Radiation is all around us, everywhere we go and every day, and it always has been. It comes from many natural sources, such as powerful cosmic events, the sun, and the Earth itself. A majority of the time, everyone is exposed to radiation at normal, natural levels, which is referred to as "background radiation." Background radiation is emitted at very low levels and is not harmful to humans.
Every day, certain human activities safely use sources of radiation for medical procedures, nuclear power generation, construction, and research. These activities raise nearby radiation to levels much greater than background, but due to legally required control mechanisms, it is very rare for anyone – including the people using radioactive material – to be harmed by this increased radiation. In fact, anyone who uses radioactive materials or equipment must ensure that their activities do not significantly increase radiation levels in locations accessible by members of the public. Even so, accidents and emergencies involving sources of radiation can occur.
To ensure that an emergency at a facility using radioactive materials does not lead to health effects for members of the public, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) Radiological Protection Section routinely monitors the environment around certain facilities and participates in radiological emergency response trainings annually.
In recent years, EGLE has improved its ability to collect, report, and analyze data by joining the RadResponder Network. This network provides a platform for government agencies across the country to upload information collected during routine radiological monitoring, for training emergency responders and, if needed, to coordinate activities during an emergency response. In April 2018, EGLE became the first organization ever to be recognized as "RadResponder Ready" by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) -- a special designation reserved for organizations that have fully integrated the use of the RadResponder Network into their emergency response plans and capabilities. Whether during a training exercise or in the unlikely event of a real emergency, the use of the RadResponder Network allows EGLE to seamlessly share information with other emergency response organizations, track worker exposures, develop situational awareness, and quickly change tactics to address human needs in a potentially chaotic and rapidly evolving situation.
To learn more about what EGLE’s Radiological Protection Section has done with the RadResponder Network and other projects, check out the Radiological Emergency Preparedness playlist on EGLE's YouTube page.