“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.
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.
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.
“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.”