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31st MXS and 31st CE conduct Hydrazine emergency response training

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Airman 1st Class Omar Moylan, 31st Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, rolls up a hose to re-service the fire truck after participating in a hydrazine leak response training on the flightline at Aviano Air Base, Italy, June 10, 2021. During the joint training, the fire department and 31st Maintenance Squadron aircraft fuel systems repair technicians, responded to simulated hydrazine leak and rescuing a pilot. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessica Blair)

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U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Angel Anthony Otero, 31st Maintenance Squadron (MXS) aircraft fuel systems repair technician, adjusts an oxygen mask for Airman 1st Class Dhaikyah Geter, 31st MXS aircraft fuels system technician, during an annual hydrazine leak emergency response training at Aviano Air Base, Italy, June 10, 2021. Personal protective equipment is essential when responding to a hydrazine leak ensure they don’t come into contact with dangerous hydrazine vapors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessica Blair)

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Airman 1st Class Dhaikyah Geter and Airman 1st Class Majustice Brinson, 31st Maintenance Squadron (MXS) aircraft fuel systems repair technicians, approach and inspect an F-16 Fighting Falcon for signs of a mock hydrazine leak during a routine training on the flightline at Aviano Air Base, Italy, June 10, 2021. During the hydrazine emergency response training, the 31st MXS aircraft fuel systems section and the 31st Civil Engineer Squadron fire department worked together to improve response time, coordination and communication between the two teams when responding to a hydrazine leak. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessica Blair)

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U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Angel Anthony Otero, 31st Maintenance Squadron (MXS) aircraft fuel systems repair technician, adjusts an oxygen mask for Airman 1st Class Dhaikyah Geter, 31st MXS aircraft fuels system technician, during an annual hydrazine leak emergency response training at Aviano Air Base, Italy, June 10, 2021. Personal protective equipment is essential when responding to a hydrazine leak ensure they don’t come into contact with dangerous hydrazine vapors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessica Blair)

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Airman 1st Class Sarah Chavis, 31st Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, unrolls a fire hose during a routine hydrazine emergency response training event at Aviano Air Base, Italy, June 10, 2021. During the hydrazine emergency response training, the 31st Maintenance Squadron aircraft fuel systems section and the 31st CES fire department worked together to improve response time, coordination and communication between the two teams when responding to a hydrazine leak. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessica Blair)

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Firefighters assigned to the 31st Civil Engineering Squadron firefighters survey the scene during a routine Hydrazine emergency response training on the flightline at Aviano Air Base, Italy, June 10, 2021. During the Hydrazine emergency response training, the 31st Maintenance Squadron aircraft fuel systems section and the 31st Civil Engineering Squadron Fire Department worked together to improve response time, coordination and communication between the two teams when responding to a Hydrazine leak. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessica Blair)

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy-- --

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy-- The 31st Maintenance Squadron (MXS) aircraft fuel systems section and the 31st Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) fire department conducted a joint agency Hydrazine Emergency Response Exercise training event on the flight line at Aviano Air Base, Italy, June, 10, 2021.

This simulated Emergency Power Unit (EPU) training event is conducted quarterly to keep both agencies proficient in their processes in the event of an EPU activation or a Hydrazine leak detection.

“If we get this wrong in a real world situation, we put the lives of the pilots, personnel in the immediate area, and first responders in jeopardy,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Cole Barkett, 31st MXS aircraft fuel system section chief. “When we respond to an emergency, we must work to safely rescue a pilot, since they have a limited amount of oxygen to breathe.”

Hydrazine, or H-70, is a highly flammable, self-igniting and dangerous health hazard capable of targeting the nervous system, respiratory system, and can sometimes cause severe conditions such as kidney damage or coma.

As a typical response to an EPU activation, emergency responders will fully encapsulate themselves in vapor-protective clothing for Hydrazine spills and leaks with no fire, where they then cordon off the area and eliminate all ignition sources such as smoke, flares, sparks or flames in the immediate area.

The fuels team and firefighters must respond quickly in order to safely rescue the pilot and ensure the personnel working around the aircraft are treated for exposure.

“If an EPU activation occurs on an aircraft while it is in-flight and has a hydro fail, we respond,” said Airman 1st Class Dhaikyah Geter, 31st MXS aircraft fuels system technician. “The firefighters respond first to ensure the pilot is safe and ensure there are no hydrazine leaks on the jet.”

Upon arrival on scene of an EPU/hydrazine leak, the fire department establishes a command structure and creates an Incident Action Plan for the containment, rescue of possible victims, mitigation, and clean-up of the hazardous material.

“Our first step is to establish a command structure and shut down the aircraft,” said Tech. Sgt. Aaron Scofield, 31st CES station chief.  “Once the aircraft have been shut down we assist the pilot or other possible victims in egress and perform decontamination before handing them over for medical evaluation.”

The firefighters then monitors the entry of the Hazardous Response Team (HRT) as they confirm the activation, stop the leak and end the hazard.

“If leaks or spills are detected we proceed with dilution procedures,” said Geter. “We pour water onto the Hydrazine and then test it with a tape that detects hydrazine and that will let us know if the Hydrazine is diluted.”

All equipment used when handling the product must be grounded and must prevent direct contact with the spilled material. A vapor-suppressing foam may be used to reduce vapors and avoid entry into waterways, sewers, basements or confined areas.

“I think this training went great,” said Staff Sgt. Angel Otero, 31 MXS aircraft fuel system training event team lead. “My two team members that I sent in were very competent and did the checklist perfectly. The fire department was also very competent and did great so I think it went off without a hitch and we are excited for the next one.”