Joint Munitions Command takes extra precautions for extreme heat

By Matthew Wheaton, Joint Munitions Command, Public and Congressional AffairsAugust 22, 2023

Joint Munitions Command takes extra precautions for extreme heat
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke, and what to do if they are detected. (Image credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Weather Service) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL
Joint Munitions Command takes extra precautions for extreme heat
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Everyone is at risk to the dangers of heat illness, but some people are especially vulnerable. Age and certain conditions make the body less able to regulate temperature. Take extra care to ensure they remain safe from the heat. (Image credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Weather Service) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

Hundreds of lives are lost annually due to extreme heat, and every indication suggests that this summer is set to become one of the most scorching seasons ever documented.

Numerous cities throughout the nation are encountering all-time high temperatures.

June 2023, which was the hottest June in the 174-year history of global climate record, marked the 47th-consecutive June and the 532nd-consecutive month with temperatures above the 20th-century average, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Temperatures remained high in July, and August’s likely won’t fall much.

Per the NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information Global Annual Temperature Outlook, it is highly probable that this year will be classified within the 10 hottest years ever documented. There is a 97% chance 2023 will secure a position within the Top 5.

While heat affects everyone, certain individuals — young children and infants, older adults, individuals with chronic medical conditions, and pregnant women — face a higher risk. The human body is particularly susceptible to the toll of high temperatures, leading to various heat-related illnesses even after brief exposure.

The Joint Munitions Command has a longstanding history of effectively preventing heat-related injuries given the challenging working conditions the members of its workforce face daily.

“We’re unique because our employees are already working in hazardous atmospheres. They are already in extreme heat. They are already working outside. They are more acclimated than you will find in any other command,” said Ralph “Skip” Stuck II, Chief of JMC’s Safety Division. “With that being said, our proficiency level and our ability to adapt and acclimate to the conditions is more prevalent than you would see in other organizations. However, there are certain areas that we do need to focus on because with that causes complacency.

“Complacency can create potential injuries,” Stuck added.

He stressed the continued importance of maintaining vigilance both on the job and at home, especially given the unprecedented extreme heat. Allocating dedicated time to evaluate and enhance emergency action plans has become a top priority for JMC’s safety team.

Enforcement of proper work-rest cycles is imperative for those individuals exposed to the intense heat, coupled with heightened supervision.

“Acclimatization, by gradually increasing exposure to heat stress, coupled with hydration, is also a way to protect yourself from heat stress. There are, of course, exceptions, such as when the environment is too extreme or when there is no time to acclimatize gradually. It’s also important to remember that the process is different for everyone and can take anywhere from a few days to weeks,” said. Lt. Col. Jeffrey Milch, JMC’s command surgeon. “I get a lot of questions about how to assess one’s own personal hydration status, and how much fluid should be consumed on average per day. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and the answer will vary depending on what medical conditions an individual is managing. That said, one easy way for most people to tell if they are properly hydrated is to assess the color of urine output. Urine that is light-yellow to clear indicates good hydration status for most people.

“It is also always wise to check with your primary care manager on what optimal hydration means for you, personally, when managing complex medical conditions such as diabetes, congestive heart failure, and high blood pressure,” Milch added.

JMC’s workforce has been trained to address potential heat-related ailments, including the prudent application of sunscreen when needed. Additionally, they possess the means to summon emergency aid in areas where conventional communication tools like cell phones or handheld radios might encounter limitations. In those circumstances, the two-person rule is in effect.

“When you have a situation like that you ultimately want to have two people there,” Stuck said. “We don’t want to expose anyone to a hazard, but when you have situations like that you want to make sure you double up on the people and then also use check-in and check-out times.

“In the areas where they’re working in the extreme heat – the production of rounds, the casting of molds and that – we provide additional supervision,” Stuck added. “We take the extra time to make sure they’re safe in all conditions including the heat.”