Alyeska gears up for spills with high-tech trailer

Posted: Thursday, June 12, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) As trailers go, Alyeska's new mobile command post is all business. No beer cooler or grill, but enough communications equipment to put it in the running for Alaska's most wired single-wide.

The more than $500,000 facility was custom-made by Trailer Technologies in Detroit. Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. officials hope it will enhance coordination, efficiency and response time to spills along the 800-mile trans-Alaska pipeline, which carries nearly 20 percent of America's domestic crude oil.

The facility means officials will be able to dispatch response teams and oversee a cleanup effort from any site in the field.

''This trailer is totally independent of power and communications,'' said Alyeska construction supervisor Arland Anderson, who oversaw the project for the company's oil spill response group. ''You can take it and go into the middle of nowhere, make phone calls and send data. That's the big difference.''

The more than 600-square-foot trailer arrived at Alyeska's Fairbanks headquarters in March and will be used in training exercises in July.

If a spill occurred tomorrow, the unit could be deployed immediately. Attached to one of Alyeska's big rigs, the facility is designed to be hauled to or near a spill site.

Once on the scene, the 53-foot-long, 8 1/2-foot-wide facility is designed to be set up in about 30 minutes. Agencies such as the Department of Environmental Conservation, which respond to spills or leaks, also could use the command center.

On Wednesday, Anderson displayed the facilities' cozy dispatch center, complete with two satellite phones and two digital phones, a laptop and desktop computer, citizens band radio, public safety radio, marine radio and a chattering dispatch radio. And most of the hardware was still in the next room.

There, five laptops sat on display across from a conference table, each with a digital and satellite phone. A fax machine, copier and two printers, along with other equipment, also were on hand.

Finding a manufacturer able and willing to create a high-tech facility capable of weathering Alaska winters was a challenge, Anderson said. Eventually the Detroit company, which also worked on command centers used in homeland security efforts by the Army and by the CIA, got the job.

The finished project was hauled to Seattle and transported to Alaska by barge. To combat the cold's effect on sensitive equipment, the trailer boasts a 50,000-Btu heater, which warms the inside while the trailer is hauled to a spill site.

The trailer is designed to travel along the highway from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez with limited access to the pipeline right of way, Anderson said. A 40-kilowatt generator can be used to power the facility. It can also tap into an exterior generator or if by the coast a ship.

Despite all the cutting-edge gear, the command center is missing one low-tech amenity a bathroom. Anderson said that will not be a problem.

''Normally, if there's a spill event, one of the first few items they bring out is a port-a-potty,'' he said.

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