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Osan’s annual fuel spill training increases standard of readiness

Water simulating a fuel spill rushes out of a water buffalo tank, signaling the start of the fuel spill exercise at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, October 18, 2019. Multiple agencies like Bioenvironmental Engineering, Fire Department and Security Forces cooperate to plan and train for fuel spill incidents on an annual basis to increase their standard of readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Bugenig)

Water simulating a fuel spill rushes out of a water buffalo tank, signaling the start of the fuel spill exercise at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, October 18, 2019. Multiple agencies like Bioenvironmental Engineering, Fire Department and Security Forces cooperate to plan and train for fuel spill incidents on an annual basis to increase their standard of readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Bugenig)

Fire fighters from the 51st Civil Engineer Squadron suit up and check if their equipment is operational before heading into the fuel spill site at Osan Air Base, October 18, 2019. The 51st CES Fire Department is one of the first emergency services to respond to the fuel spill because of immediate access to equipment in emergency situations such as this one. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Bugenig)

Fire fighters from the 51st Civil Engineer Squadron suit up and check if their equipment is operational before heading into the fuel spill site at Osan Air Base, October 18, 2019. The 51st CES Fire Department is one of the first emergency services to respond to the fuel spill because of immediate access to equipment in emergency situations such as this one. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Bugenig)

Fire fighters from the 51st Civil Engineer Squadron lay down long rolls of fuel absorbent pads to keep the fuel from leaking any further during an exercise at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, October 18, 2019. The main task of the exercise is to contain the fuel spill before it can reach the rest of the base or potentially leak off base. Once contained, the fuel is pumped out of containment reservoirs and clean-up is performed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Bugenig)

Fire fighters from the 51st Civil Engineer Squadron lay down long rolls of fuel absorbent pads to keep the fuel from leaking any further during an exercise at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, October 18, 2019. The main task of the exercise is to contain the fuel spill before it can reach the rest of the base or potentially leak off base. Once contained, the fuel is pumped out of containment reservoirs and clean-up is performed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Bugenig)

Dan Janssen, Precision Planning and Simulation Inc. instructor, gives feedback to participants in the fuel spill exercise at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, October 18, 2019. Janssen travels to over a hundred bases across the globe to administer training exercises like this one to make sure military installations are prepared for the worst case scenario. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Bugenig)

Dan Janssen, Precision Planning and Simulation Inc. instructor, gives feedback to participants in the fuel spill exercise at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, October 18, 2019. Janssen travels to over a hundred bases across the globe to administer training exercises like this one to make sure military installations are prepared for the worst case scenario. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Bugenig)

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --

A spigot is turned, a top hatch pops open, and water begins to spill from a water buffalo across a flat concrete pad. The water simulates fuel spilling from a large containment facility, kicking off an exercise Oct. 18 at Osan Air Base that requires several base agencies to respond.

The first individuals to respond are the Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants, or POL, technicians in charge of the facility. Long pillow-like tubes called fuel absorbent pads are tucked along the fence line at the edge of the facility to keep the fuel from leaking further to the rest of the base. A few minutes later, firefighters arrive to assist in the containment and clean-up.

“This is preparedness training to make sure all of the units involved are ready for a fuel spill should an incident occur,” said Dan Janssen, instructor for Precision Planning and Simulations, Inc. “How do you contain it? How do you keep it on the base? How do you clean it up? This is what they’re training for, and it’s annual training that they’re required to do.”

Precision Planning and Simulations, Inc. is a Defense Logistics Agency contractor tasked with certifying and training over a hundred bases on their ability to respond to fuel spills that can potentially harm the environment. The certification occurs annually for each base as a requirement for all military installations.

As firefighters get suited up to inspect the fuel spill area, more agencies like Bioenvironmental and Security Forces arrive to help assess the situation and assist in the containment effort.

“This scenario was designed to exercise a full spectrum of responses,” said Master Sgt. Jose Ybarra, NCO in charge of Fuels Environmental and Safety for the 51st Logistics Readiness Squadron. “If the fuel could have been held within the secondary containment… great, but what happens when that fails? The instructors helped us look forward and get ahead of the spill and control it to prevent a greater environmental impact and an off-base release.”

Two firefighters inspect the area of the spill and, with the help of exercise inject notifications from the instructors, are able to determine where the spill is leaking out from. Once the firefighters return to the staging area, a plan is set in motion and everyone gets to work.

According to Janssen, the training involves a four-hour class on their first day, which includes a tabletop exercise that walks everyone involved through the plan that’s established specifically for Osan Air Base. Then on the second day, the exercise commences and every agency responds exactly the way they would if it was the real thing, preparing them for the worst case scenario.

Once the fuel is properly contained by the firefighters, it’s up to everyone else to coordinate and make sure the cleanup is done quickly and correctly.

“The cross-talk between agencies and exposure to their processes and responsibilities is what generates the most value from this exercise,” said Ybarra. “We were able to get participation from 8 organizations and twenty-one personnel.”

After completion of the exercise, Precision Planning and Simulations, Inc. reported positively on Osan’s performance during the exercise.

“There were representatives of almost every component necessary for a coordinated and comprehensive response,” says the report. “The incident commander did a good job of requesting, briefing and moving forward with a quality response strategy.”

With the exercise said and done, the quality of Osan’s ability to respond to any emergency incident sets a higher standard for next year.