United Stales          Office of Radiation and Indoor Air  September 2008
         Environmental Protection Agency  Radiation Protection Division (6608J) EPA 402-F-08-009
Radiological Emergency Response

What are PAGs?
The Protective Action Guides or PAGs are decision levels to help state and
local authorities make radiation protection decisions during emergencies.
More specifically, they are the projected radiation doses at which specific
action may be warranted in order to reduce or avoid that dose.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed the PAGs to provide
guidance on actions to protect the public during a radiological emergency,
as mandated by the Atomic Energy Act, Federal Emergency Management
Agency (FEMA) regulations, and the National Response Framework. The
PAGs Manual was last issued by EPA in 1992. A revision is underway that
updates several key areas. It also incorporates the guidance issued by FEMA
for dealing with long-term site restoration following a major radiological release.
For specifics, see "Planning Guidance for Protection and Recovery following
Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD) and Improvised Nuclear Device (IND)
Incidents" (August 1,2008).

How were the PAGs developed?
A multi-agency federal working group applied these three principles when
they developed the PAGs:
1. Prevent acute effects,
2. Reduce risk of chronic effects, and
3. Require optimization to balance protection with other important factors
  and ensure that actions taken cause more benefit than harm.

When would PAGs be used?
While the PAGs were originally developed specifically for nuclear power plant
incidents, they can be applied to any radiological incident with the exception
of nuclear war. However, the  PAGs are only guidance. State and local officials
may decide to use different levels based on incident-specific information.

Who needs  PAGs?
EPA conducted a symposium in 1992 to evaluate the PAGs for radiological or
nuclear incidents other than nuclear power plant accidents. That symposium,
as well as a 2003 Department of Homeland Security working group, concluded
that the PAGs could be applied to almost any radiological or nuclear incident,
including dirty bombs. Therefore, PAGs users may include hazardous
materials teams, emergency managers, and anyone working on terrorism
preparedness, in addition to nuclear power plant preparedness communities.

How would the PAGs be used?
Guidance was developed for the three phases of a nuclear incident:
 Early or Emergency Phase
  This is the period, lasting hours to days, when immediate decisions are
  needed for effective use of protective actions.
 Intermediate Phase
  This period, lasting weeks to months, begins after the source and
  releases have been brought under control, and reliable environmental
  measurements are available for use as a basis for decisions on additional
  protective actions.
 Late or Recovery Phase
  This period, lasting months to years, is no longer a response to an
  emergency and is better viewed in terms of the objectives of site
  restoration and cleanup.

What is changing in the new PAGs revision?
The proposed revision provides several key updates:
 It includes updated FDA guidance, "Accidental Radioactive Contamination
  of Human Food and Animal Feeds: Recommendations for State and Local
  Agencies," which was published in 1998.
 It lowers the projected thyroid dose for administration of stable iodine
  based on data from the Chernobyl accident.
 It provides new guidance concerning the consumption of drinking water
  during and after a radiological emergency.
 It updates the dosimetry basis to current international guidance for all
  derived response levels and dose conversion factors.
 It clarifies the use of the  1992 protective action guides and protective
  actions for incidents other than nuclear power plant accidents.
 It includes guidance for dealing with long-term site
  restoration following a major radiological release, based on FEMA's
  guidance for radiological dispersal device (RDD) or improvised nuclear
  device (IND) recovery, which was developed by a multi-agency working
  group that included EPA.

 Exposure Pathways and Protective Actions
 These are examples of exposure routes and various protective actions. The phases
 are not set timeframes and protective actions may overlap more than one phase.
 1. External radiation from facility
 2. External radiation from plume
 3. Inhalation of activity in plume
 4. Contamination of skin and clothes
 5. External radiation from ground
   deposition of activity
 6 Ingestion of contaminated food, water
 7 Inhalation of re-suspended activity
1. Sheltering, evacuation, control of access
2. Sheltering, evacuation, control of access
3. Sheltering, administration of stable iodine.
  evacuation, control of access
4. Sheltering, evacuation, decontamination
  of persons
5. Evacuation, relocation, decontamination
  of land and property
6. Food and water controls
7. Relocation, decontamination of land
  and property
  What are the Emergency PAGs?
  NOTE: Please refer to the 1992 Manual of Protective Action Guides and Protective
  Actions for Nuclear Incidents, available at www.epa.gov/radiation/rert/pags.html,
  before using any of these PAGs.
Sheltering-in-place of the public
Evacuation of the public
Administration of potassium iodide
(for radioiodine releases only)
Limit worker exposure
Relocation of the public
Food, drinking water interdiction
Limit worker exposure
Final site cleanup and restoration
1 to 5 rem projected dose
1 to 5 rem projected dose
5 rem projected child thyroid dose
5 rem (or greater under exceptional
2 rem projected dose first year;
Subsequent years, 0.5 rem projected dose
0.5 rem projected dose
5 rem
Site-specific optimization
For questions or additional information contact Sara DeCair by phone at 202-343-9713
or by e-mail at decair.sara@epa.gov.