by Mary Ann Davis
Installation Management Command Europe
U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz environmental engineers and firefighters conducted hazardous material spill training with Defense Logistics Agency personnel to hone response procedures and strengthen the installation/tenant partnership at Germersheim Army Depot, May 3.
Garrison members served as technical advisers during the training scenario that tested the tenant unit’s ability to control, divert and contain HAZMAT spills to ensure they were capable of mitigating these types of environmental emergencies.
Melissa Malakos, USAG RP Directorate of Public Works Environmental Engineer, emphasized how the recent exercise gave responders the opportunity to practice and critique their own performance.
“The training was very much hands on, using spill response supplies and making the required notification calls for assistance,” she said. She further explained that the DPW Environmental Management Division tends to do this type of on-site training in two parts.
“First, we play out the spill scenario with little instruction — as if it were to happen without notice during the normal work day. This allows the unit’s environmental officers and safety managers to identify areas for improvement in the training they provide their unit members,” she explained. “Afterward, we talk through what happened during the response, discuss what could be corrected and then repeat the same spill event to watch the improvements.”
This training is important to ensure personnel know how to respond during an actual spill scenario, where emergency supplies are and how they are used and to validate leader roles, said Lt. Col. Jonathan Ackiss, DLA Distribution Europe commander.
“I trust our workers have a solid base of classroom training and by combining this with hands-on training, we’ll achieve a holistic training effect,” the commander said. “A critical component of this training and our HAZMAT awareness is the role of the GAD Fire Department and garrison environmental team. By working as partners, we can reduce the impact to the community and environment — you only achieve this by conducting training.”
In real-world situations, garrison firefighters stand ready to respond to HAZMAT incidents within five minutes to employ all necessary countermeasures if a major spill cannot be handled by a tenant unit’s initial responders at the scene.
“There are several measures in place to assist GAD Fire Department with HAZMAT spill containment,” said Germersheim Army Depot Assistant Fire Chief Michael Hill. “If a spill occurs, barriers are installed in facilities to prevent run off and absorbent materials are applied to contain spilled matter. There are also a variety of tools and equipment to block or shut off sewer lines. Additionally, there are sewer storage reservoirs installed to control the flow of spilled material.”
Malakos said the more responses and procedures that are practiced, the more likely a real situation will be handled well.
“This training was a benefit to all involved. It emphasized the response of those who were truly first on the scene at the spill site,” she said. “The only way first responders can really get familiar with the emergency supplies and how they work is by using them. These types of hands-on sessions allow practice without real-world consequences.”
Keeping the environment safe is a high priority, Ackiss said.
“Our ultimate goal is that our workers, leaders and partners have a high level of trust in their training and in one another to provide the best cumulative response possible,” the commander concluded.