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Collaborative Spill Drill Exercise Enhances Preparedness and Safety Measures

23-001 | June 9, 2023

HONOLULU (June 9, 2023) - Joint Task Force - Red Hill (JTF-RH), in partnership with Navy Region Hawaii, Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command, and in coordination with, and observation by, the Hawaii Department of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency, successfully conducted a comprehensive fuel spill drill exercise on June 8, 2023 focused on a “most likely” fuel spill scenario. The exercise aimed to strengthen interagency coordination, response capabilities and emergency preparedness in the event of a fuel spill incident during defueling of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility (RHBFSF).

“This exercise focused on a “most likely” spill scenario where we simulated a fuel release while repacking the pipelines within the facility,” said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Michelle Link, deputy commander, JTF-RH. “We did this so we could exercise the response plans we’ve developed through the interagency process, going through rehearsals and lessons learned to ensure we have mitigated risk to the utmost of our ability.”

Spill response exercises improve the level of readiness of the Department of Navy to respond to a large fuel discharge at the RHBFSF. Participants in this full-scale exercise simulated their responsibilities under the Facility Response and Integrated Contingency Plans.

The collaborative effort involved a wide range of stakeholders, including personnel from the Department of the Navy, United States Coast Guard, Oil Spill Response Organizations, government agencies, and local emergency responders. Through a series of coordinated exercises, participants simulated various aspects of a fuel spill response, such as containment, cleanup, environmental monitoring, and public communication. Lessons learned from this exercise are used to refine response protocols, update training programs, and enhance interagency coordination.

"The drill exercise was an invaluable opportunity for our agencies to work together, identify areas for improvement, and reinforce our commitment to the safety and well-being of the local community," said Vice Adm. John Wade, commander, JTF-RH. "By conducting drills prior to an actual event, we can better understand our capabilities, fine-tune our response strategies, and ensure a coordinated and efficient response in the face of any potential fuel spill incident."

Fuel spill incidents can have severe consequences for the environment, public health, and maritime operations. Recognizing the importance of being well-prepared to effectively manage such situations, the collaborative drill exercise sought to identify potential gaps in communication, coordination, and response procedures. By simulating a realistic scenario, the participating agencies were able to assess readiness and enhance collective ability to mitigate environmental damage and protect public health.

“We are looking at every aspect of our work to improve safety and effectiveness,” said Rear Adm. Steve Barnett, commander, Navy Region Hawaii. “These exercises are a vital investment as we continue to move forward in safely defueling and closing Red Hill.”

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