By Spc. Christopher M. Gaylord, 13th Public Affairs DetachmentMarch 13, 2009
Since its implementation in August 2008, Task Force Safety Actions for Fire and Electricity has made great strides in safeguarding servicemembers and civilians across Iraq from fire and electrical hazards.
Stood up as a result of a string of electrocutions throughout the theater of operations, TF SAFE has refreshed the safety culture among deployed troops and civilians.
Amid its theater-wide initiatives, the task force has arranged for numerous U.S. civilian contractors - master electricians and fire protection specialists - to inspect some 94,000 facilities across country for any hazards or non-compliances.
By November, these specialists had received a seven-day introduction from the Defense Contract Management Agency on what to look for during inspections and had been deployed throughout the country.
"We brief them [students] up, and we give them a standard operating procedure on how to do their inspections so when they go to, for example, a British standard facility, they know what they're looking at," said Capt. Tyler Servies, chief, TF SAFE.
According to Servies, more than 30,000 facilities have been inspected and more than 3,000 faults corrected.
As part of the same initiative, DCMA has also trained between 10 and 20 local nationals and unit safety officers.
In an effort to prevent electrical fires in contained housing units and the workplace alike, TF SAFE personnel also recently distributed more than 300,000 high quality and compliant power strips custom ordered from the states.
Some 540,000 power strips were ordered with lengthier cords to prevent the likeliness troops will daisy chain them. They also contain a fuse that burns itself out in the event of an electrical malfunction before the strip can cause a fire.
"Every division has had an allowance in the tens of thousands, and they have started pushing them down to their subordinate units," Servies said.
The task force has even coordinated with Army Air Force Exchange Service and various shops on base to encourage them to discontinue the sale of faulty power strips.
To influence the dissemination of information associated with fire and electrical hazards, task force personnel have educated leaders with a series of ongoing awareness campaigns and training.
"We got the unit leaders out with their eyes on what's going on," Servies said. "It gave them the information they needed so they could go out and look for some of these hazards and get them out of their areas."
Servies said such awareness can be accredited for the recent decline of electrical fires across Iraq. "We were having about 4.7 fires a day, but now it's down to about 2.3 a day," Servies said. "That's an indication the awareness campaign has gotten the message out."
Another valuable asset TF SAFE has employed is rapidly deployable and on-call three-man teams who investigate electrical incidents."They [the teams] do a full report they provide not only to the leadership on scene, but to the chain of command here, and we'll get lessons learned from that particular investigation," said Col. Jeff Gabbert, commander, DCMA.
These significant accomplishments by the task force to increase theater-wide safety and renew the safety culture will continue to be felt as it maintains a steady presence in Iraq through fiscal year 2010.