Dakota Gas employees share emergency experience with students

Members of Dakota Gasification Company’s emergency response team shared their expertise, knowledge, and skills with Beulah (North Dakota) High School students Feb. 27.

Pipeline Supervisor Kurt Dutchuk and Emergency Response, Fire, Rescue, and Security Supervisor Warren Herman, along with representatives from Hess, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the North Dakota State Health Department, spent the day working with students to resolve a mock oil spill in the Knife River as an emergency response team.

Mercer County Emergency Manager Carmen Reed asked Dutchuk and Herman to participate as facilitators during the exercise. Before the event, some Beulah High students took National Incident Management System training, a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) training used to train individuals on how to manage an incident.

All Beulah High School students participated in the day-long exercise. Students were briefed, introduced to the facilitators, and given the scenario before being split into 12 teams of 18 students.

Warren Herman (left) and Kurt Dutchuk spent a day last week with Beulah High School students sharing their emergency planning experience. Herman and Dutchuk participated as facilitators with students managing a simulated oil spill in the Knife River.

Teams were tasked with managing a crude oil pipeline leak on the Knife River just southeast of Beulah. Each team had about four hours to work through a plan to manage the incident.

The afternoon began with each team presenting its approach to handling the situation to a group of judges. All the facilitators served as the judges.

Teams were scored on their presentation and the top three teams were identified. Students in the top teams were given Hess collector edition toy trucks.

“I was very impressed with how this event went,” Dutchuk said. “These students were completely engaged and actively involved in the exercise. We heard solutions to issues from high school students that I have never heard from adults that work in the field. I walked away at the end of the day completely impressed with how intelligent these students are and how well they worked together as a team.”

Herman said although this type of public outreach isn’t specifically required, agencies like the EPA, Department of Health, and Department of Transportation favorably view participation in these types of events.

Warren Herman (back) working through the steps with his team to manage the situation.

“It was interesting working with the teenagers, some of whom will likely be our future emergency managers,” Herman said. “They were totally engaged to the point they were contacting rental companies for equipment rates and availability. Connor Bosch was part of the finance group, when our planning group determined the Beulah Civic Center would be used to stage and rehab responders, he came back in minutes with the cost and availability. At the end of the day, I was impressed.”

Dutchuk said he heard from teachers and students that this was the best STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) project they had ever participated in. “It truly was an awesome event,” he said. “Hats off to the teachers and students that put this all together. We enjoyed the exercise and learned as much from them as they did from us.”

Kurt Dutchuk (left) was the facilitator for team FOFOR (Freeing Our Rivers From Oil) who completed the task by taking second place overall in the competition. Dutchuk has nearly 20 years of experience in emergency planning and was excited to share his knowledge with the students.

The first place was The Coal Country Oilers; second place was tied between team Aquatics and FOFOR (freeing our rivers from oil); and the third place team was Heller’s Heroes.

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