This is a drill: South Texas Project mock drill helps prepares county, educate

By adriana_acosta

March 19, 2011 at 10 p.m.
Updated March 19, 2011 at 10:20 p.m.

Doctors at Matagorda Regional Medical Center check STP employee for radiation levels using a portable radiation monitor.

Doctors at Matagorda Regional Medical Center check STP employee for radiation levels using a portable radiation monitor.

While Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant employees work to stop radiation release in Japan, South Texas Project employees are doing the same thing - fortunately this is only a drill.

Doctors and nurses prepare to receive a patient with possible radiation exposure.

On Thursday, the South Texas Project's Emergency Response Division conducted an annual Federal Emergency Management Agency evaluated medical exercise with Matagorda County Emergency Preparedness division and the Matagorda Regional Medical Center.

"The goal of an emergency drill is to ensure that everything is coordinated with the city, county and state officials should there be a real emergency at the plant," said Joseph Enoch, supervisor for emergency response for South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Power Plant.

The scenario on Thursday included an employee, falling off a refuel bridge during a containment refueling outage, falling into the water and getting a 3-inch laceration and falling unconscious.

"Drills like these gives us an opportunity to work together through scenarios instead of just reading them out of the manual and actually play them out," said Mitch Thames, who is the Matagorda County Public Information officer.

An STP employee volunteers to be the patient and has to lay in a gurney through the entire drill.

"From the moment the drill begins until it ends, we have observers looking over our shoulders and FEMA grading us step by step," Enoch said.

The participants in the drill each play a different role in each scenario, not knowing what will come next, he said. "By working together, they will help find solutions to each problem, Enoch said.

"We do these types of drills to demonstrate, as a county, that we can protect the health and safety of our citizens in the event of any radiological release," said Doug Matthes, emergency management coordinator for Matagorda County.

Others departments that participate in the drill include the Texas Department of State Health Services and agencies, like the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, that observe the drills.

"We make sure that STP is properly implementing their emergency plan and able to transport potentially contaminated individuals to the hospital in an effective and efficient manner," said Binesh K. Tharakan, resident inspector at STP for U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Matagorda Regional Hospital is the only hospital in the area with a Decontamination Treatment area, specifically for STP, said Steven Smith, chief executive officer for Matagorda Regional Medical Center.

"The area was built with outside showers, contained shower area and a treatment room to help protect any patients we may have in the hospital from any hazardous materials," he said.

The mock drills are performed throughout the year with Matagorda County Regional Hospital, the primary facility, and the Palacios Community Medical Center.

Enoch said they also conduct drills with Memorial Hermann in Houston.



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