A nuclear detonation in a US city would have profound psychological, social, and behavioral effects. This article reviews the scientific literature on human responses to radiation incidents and disasters in general, and examines potential behavioral health care provider (BHCP) contributions in the hours and days after a nuclear detonation. In the area directly affected by the blast, the immediate overarching goal of BHCP interventions is the support of lifesaving activities and the prevention of additional casualties from fallout. These interventions include 6 broad categories: promoting appropriate protective actions, discouraging dangerous behaviors, managing patient/survivor flow to facilitate the best use of scarce resources, supporting first responders, assisting with triage, and delivering palliative care when appropriate. At more distant sites, BHCP should work with medical providers to support hospitalized survivors of the detonation. Recommendations are also made on BHCP interventions later in the response phase and during recovery.
(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2011;5:S54-S64)