Shielding is an essential component in preventing radiation exposure. Alpha and beta particles have very little penetrating power and the intact skin forms an adequate barrier in most cases. Most particle exposure is the result of inhalation or ingestion, although radiation particles may enter the body through burned, abraded or lacerated skin. In avoiding particle exposure, full personnel protective clothing and a protective mask with hood provides the best protection. The protective mask and foul weather gear will provide lesser but adequate protection. In cases where no protective breathing devices are available, some protection is afforded by breathing through a folded towel, handkerchief, or several surgical masks. Avoid hand-to-mouth contact, eating, or smoking in contaminated areas.
Gamma radiation has much greater penetrating power and presents the greatest risk of exposure and damage to tissue. Although lead is the most effective shielding material, wood, concrete, other metals, and heavy clothing will somewhat reduce the amount of gamma radiation that reaches the body.
In a large-scale nuclear catastrophe there may be innumerable casualties suffering not only from mechanical injuries and thermal burns, but from radiation injuries and psychological reactions as well. One of the first problems will be to organize an efficient sorting system. The medical facility should consist of a personnel monitoring station, a clean and a contaminated emergency treatment station, a decontamination station, a sorting station, and various treatment stations. An ideal medical facility design is shown in figure 6-2. It should be set up so that personnel must pass through a monitoring station prior to sorting for medical care. If there is a need for decontamination, the casualty should be routed through the decontamination station on the way to the sorting station. If possible, the physical layout should be arranged so that no casualty can bypass the monitoring station and go directly to a treatment station. Also, casualties who are contaminated should be unable to enter clean areas without first passing through a decontamination station.
Patients brought in by the rescue teams or arriving on their own should first proceed