Saint Louis University

For a radioactive materials spill or other nuclear materials situation on campus contact The Office of Environmental Safety and Services at (314) 977-6885 or the Department of Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness at (314) 977-3000.  A representative from the Office of Environmental Safety and Security Services will respond to all radioactive materials spills and incidents. Do not attempt to clean up radioactive spills on your own.  For more information on radioactive materials see The Office of Environmental Safety and Services website at  

For all accidents involving radioactive or nuclear materials, contact the Department of Public Safety at (314) 977-3000. Be prepared to provide them with the following information:

  • Your location
  • If anyone is injured -- how many people; their names, approximate ages and sex; what the injuries are
  • If the spill or incident is contained to a specific area
  • The type and quantity of material involved
  • Do not leave the area and limit any movement until those it can be determined who is affected!


A nuclear blast is an explosion with intense light and heat, a damaging pressure wave and widespread radioactive material that can contaminate the air, water, and ground surfaces for miles around. A nuclear device can range from a weapon carried by an intercontinental missile launched by a hostile nation or terrorist organization, to a small portable nuclear devise transported by an individual. All nuclear devices cause deadly effects when exploded, including blinding light, intense heat (thermal radiation), initial nuclear radiation, blast, fires started by the heat pulse and secondary fires caused by the destruction.

During the blast:

If an attack warning is issued:

  • Take cover as quickly as you can, below ground if possible, and stay there until instructed to do otherwise.
  • Listen for official information and follow instructions.

If you are caught outside and unable to get inside immediately:

  • Do not look at the flash or fireball - it can blind you.
  • Take cover behind anything that might offer protection.
  • Lie flat on the ground and cover your head. If the explosion is some distance away, it could take 30 seconds or more for the blast wave to hit.
  • Take shelter as soon as you can, even if you are many miles from ground zero where the attack occurred - radioactive fallout can be carried by the winds for hundreds of miles. Remember the three protective factors: Distance, shielding, and time.

After the blast: 

Decay rates of the radioactive fallout are the same for any size nuclear device. However, the amount of fallout will vary based on the size of the device and its proximity to the ground. Therefore, it might be necessary for those in the areas with highest radiation levels to shelter for up to a month.

The heaviest fallout would be limited to the area at or downwind from the explosion, and 80 percent of the fallout would occur during the first 24 hours.

People in most of the areas that would be affected could be allowed to come out of shelter within a few days and, if necessary, evacuate to unaffected areas.

When returning home, remember:

  • Keep listening to the radio and television for news about what to do, where to go, and places to avoid.
  • Stay away from damaged areas. Stay away from areas marked "radiation hazard" or "HAZMAT." Remember that radiation cannot be seen, smelled, or otherwise detected by human senses.


Even if individuals are not close enough to the nuclear blast to be affected by the direct impacts, they may be affected by radioactive fallout. Any nuclear blast results in some fallout. Fallout from a nuclear explosion may be carried by wind currents for hundreds of miles if the right conditions exist. Effects from even a small portable device exploded at ground level can be potentially deadly.

Nuclear radiation cannot be seen, smelled, or otherwise detected by normal senses. Radiation can only be detected by radiation monitoring devices. This makes radiological emergencies different from other types of emergencies, such as floods or hurricanes. Monitoring can project the fallout arrival times, which will be announced through official warning channels. However, any increase in surface build-up of gritty dust and dirt should be a warning for taking protective measures.

In addition to other effects, a nuclear weapon detonated in or above the earth's atmosphere can create an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), a high-density electrical field. An EMP acts like a stroke of lightning but is stronger, faster, and shorter. An EMP can seriously damage electronic devices connected to power sources or antennas. This includes communication systems, computers, electrical appliances, and automobile or aircraft ignition systems. The damage could range from a minor interruption to actual burnout of components. Most electronic equipment within 1,000 miles of a high-altitude nuclear detonation could be affected. Battery-powered radios with short antennas generally would not be affected. Although an EMP is unlikely to harm most people, it could harm those with pacemakers or other implanted electronic devices.

The University has several battery powered all HAZARD radios strategically located throughout the Frost and Medical Center Campuses to monitor for any type of event that might impact our community.