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Nuclear Power Plant Emergency Preparedness: Results From an Evaluation of Michigan's Potassium Iodide Distribution Program

  • Laura R. Zwolinski, Martha Stanbury and Susan Manente

Background: In 2009, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) made potassium iodide (KI), a nonprescription radio-protective drug, available by mailing vouchers redeemable at local pharmacies for KI tablets, at no cost to residents living within 10 miles of Michigan's 3 nuclear power plants (NPPs). MDCH conducted an evaluation of this program to determine Michigan's KI coverage and to assess general emergency preparedness among residents living near the NPPs.

Methods: KI coverage was estimated based on redeemed voucher counts and the 2010 Census. Telephone surveys were administered to a random sample (N = 153) of residents living near Michigan's NPPs to evaluate general emergency preparedness, reasons for voucher use or nonuse, and KI knowledge.

Results: Only 5.3% of eligible residences redeemed KI vouchers. Most surveyed residents (76.5%) were aware of living near an NPP, yet 42.5% reported doing “nothing” to plan for an emergency. Almost half of surveyed voucher users did not know when to take KI or which body part KI protects. Among voucher nonusers, 48.0% were either unaware of the program or did not remember receiving a voucher.

Conclusions: Additional efforts are needed to ensure that all residents are aware of the availability of KI and that recipients of the drug understand when and why it should be taken. Minimal emergency planning among residents living near Michigan's NPPs emphasizes the need for increased emergency preparedness and awareness. Findings are particularly salient given the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant emergency in Japan.

(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2012;6:263–269)

Corresponding author
Correspondence: Martha Stanbury, MSPH, Michigan Department of Community Health, PO Box 30195, Lansing, MI 48909 (e-mail:
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Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness
  • ISSN: 1935-7893
  • EISSN: 1938-744X
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