by Ryan Labadens, U.S. Navy Public Affairs

The phrase “You play like you practice and practice how you play” can apply to many situations in life, especially in the military when it comes to service members participating in exercise scenarios and responding to real-life situations.

That’s why members of the Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) Gulfport Emergency Operations Center and other departments on base continue to hold tabletop exercises like the Oil and Hazardous Substance Spill Response Tabletop Exercise held onboard NCBC Sept. 10, 2020.

According to Kayci Slagel, NCBC Gulfport Emergency Operations Center (EOC) manager, tabletop exercises like this act as a stepping stone toward holding larger, full-scale exercises.

“Basically, it’s the first step in getting everyone together to run through checklists and talk through what would or could happen in certain scenarios,” said Slagel.

“They’re important because it helps to work out the kinks, fix checklists and have a foundation for when bigger exercises or real world events occur.”

According to Slagel, the main purpose of this exercise was to walk through a potential fuel spill onboard NCBC Gulfport, going over step by step how certain entities such as the NCBC Fire Department, Security, Environmental Support, Emergency Management and other departments coordinate, respond and recover from such an incident.

This mainly involved getting people from these departments together, both in-person and virtually, to discuss how they would respond as events unfold.

Since this tabletop exercise was taking place in a COVID-19 environment, added measures were taken to help ensure social distancing for all participants.

“When doing tabletop exercises, there is a limit on how many individuals can be present for the discussions, which then leads to using [teleconferencing and video conferencing] programs to display information and tie in people remotely in order for them to be involved,” said Slagel.

Slagel noted that being able to use these virtual tools is helpful for making exercises like this productive and successful.

“We had just the right number of individuals to operate in the EOC during a COVID-19 environment to make a great team in walking through the tabletop and working through the issues that were presented with the spill drill.”