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.