Fuel' s light awareness
By Staff Sgt. Sarah Martinez, 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 10, 2010
HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- A traffic light turns yellow. Do you slow down or speed up? Do you play it safe, or do you take a chance? What if chancing it compromised the mission, endangered the environment or resulted in loss of life?
The traffic light by the Fuels Management building, which is located along Tully street across from the 16th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, was installed to let their refueling trucks cross to and from the flightline safely. Yet, there are still near- mishaps every day.
Other bases, like Eglin do not have to worry about crossing the street to refuel their aircraft. They have their refueling parking field conveniently located on the flightline.
"On larger bases you have all your petroleum, oils and lubricants segregated from the rest of the base because of the hazard it presents if there were a leak, fire or explosion," said Staff Sgt. Christopher MacFadden, 1st Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron mobile refueling supervisor.
Since Hurlburt Field was uniquely designed, the light allows the trucks, which can carry up to 6,000 gallons of JP8 aviation turbine fuel, to cross the road unharmed. If a driver is careless and causes a spill it could be disastrous to the mission, personnel and the environment.
"If there were a complete discharge of the truck, then it would have a big environmental impact, (possibly causing a temporary shutdown of that area)," said Frederick Javier, 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron environmental analyst. "The spillage could get into a nearby storm drain, which could possibly reach the Santa Rosa Sound."
When the fuel' s light turns red, it should be treated like every other traffic light on base. If drivers do not stop, they have to face the consequences.
"(Running the light) could lead to a ticket," said Staff Sgt. Trent Thompkins, 1st Special Operations Security Forces Squadron police services member.
Fuels management personnel take down license plates numbers of drivers who run the fuel' s light, but drivers should know that red always means stop.
Fortunately, there have been no reports of any privately-owned vehicles hitting a fuel truck on Hurlburt. However, one near-miss caused a three-car wreck last year, Sergeant MacFadden said.
"One afternoon a refueling truck was coming across and the first car in line decided to stop but the two cars behind the first car were not paying attention and caused the accident," Sergeant MacFadden said. "You'd be surprised how many people are looking around, fiddling with the radio or on their cell phones texting."
To prevent mishaps, drivers should have situational awareness at all times, especially near the flightline where the trucks cross the street.
The Fuels Management shop runs 24 hours a day with an average of 40 runs to and from the flightline per day. With the fuel trucks crossing the road that frequently, it is likely that drivers on base will encounter the light turning red sometime during the day.
"If people are on the lookout for pedestrians at crosswalks, then why not be on the lookout for a 75,000-pound truck carrying 6,000 gallons of flammable liquid?" Sergeant MacFadden asked.