An Emergency Drill Held by JRC Fukui Hospital Simulating Receipt of a Radiologically Contaminated Victim


JRC Fukui Hospital conducted a drill which simulated receipt of a radiologically contaminated patient

In Japan today, as the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami raised the public consciousness of disaster prevention, many emergency drills are being carried out around the country based on more realistic scenarios. One of these is a drill conducted by Japanese Red Cross (JRC) Fukui Hospital on July 14 (Sat), 2018. They simulated receipt of a victim contaminated by radiological materials at a nuclear power plant (NPP) and staged the drill in the front room of the emergency outpatient unit and the rooftop heliport of the hospital.

Fukui Prefecture has the largest number of nuclear power facilities in Japan, as a region where 4 NPPs (Tsuruga, Mihama, Ohi, and Takahama) and 2 nuclear power institutions (including the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor) are sited. Of these, a total of 4 nuclear reactors, 2 each at Ohi NPP and Takahama NPP, are currently in operation.

In March 2016, JRC Fukui Hospital was designated as a “Nuclear Emergency Core Hospital” by Fukui Prefectural Government. Since then, the hospital has made steady and tangible progress in the area of nuclear disaster preparedness, by completing the enhancement of the decontamination space in January 2018 and producing a final manual on radiation emergency medical response in March of the same year.

The purpose of the drill was to test and evaluate the cross-agency collaboration and implementation of the manual, by practicing receipt of an irradiated victim in collaboration with the relevant organizations.

A stethoscope covered with protective
wrapping (center) to be used for examining
a radiation-exposed patient

A stethoscope covered with protective wrapping (center) to be used for examining a radiation-exposed patient

Based on a scenario of an accident at a NPP whereby a worker was contaminated with radiological materials while doing work, they verified a sequence of moves, i.e., JRC Fukui Hospital received a request from the Fukushima Prefectural Government requiring that the hospital accept the victim, and the “Nuclear Emergency Medical Care Team” proceeded with the preparations for accepting the patient.

The procedure to receive the victim went forward briskly: Simultaneously as the medical equipment/devices such as intravenous drip stands and monitors were being set up at the decontamination area, protective covers were put on the medical instruments/equipment as well as the decontamination space while the cordoned areas were established.

The Nuclear Emergency Medical Care Team
performing the treatment procedure

The Nuclear Emergency Medical Care Team performing the treatment procedure

Originally, the drill was designed so that the hospital would receive the patient who was transferred by the transportation team in a helicopter. However, because of an emergency that required the use of air ambulance transport the planned helicopter transfer became unavailable. Therefore, they just assumed that the patient had been transferred to the hospital by the air rescue team of Fukui Prefecture, and implemented the procedure defined in the manual for moving the patient to the decontamination space. Then they proceeded with the decontamination and, after completing the final screening, they transferred the patient to a ward. Following the transfer to the ward the contaminated protective covering within the facility was removed. The members of the Nuclear Emergency Medical Care Team and the facilities were screened for contamination, with which the sequence of moves included in the drill were completed.

On the day of the drill, in the glaring hot sunlight in July, a total of 35 staff members of the hospital, including physicians, nurses, radiological technologists, and administrative staff, participated and double-checked the tasks they were in charge of.

Dr. Yoshimitsu Shimada (Director, Emergency Department of Medicine), who participated in the drill, stated, “It was our first time to hold an operations-based exercise, in which the point at issue was the procedure to clean up the irradiated patient. It was also found that the space (zoned as the contaminated area) was small, so I thought we would also need to review the zoning”. Additionally, Dr. Takeshi Tanabe (Manager, Disaster Relief Support Section), who designed and commanded the drill, reviewed the results, “The drill was beneficial as we could identify new challenges, including the zoning of the contaminated area, the way we keep records, and the procedure in case there is a need for surgery or a full body CT scan.”

Based on the findings of the drill, JRC Fukui Hospital, as being a Nuclear Emergency Core Hospital, is going to make specific changes for improvement to prepare for unpredictable events.

Nuclear Disaster Preparedness and Response of the Japanese Red Cross Society

The Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) has been striving to prepare for nuclear disasters focusing on the following four pillars; (1) ensuring the safety of first responders, (2) strengthening the system for responding to nuclear disasters, (3) developing human resources who have the capability to respond to nuclear disasters, and (4) collecting and disseminating information about nuclear disasters.

To act on these initiatives, the JRCS has developed the Manual for Relief Activities under Nuclear Disasters and the Nuclear Disaster Guidelines for Preparedness, Response and Recovery. We are also disseminating information via the Digital Archives of the Red Cross Nuclear Disaster Resource Center (NDRC), and host the “Nuclear Disaster Response Basic Training” for the relief teams, who are to carry out relief activities should a nuclear disaster occur.

For details of their initiatives, please refer to the NDRC’s Preparedness for Nuclear Disasters.