BY LT. THOMAS WILSON, FUELS INTERN, NAVSUP FLEET LOGISTICS CENTER JACKSONVILLE
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NAVSUP FLC Jacksonville Regional Fuels Director Jim Cunniff and Mike Donohoe speak with NAVSUP FLC Jacksonville Commanding Officer Capt. Rè Bynum about the on-water equipment deployment portion of the PREP exercise. Photo courtesy of USCG Sector Jacksonville Public Affairs.
The U.S. Coast Guard National Preparedness for Response Exercise Program (PREP) took place March 14-16 at Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Jacksonville. The exercise was held in conjunction with the Navy Fuel Depot’s Worst Case Discharge Drill, a triannual requirement created to ensure that Fuel Depot personnel are prepared to respond in the event of a catastrophic discharge. Over 185 people participated in the three day exercise, as members of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, City of Jacksonville, Jacksonville Port Authority, and Jacksonville Spillage Control combined personnel and resources to respond to a simulated spill of 2.2 million gallons of aviation turbine fuel into the St. Johns River.
The exercise focused on the formation of a Unified Command and the establishment of an Incident Command Post and Joint Information Center (JIC). Subject matter experts were aligned into various sections such as Planning, Operations, Logistics, Finance, and Public Affairs while leaders from each organization served within the Unified Command.
Participants utilized the Incident Command System (ICS), a unique method of disaster response organization that was created in the 1970s to allow for organized multiagency responses, in order to conduct oil spill removal/recovery, plan for future operational periods, and process urgent operational logistics requests. Members of Planning, Operations, Logistics, and Finance quickly realized that all sections must collaborate in order to efficiently deploy resources to the scene of the spill response. Additionally, members of the JIC held mock press conferences in order to simulate the public affairs challenges that would arise in the event of an actual response. The exercise culminated with the creation of an Incident Action Plan, a document that would be utilized by response personnel to establish goals and operational objectives for a specified period of time.
Concurrently, an oil spill response equipment deployment was conducted in the vicinity of the Navy Fuel Depot on the St. Johns River. Navy Fuel Depot personnel assisted members of Jacksonville Pollution Control in the deployment of over one thousand feet of booming material and two fuel skimming boats. Jacksonville Pollution Control is an Oil Spill Removal Organization that is contracted by not only the Navy Fuel Depot but also by various other companies located along the St. Johns River to provide 24 hour assistance in the event of a fuel spill.
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NAVSUP FLC Jacksonville Fuel Systems Distribution Operator Kenneth Mayo prepares to create an earthen dam to block the flow of fuel into the St. Johns River. Fuels operators worked alongside members of the Jacksonville Pollution Company to train for a worst case fuel discharge at the Navy Fuel Depot in Jacksonville, Florida.
The simulated fuel spill provided the response community an opportunity to improve emergency preparedness by identifying information and procedures that need to be updated and also helped to improve participants understanding of their own specific roles within the Unified Command structure. Many participants had never worked within the ICS before and benefited greatly from the training provided by the U.S. Coast Guard Gulf Strike Team on the day before the exercise. The ICS training is not applicable for only this exercise, but rather will go on to benefit the overall emergency response aptitude for all participants, helping both Navy Region Southeast and NAVSUP FLC Jacksonville to achieve a higher level of emergency preparedness for the upcoming hurricane season.
NAVSUP FLC Jacksonville Aviation Fuels Officer Lt. Heather Wilkins participated in the exercise as the Service Branch Staff Officer within the Logistics Section. Wilkins had not worked with ICS previously but she quickly united with members of the U.S. Coast Guard and City of Jacksonville in the Logistics section, noting that, “it was great to see how different organizations can come together so quickly and effectively for disaster response. It may have seemed a bit chaotic at first but within a short time everyone began to settle into their given roles and the process took shape and we were able to respond to the incident efficiently.”