Beat the heat: A summer safety brief

By Denise CaskeyJune 19, 2024

Beat the heat: A summer safety brief
Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) kicked off this year’s E3B testing week on March 11 at Fort Walker, VA. Over the next five days candidates will strive to earn one of the Army's three expert badges, The Expert Infantry Badge (EIB), The Expert Soldier Badge (ESB) or The Expert Field Medical Badge (EFMB). Service members training during the summer months need to be aware of the potential for heat related illnesses and follow the recommendations for outdoor activity levels. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Antony J. Martinez) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, VA. - Barbecues. Picnics. Trips to the beach.

These are things summer is made for, but while people are out enjoying the sun, sand, water and fun, they should also be cautious and take steps to protect themselves from heat-related illnesses.

The most common illnesses people experience as the temperatures rise are heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Signs of heat exhaustion include headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness and cool, clammy skin. A person with heat stroke will exhibit all the symptoms of heat exhaustion, but might also be confused, have slurred speech and may also possibly be unconscious.

These illnesses are potentially fatal, especially if someone has an underlying medical condition, said Leonard Davis, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Installation Safety Director.

Raising the Black Flag

To assist in the prevention of heat related illnesses, JBM-HH’s safety office utilizes the wet bulb globe temperature to determine the best work/rest schedules for outdoor work and training.

Beat the heat: A summer safety brief
A chart illustrating the wet bulb globe test flags and the level of physical activity recommended for individuals up to suspending activity during black flag weather events. (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

The WBGT is measured in direct sunlight and helps determine the workload individuals take on during the warmest parts of the day, Davis said.

“The wet bulb temperature is an indicator of heat related stress on the human body,” Davis said. “It considers multiple atmospheric variables that are out there, such as humidity, wind and stuff like that.”

WBGT warnings are issued as flags, black flags being most restrictive.

Davis said as the weather starts heating up, people attached to the joint base will begin receiving email notifications on days when outdoor activity should be monitored or curtailed.

On days when the WBGT indicates caution, Davis recommends scheduling training or heavy-duty outdoor work for the early morning or late afternoon when the sun’s rays aren’t as intense, taking frequent breaks and staying hydrated.

“The National Academy of Science and Engineering and Medicine says that adequate fluid intake is 15.5 cups of fluid a day for men, and for women, it’s 11.5 cups,” Davis said. “Low fat milk, sugar free drinks, tea and coffee also count towards that intake.”

Aside from checking the weather every morning and paying attention to WBGT warnings, during summer training and operations, units should implement a buddy system, Davis said.

“It reduces the risk of certain tasks by ensuring another person can assist someone if they go down,” Davis said.

He said if one person is working outside alone, it is up to that person’s supervisor to check on them at least every 30 minutes.

Help is on the way

Responding to heat exhaustion and heat stroke begins with knowing what to look for in the victim, Davis said.

“You should call 911 immediately and try to get them to a cool place as quickly as possible,” he said. “There are other options that you can use, such as putting a person in a cool tub of water, a cool shower or some type of cooling blanket or something like that. You can also spray a person down with a garden hose, if you don't have anything else available.”

JBM-HH Fire Chief Russell Miller said he expects to see an increase in the number of heat-related injury calls the fire department gets with school visits to Arlington National Cemetery, Twilight Tattoo, National Memorial Day Observance and July 4th events taking place around the National Capital Region.

He said the main goal during these calls is to get the person out of the heat and humidity, into a cool building or the back of an ambulance and start getting them cooled down as quickly as possible.

“That could involve the use of our mini ambulances and advanced thermal rehab machine,” Miller said. “Then, based on a patient’s condition, advanced life support resources would be requested along with an emergency medical services transport unit.”

Miller describes the ATRM as a sort of mini air conditioner with a hood attached to it by a tube, which helps lower a person’s body temperature by one degree every two minutes. Tubes can also be placed under clothing to provide even more cooling, he said.

To stay safe and healthy during the warm summer months, “make sure you are well hydrated, wear sunscreen, stay out of the sun as much as possible and monitor your blood sugar levels if you are diabetic,” Miller said. “Make sure to rest if you’re feeling dizzy, focus your activity during the cooler parts of the day and moderate your activity levels when it gets hot and humid.”

The Combat Readiness Center has a wealth of summer safety information. For more information, visit

For more joint base news, visit:


  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid strenuous activities during the hottest part of the day
  • Use sunscreen and reapply often
Signs of heat related illness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Cool, clammy skin
Signs to watch for:
  • Red, hot and dry skin
  • Rapid, but weak pulse
  • Rapid, but shallow breathing
  • Confusion, Faintness, Staggering
  • Hallucinations
  • Unusual agitation
  • Coma

If you suspect it may be heat stroke, seek medical attention immediately!