How a passion for helping others makes a difference at a nuclear plant

Duke Energy Nuclear Security officer Scott Hix is utilizing his skillset to serve his teammates

“A friend of mine told me I should join the fire department when I was 16 for all the typical teenage reasons. Driving fast, looking cool. It took my first serious response call to realize that wasn’t why I should be doing it,” Scott Hix said.

Carrying mannequin
The Medical Emergency Response Team, or MERT, includes security officers and nuclear employees with an emergency services background.

Hix, a Duke Energy Nuclear Security officer at Oconee Nuclear Station, said that was the beginning of a now 30-year calling.

“I’ve either been a firefighter or worked with emergency medical services in some fashion since 1992,” Hix said. “I just have a passion for it.”

His passion for helping others serves him well at the Oconee power plant, one of the country’s largest nuclear plants that provides electricity to nearly two million customers and serves as one of the largest employers in Oconee County, S.C.

Duke Energy nuclear plants, including Oconee, are among the safest and most robust elements of U.S. critical infrastructure, designed and built to protect our communities and employees. Hix’s organization, Nuclear Protective Services (NPS), manages comprehensive security plans, which include large, highly skilled security forces trained to maintain this plan. Many nuclear security officers have military, law enforcement and emergency services backgrounds.

Hix’s role as an officer within NPS includes assisting leadership within the organization’s Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT), which provides first-response emergency medical services, including technical rescues, for workers on-site.

Confined space
These individuals train, prepare and refine their skills for a variety of scenarios like confined spaces so they ready if called upon.

Nuclear MERT organizations are comprised of security officers and nuclear employees who have an emergency services background; individuals are selected by leadership for their specialized skills and personal attributes. They go through 40 hours of initial medical training when joining MERT and follow up with 40-60 hours of continuing training every year, similar to that of an emergency medical responder. MERT members who support technical rescues are provided additional training. Training for MERT and technical rescues includes anything from CPR to using respirators.

“Our job is to ensure the person is safe and receiving immediate medical attention prior to an ambulance arriving on-site,” Hix said. “It’s not about one person being the hero. We train and act as a team to ensure our employees return home to their families and their loved ones. Without each member of our team putting their passion and energy into the program, we can never be successful when it matters.”

NPS, including MERT, has on-site training facilities where officers train for the expected and the unexpected. Additionally, Duke Energy maintains regular communication with local, state and federal agencies, and works with those agencies to ensure alignment of response plans, even training together throughout the year on- and off-site. 

Repelling with mannequin
From CPR to using respirators to rappelling off buildings, members of MERT train 40-60 hours per year.

“We train a lot,” Hix said. “It’s a skill we hope we don’t have to use, but we’re thankful we can provide the service if needed.”

Several MERT members serve their local community, as well, in volunteer and paid positions within fire departments and emergency services.

“I get to do what I love,” Hix said. “The people who work at Oconee aren’t just my co-workers. They’re family. We spend a lot of time with each other. There have been times when MERT responds to a teammate on-site whose parent or child, who also works here, is standing beside us watching us treat their loved one. That’s why we do it.”

Comments (4)

Posted April 29, 2022 by Mark Mcneely
I've been with the company for over 32 years and the MERT/Tech Rescue Teams across the fleet continue to impress me. I've observed them come to the aid of numerous teammates over the years. These nuclear professionals are a cut above! I appreciate what each of you do each and everyday.
Posted April 09, 2022 by Ben Gehring
There are too many times to count where I have been grateful for the promptness and quality of care that the MERT team has provided to our ONS teammates. Awesome and well trained group!
Posted April 08, 2022 by Karen
Oconee nuclear has an outstanding MERT team.
Posted April 08, 2022 by JACK R. KEELING
I found Duke Security at Robinson Plant to be very efficient (best of any employer) and very distant. Not good ole country boys like Secuiity at TVA Browns Ferry and Vistra Comanche Peak.

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