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Stay smart, safe in the summer heat
The 42nd Aeromedical-Dental Squadron Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight uses the wet bulb thermometer to determine the wet bulb globe temperature, or WBGT, a calculation that takes into account temperature, humidity, wind speed and radian heat. This helps determine the heat risk that exists for outdoor activity. The thermometer is located near the clinic. (Air Force photo/Rebecca Sheldon)
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Stay smart, safe in the summer heat

Posted 6/24/2011   Updated 6/24/2011 Email story   Print story


by Kimberly Wright
Air University Public Affairs

6/24/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Al -- Though it's only been summer since Tuesday, unseasonably hot temperatures this month have made it feel like summer for much longer, which means people need to double their efforts to prevent heat-related illnesses.

As of Tuesday, every day in June but one has reached 95 degrees Fahrenheit or above, according to Dave Scott, manager of the Maxwell Weather Office. The normal high for June is 91.

Excessive heat can cause injury and death, and has caused 8,015 deaths in the U.S. from 1979 to 2003, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Although the young, old and sick are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses, young, healthy people may also suffer illness and death if they participate in excessively strenuous physical activities during hot weather.

According to Tech. Sgt. Jerilyn Watson, NCOIC of police services for 42nd Security Forces, security forces have responded to 11 heat exhaustion-related calls at Maxwell-Gunter this month.

The Air Force's Critical Days of Summer campaign, which stretches from Memorial Day to Labor Day, is designed to help people mitigate summer dangers, which includes staying safe in the heat.

Part of staying safe is knowing the risk posed by the conditions before heading outside to exercise or work. The 42nd Aeromedical-Dental Squadron Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight does its part by monitoring the wet bulb globe temperature, or WBGT, a calculation that takes into account temperature, humidity, wind speed and radian heat. It factors all the conditions into one value, a heat category.

According to bioenvironmental engineering, the heat categories 1 through 5 are indicated with flag conditions that determine recommended work-rest cycles.

Flag conditions

White flag (78 to 81.9) - Normal activity for people accustomed to climate; extremely intense physical exertion may cause heat stroke for people who aren't. No limits on light and moderate work; heavy work 40 minutes, rest 20 minutes.

Green flag (82 to 84.9) - Normal activity for those accustomed to the climate; people who aren't should use discretion in planning intense physical activity. No limit on light work; moderate work 50 minutes, rest 10; heavy work 30 minutes, rest 30.

Yellow flag (85 to 87.9) - People accustomed to the climate should use caution in planning intense physical activity; those who aren't should curtail strenuous activities. No limit on light work; moderate work 40 minutes, rest 20; heavy work 30 minutes, rest 30.

Red flag (88 to 89.9) - Those accustomed to the climate should curtail strenuous exercise and limit conditioning for periods not exceeding six hours; people who aren't should terminate all physical conditioning. No limit on light work; moderate work 30 minutes, rest 30; heavy work 20 minutes, rest 50.

Black flag (90 and above) - Light work 50 minutes, rest 10; moderate work 20 minutes, rest 40; heavy work 10 minutes, rest 50.

Other hot-weather tips from the CDC include:
· Stay cool indoors.
· Drink plenty of fluids.
· Replace salt and minerals.
· Wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen.
· Schedule outdoor activities carefully.
· Pace yourself.
· Use a buddy system.
· Monitor people at high risk.
· Adjust to the environment.
· Do not leave children in cars.
· Use common sense.

Questions concerning the WBGT or heat stress can be addressed to the Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight at 953-5848.

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