NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain (NNS) — Emergency responders aboard Naval Station Rota completed an annual combined training exercise known as Slick Response 2017 to practice their rapid response to a simulated fuel spill May 18.
There’s pounding of boots on pavement, the constant static of communication devices mixed with real time discussions in both English and Spanish as U.S. and Spanish personnel respond to a simulated fuel spill in Rota’s port. Add winds blowing at 17 to 23 mph which made setting up mobile decontamination areas tricky and you have all the makings for interesting day of training.
Drills such as these, strengthen partnerships and working relationships between U.S. and Spanish emergency responders in order to take immediate action and respond to events that have the potential to cause environmental harm.
“One of the key responsibilities of any emergency response organization is to ensure the team is prepared to respond at higher levels of readiness including a full understanding of other response agency capabilities,” said James Vaiciulis, Naval Station Rota training and exercise officer. “Thanks to the outstanding support and participation of the Spanish Navy and UME, during planning meetings, training events, workshops and site visits; our team has strengthened our relationship and response posture for not only a fuel spill but other major emergencies.”
With a team of U.S. and Spanish Sailors, local nationals, civilians and the Unidad Militar de Emergencias (UME), a new partner to this exercise, participants were divided into four teams. The teams focused on various aspects of the containment and recovery process from dropping oil booms in the harbor to preventing the fuel from traveling up a nearby river. Seventeen members of the UME traveled from Madrid and Moron and participated in the exercise. They have extensive experience with environmental protection procedures in the local area as well as access to assets outside the jurisdiction of the base
By setting up a decontamination area to exhibit and share best practices with their American counterparts, the UME helped to strengthen Rota’s relationship with the Spanish emergency response community.
Both UME and U.S. Navy personnel set up decontamination stations in order to simulate removing fuel-covered first responders to the incident. Mobile decontamination stations can be quickly set up during times when hazardous materials are present. Through a process of scrubbing, washing and a thorough check by paramedics, first responders report to decontamination centers for rapid removal of contaminants. By working together to ensure the safety of all role players, both teams aided in response while sharing their techniques with one another.
“It is very interesting to exchange knowledge, because we have experience in environmental protection primarily on land or rivers, but we do not have many opportunities to work on the sea,” said UME Capt. Maria Del Mar Moreno Omiste. “This is a new area for us to improve our experience and to work with another country.”
Drill participants stopped the source of the spill, contained it and then attempted to recover the fuel. The exercise lasted two days and encompassed a water-based simulated fuel spill and a table-top exercise the following day. This year’s water based spill scenario involved a simulated collision between a ship and pier which then caused a fuel line to crack spilling more than 400 gallons of diesel fuel into the port and surrounding areas.
“The U.S. Navy spends significant resources worldwide on being a good steward to the environment and since we recognize the actual impacts our operations have on that environment, we conduct periodic training drills to test our response to a fuel release on water and land,” said John Kowalczyk, environmental geologist for Public Work’s Environmental Department.
Participants gathered at the end of the exercise and identified strengths and weaknesses exhibited throughout the drill in order to create an even more cohesive and comprehensive response in the future.
Slick Response will be conducted again next year to ensure team readiness for similar situations.
Just as a ship performs lines of operation that provide a capability, Navy Region EURAFSWA bases perform the same eight lines of operation to provide capability to the fleet, joint and allied forces. These eight lines of operation are; air operations, port operations, safety, security, housing, MWR, Fleet and Family Services and what is called the core; the fuels, water and power that keep the bases running. Through our lines of operation, our installations are force multipliers that maximize combat capability of operational units.
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