Civil Dfence eLearning Online courses,

Online eLearning. Photo by Wolfgang Greller

League Online Training

The two online courses we currently offer to some degree complement one another. Neither is a prerequisite for the other. Apart from a small amount of fundamental information about radiation which is necessary as a base of understanding, each course contains different material.

The Radiation Safety in Shelters Course focuses on assessing the safety of a makeshift fallout shelter such as an underground parking garage or the basement of a commercial building, finding the safest place in a shelter, how to locate and handle “radiation leaks,” how to manage and monitor radiation in a shelter that has a number of occupants (from a few to hundreds), how to keep tack of cumulative radiation exposures even when the number of dosimeters are limited, how to estimate future radiation exposure using simple, basic rules, and how to determine when it is safe to start emerging into the open from a shelter. The information is also extremely valuable for designing or assessing the safety of a makeshift or permanent fallout shelter in your home as you have many of the same challenges.

The Radiological Defence Course is a more technically oriented course, in large part based on the Radiological Defence Officer Course material that used to be taught at the Canadian Emergency Measure College operated by the Canadian government in the 1970s. This course involves some basic math skills like plotting graphs.  It also covers things like decontamination of public spaces and buildings such as hospitals. The skills taught allow one to determine and advise upon the current radiation situation, future radiation levels and likely radiation doses,  the length of time people in various locations must remain in shelters, where and when outdoor operations can be conducted and for how long, and the types of controls and remedial measures that may be needed in more seriously affected areas. These methods are far more accurate than the simple rules taught in the Shelters course, but the course includes a number of math exercises. There is much vital information in the Safety in Shelters Course not included in the Radiological Defence Course, so they are both worth completing.

The focus of both courses is safety from radioactive fallout following the detonation of a nuclear weapon or a nuclear attack. Nothing in them relates to or covers peacetime radiation practices and concerns. Their entire focus is survival in a nuclear war scenario, especially in the vital few days immediately after an attack.

Both courses assume that you will eventually have some way of accurately measuring high levels of radiation, ideally at least one dosimeter and one radiation survey meter, or a combined digital instrument. Without these, you would have to rely on updates from authorities – updates which would be very general in nature, probably not specific to your immediate community, and which might not come at all in a timely manner.

Because you cannot see it, taste it, smell it, or feel it, you simply have no idea how much radiation your body is absorbing. And as the harm is cumulative, you can be approaching or even be past a lethal dose and simply not know it because you may feel and sense nothing. The symptoms usually hit you later, long after it is too later to take preventative action.

It is possible to manufacture a simple homemade instrument (designed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory) that will allow you to calculate with reasonable accuracy levels of gamma radiation after a nuclear attack. Instructions for this simple instrument – the Kearny Fallout Meter – can be found in several videos in the library. Detailed plans are also found in the Nuclear War Survival Skills by Cresson Kearny , a copy which can be downloaded via the library.

Rados Rad-60 meter.

However, if you are serious about your safety, we don’t recommend the home-made meter route. Rather, a modern meter, coupled with training such as we teach in our online courses, will allow effective monitoring of your own and others’ safety. You will know what the numbers mean for your health and survival.

Note: For civil defence purposes, you need to be able to measure both the dose-rate and the cumulative dose of gamma radiation at the high levels which are released by nuclear detonations. Many meters that measure peacetime radiation levels (such as the the cheaper ones found on Ebay) stop working when flooded with higher wartime levels of radiation. As such, a “peacetime meter” will often indicate low levels or even no radiation when in fact they are being flooded with very high or even lethal amounts of radiation. So you need a dosimeter and /or survey meter (now often a single instrument) designed for wartime levels of radiation, For example. a dose-rate survey meter would need to measure, in its upper range, at least 300 Roentgens per hour, rather than the peacetime levels of milliroentkens or microroentgens. For more complete information on current meters and dosimeters available and their comparative ranges, the US Department of Homeland Security completed a market survey report found here.

Old US civil defence dose-rate survey meter, that were manufactured in the 100,000s.

You don’t actually need to have such a meter to do either of the courses currently offered online here. The courses teach the general use of such meters, not specifics related to the use of each individual meter. And by doing either course, you will come to understand the value of putting a dose-rate and cumulative dose meter in a “nuclear survival kit.” 

But simply owning these without training doesn’t really guarantee your safety.   

After doing either or both courses, you may decide to at least get the old US Civil Defence pen dosimeters, a dosimeter charger and a dose rate survey meter. These were manufactured in very large numbers in the 1960s and 70s to equip all the community fallout shelters. Or you might consider a more modern combined digital dosimeter and rate meter.

Old US civil defence pen dosimeters and the charger (which is needed to make them work).

There are often a number of such used meters and dosimeters for sale on Ebay. Note: If you get a used meter or dosimeter from any source and it hasn’t been calibrated in the several years, you will need to have it calibrated. Otherwise, there is no way of knowing if it is still accurate or if it is actually working at all. The decades old US civil defence dosimeters and survey meters, for instance, although they may appear to be working by holding a charge or in a self-test, still have a significant failure rate because of different storage histories. At least that’s what the people who still calibrate them tell us.

Canadian organizations that use radiation survey instruments or electronic dosimeters for worker safety are required by law to perform annual instrument calibration checks to ensure that they operate accurately. For more information about calibration of instruments in Canada, see the The Radiation Safety Institute of Canada, (It is worth noting, however, that FEMA used to set 4-6 years as a maximum span between calibrations of Civil Defence meters and dosimeter if they had always been shelf-bound.) 

To purchase new instruments, the online store of the American Civil Defence Association is one current source. Also, the market survey report found here also lists sources for a number of meters that measure high levels of radiation.

There are companies that provide calibration services for some of the digital meters like the Rados Rad-60 or Canberra meters. There is also a company in Texas that will calibrate old US civil defence dosimeters and survey meters.

However, let us emphasize again, it isn’t necessary to actually have these instruments to do either the Radiation Safety in Shelters or the Radiological Defence Course. These courses cover the theory of using these instruments in general to ensure safety. You will, in fact, better understand what you need these instruments to do after either course.

The Radiological Defence Officer Course also teaches the use of the Radiac Calculator No. 1 (or a similar model) which also can often be purchased on Ebay for $10 or $20. However, in the library, there are templates that you can download and use to make one out of paper and cardboard which would be sufficient to do the exercises on the course.

Generally, our suggestion is to start with the Radiation Safety in Shelters Course and then follow this with the Radiological Defence Course which is a little more technical because of the math requirements.

See the Radiation Safety in Shelters Course here.

See the Radiological Defence Course here.