Grand Strand Medical Center prepares for the ‘unlikely’ event of a nuclear disaster


HORRY COUNTY, SC (WBTW) – Nuclear disasters like Chernobyl and Three Mile Island are unlikely, but Grand Strand Medical Center still prepares for the worst each day.

It’s not something you think of every day, preparing for nuclear fallout. But, Emergency Preparedness and Safety Director Matt Tumbleson says Grand Strand Medical Center is equipped.

Horry County is close enough to the New Hanover fixed nuclear facility, meaning they’re inside the 50 mile initial protection zone for a radiation emergency.

“What that means is that we have to have processes and equipment in place to be able to screen these patients and then treat them, decontaminate them for any kind of nuclear event,” explained Tumbleson.

The hospital has nuclear material detectors, the electronic version and the dosimeter version that shows how much radiation you have in your body.

If you are contaminated, Tumbleson says it becomes an internal decontamination situation.

“At that point, we’re going to mobilize our hazmat team internally, and we’re going to decontaminate any of those patients that come in from that event,” he said.

The contaminated person is put in the decontamination room, where the nuclear waste is showered off of them. That nuclear waste run off goes underground into a tank and is emptied later by a separate company.

If a nuclear disaster happens, first responders will be some of the first to know.

“We’re going to know about an event ahead of time, so there’s an alert that gets put out by the fixed nuclear facility, and they’re going to let first responders and healthcare facilities know that something’s happened. That’s done through the state warning points.”

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