By Nick DukeJanuary 31, 2014
In the wake of a fire at the Department of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation headquarters the weekend of Jan. 18-19, Fort Benning Fire Department officials are urging community members to be more cautious when using electricity.
The fire was caused by overloading an electrical circuit, said Steven Lowell, assistant fire chief of fire prevention.
One practice to avoid, he said, is "piggybacking," which is when a multi-outlet power strip is plugged into another power strip and then plugged into a wall outlet.
In fact, only one power strip should be used per two-entry electrical outlet.
"It needs to be one extension cord or power strip per outlet," Lowell said. "That's the maximum. Don't use two power strips with one electrical outlet."
Power strips should also be Underwriters Laboratories (UL) approved or have a similar third-party testing stamp.
Lowell also said that the use of extension cords on a daily basis is discouraged.
"An extension cord is fine for temporary use, but if it's not temporary, you need to contact Directorate of Public Works, put in a work order and they will come out and add an electrical outlet where you need one," he said.
For DFMWR employees, the last week has been a trying experience, said Shannon Beck, marketing director.
The fire originated in the IT section of the building, yet Beck said the majority of DFMWR's computer servers were saved.
"We were fortunate that the majority of our servers were spared, so we just had to relocate them," Beck said. "Within 48 hours, our point-of-sale systems were back up and operational."
DFMWR officials are now working out of three alternate locations on post, and Beck said the impact on DFMWR customers was minimal thanks in large part to the efforts of DPW, the fire department, the Fort Benning Network Enterprise Center and a large number of DFMWR who volunteered their time.
"The first thing on our minds was, 'What do we have to do for the customers?'" she said. "We wanted to keep our customer systems running, such as our point of sale systems and our hunter control reservation system. That was our first priority. … There are about 800 people in MWR, and we have just had employees volunteer. If they could get away from their desk or whatever their daily job was, they volunteered to help. We've had some phenomenal stars that have stepped up to the plate and helped to organize, or pack boxes or move file cabinets. Internally, we've just been really surprised at the number of people that have helped out."
Beck also thanked DFMWR's customers for their support.
"Our customers were willing to volunteer and help out wherever they could," she said. "We had nothing but positive support from our customer base, and we're really appreciative of that."