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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
Summer forecast: hot with a chance of injury

By Pamela Jackson | | June 17, 2010

With the summer months quickly descending on Southwest Georgia, more individuals are able to enjoy many of the available outdoor activities.

However, with fun in the sun comes the threat of being a victim of heat related illness or injury.

According to Base Order 6200.1K, Marine Corps Heat Injury Prevention Program, colored flags are flown in strategic locations here at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany so that all personnel will be aware of the current heat stress condition and make appropriate adjustments.

Heat stress conditions are monitored and categorized into flag condition warnings based on the wet-bulb globe temperature reading.

The flag condition warnings consist of five levels, beginning with no flag, and then progress to green, yellow, red and finally black.

The WBGT is most useful in the traditional settings (long-forced marches or mid-day training) under which it was developed.

Since the advent of high intensity early morning or late day physical activity, its usefulness to predict early morning physical training heat casualties is reduced.

“Heat illnesses include a range of disorders that result when your body is exposed to more heat than it can handle. It is very important that leaders at all levels monitor the heat stress conditions when engaged in hot weather operation environments. Leaders must incorporate procedures to prevent heat related illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke,” said Stacey L. Williams, safety specialist, Risk Management Office, Public Safety Division, MCLB Albany.

Damage done by heat can disorient an individual and is most dangerous because it can go unnoticed.

The summer season is filled with many outdoor opportunities, but precautions should be taken to prevent illnesses or injury.

“I encourage my Marines to be mindful of the flag conditions and train accordingly, whether inside or out. Part of my safety brief to them is preventing heat strokes, heat exhaustion and proper hydration. Marine Corps Community Services has water stations on perimeter road throughout the base. As a regular runner, I’m careful to run later in the day or early in the mornings when it is not as hot to prevent injuries,” said Master Gunnery Sergeant John F. Marbury, senior enlisted advisor, Marine Corps Systems Command.

Heat flag warnings not only concern Marines, but civilians as well.

Civilians should also take the same precautions when serious issues arise such as a red or black flag.

“A useful tool to assist leaders and others in obtaining the current heat stress condition can be found on the MCLB Albany main web page by clicking on the link “Current Heat Flag Condition,” Williams said.

Medical officials stress being mindful of the flag colors and take the necessary steps to stay hydrated and to also seek medical attention at the first sign of illness or injury. Individuals should wear light clothing, use sunscreen, protect eyes with sunglasses and avoid spending too much time in the sun.

“It is important to remember not to over hydrate with water, but drink liquids containing balanced minerals such as sports drinks. Individuals should also exercise within their own tolerance and build their intensity slowly so their bodies can adjust to the temperature changes,” said Navy Cmdr. Chidiebere Ekenna-Kalu, officer-in-charge, Navy Branch Health Clinic. “Summertime is not a good time to start a high intensity exercise regimen, because excess sweating can cause cramping due to the loss of electrolytes. Take activities indoors, when possible.”

Exercise generates internal body heat, which is released and cooled in the form of sweat. Lack of fluids can lead to dehydration, so it is important to replace electrolytes by proper hydration.

Heat condition flag warning locations around the base are at the Navy Branch Health Clinic; Fleet Support Division; Marine Corps Police Department; Maintenance Center Albany; Garrison Mobile Equipment and Building 3500.

Each of these sections is responsible for monitoring the information and sending personnel to make the flag changes as required.

A green flag condition is for WBGT readings between 80 to 84.9 degrees Fahrenheit and heavy exercises for nonacclimated personnel will be conducted with caution and under constant supervision.

A yellow flag is for WBGT readings between 85 to 87.9 degrees Fahrenheit. Strenuous exercises or physical labor will be curtailed for nonacclimated, newly assigned Marines and civilian Marines for the first three weeks aboard the base. Outdoor classes or working directly in the sun should be avoided.

A red flag indicates WBGT readings between 88 to 89.9 degrees Fahrenheit, and all physical training and strenuous outdoor activities are to be curtailed for at least the first three weeks for Marines and new civilian Marines. Regular activities should be limited to six hours per day for new personnel.

Under black flag conditions, which are for WBGT readings 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, all nonessential physical activity will be halted. Essential activities are activities associated with scheduled exercises, or critical production work and maintenance where the disruption would cause undue burden on personnel or resources, be excessively extensive or significantly reduce a unit’s readiness.