When one hears the words “first responder,” the first thing that comes to mind are emergency medical technicians, fire fighters and police officers.
These are also the first responders at a nuclear facility — the medical emergency response team, the fire brigade and security.
Every commercial nuclear facility in the United States has its own fire department.
The purpose of the plant’s fire brigade is singular, to stop the spread of fire, in the event of a fire, at the plant.
All members of the fire brigade have been through training to serve on the plant’s fire brigade, and they regularly have drills and exercises to practice. Some members of the fire brigade have other nuclear jobs, such as maintenance technician or nuclear operator. But when the time comes, they change out of their regular work attire into their firefighting gear.
Another nuclear first responder is security. Each Duke Energy nuclear facility is guarded 24 hours a day by an armed, well-trained security force.
Security officers maintain their high level of readiness through classroom courses, drills and practical exercises. They regularly drill, just like the fire brigade , to hone their skills and prepare for any situation.
Security officers usually come from a military or law enforcement background and are trained to protect the plant and employees. The NRC tests the readiness of nuclear security teams through a series of exercises, which simulate a planned attack on the plant. Security officers must prove through these exercises that they can respond to any attack on the plant quickly and effectively.
A subset of security is the Medical Emergency Response Team, or MERT. These individuals are ready at a moment’s notice to respond to any medical emergency on site.
All of these individuals train, prepare and refine their skills if they are ever called upon.
The number one priority at every nuclear facility is the safety of the public and employees. And the individuals in these jobs are the first to respond during an emergency.