The best way to fight a fire is prevention. Did you know October is Fire Prevention Month? The goal of Fire Prevention Month (and Fire Prevention Week October 3-9) is to raise fire safety awareness and help ensure your family and home are protected.
Although Fire Prevention Week commemorates the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, at nuclear power plants, fire prevention is observed 24/7. Naturally, protecting employees and our plants is key, however, it’s just as important to protect the communities in which they serve.
Commercial nuclear power plants in the United States are required to have their own fire brigades to respond to and extinguish any potential fire at their site. While a nuclear fire brigade is just one part of a nuclear plant’s fire protection program, the role it plays is essential. They serve as first responders to an emergency before off-site support, such as local and county emergency responders, are called in.
The brigade consists of a minimum of five persons on shift, including an incident commander and four brigade members. Each member has a regular day job in the plant, most of which are plant equipment operators. And just like firefighters in your city or town, they hope their skills are never needed, but nonetheless they remain prepared and regularly train for a wide variety of scenarios.
The training required to be a brigade member is no easy feat, and this alone makes their job special. Training for these firefighters includes understanding the plant layout and any potential hazards located in and around the plant site. These team members also undergo periodic medical qualifications, drills and other trainings that are vital to ensure that the plant’s firefighting response is safe and effective.
In addition to quarterly trainings, the brigades participate in an annual live burn drill off-site where they practice everything they learn in the classroom. It is similar to why fire drills are conducted, so everyone knows how to respond in the event of a real event.
During these exercises, brigade members dress in full firefighter gear, enter fire and smoke-controlled buildings and practice everything from equipment usage, fire extinguishing techniques, rescuing victims, and communicating effectively with other team members.
Although there are no shiny red fire engine trucks involved with nuclear fire brigades, their extra dedication to the safety of the plant and neighboring communities makes them hero-worthy.