn Injuries
    Appendix 4.4: Triage
    Appendix 4.5: Guidance Resources for Healthcare Providers, Responders, and Planners. 194 Appendix 4.6: Response Support Teams and Planning Resources
    Appendix 4.7: Resources for Medical Examiners and Coroners (ME/Cs) and Fatality Management Planning
    Appendix 5.1: Impacted Populations
    Appendix 5.2: Strategies for Screening and Decontaminating People
    Radiation Screening
    Appendix 5.3: Screening and Decontaminating Service Animals and Pets
    Appendix 5.4: Handling Contaminated Vehicles
    Vehicle Contamination Screening
    Vehicle Decontamination
    Non-Response Vehicle Decontamination
    Disabled Vehicles
    Appendix 5.5: Resources to Support Contamination Screening Activities
    Radiological Operations Support Specialists (ROSS)
    Volunteer Radiation Professionals
    Mutual Aid Programs
    Appendix 5.6: Available Tools for Tracking and Monitoring People
    The CRC Electronic Data Collection Tool (CRC eTool)
    Rapid Response Registry (RRR)
    Epi CASE (Contact Assessment Symptom Exposure) Toolkit
    The ERHMS System
    Chapter 1 References
    Chapter 2 References
    Chapter 3 References
    Chapter 4 References
    Chapter 5 References
    Chapter 6 References
    Chapter 7 References

The FEMA OET gratefully acknowledges the guidance and support provided by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Labs, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Defense (DoD), and other FEMA offices.

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