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As March comes to a close, intense heat and humidity will soon become the norm at Fort Benning, and Soldiers need to prepare.
Commanders are to inform and train their leaders and cadre on heat illness prevention no later than April 15, according to United States Army Training and Doctrine Command.
"Heat illness is a recurring health and safety concern for the TRADOC community. Therefore commanders must remain vigilant in teaching the vital survival skills that protect Soldiers in the harshest operational environments," according to the TRADOC Heat Illness Prevention Program.
Commanders must use their authority to change any training that could be detrimental to a Soldiers' health based on the conditions of the weather, said Jill Carlson, Maneuver Center of Excellence safety director.
"We live in a climate that is hot and humid continually," Carlson said. "We get Soldiers from all over the world who train here, and they come from different backgrounds, different locations, and they're all prone to heat injuries."
Other risk factors such as the use of alcohol in the last 24 hours, taking medications, being overweight, etc. can increase a Soldier's risk of heat illness, Carlson said.
Carlson said the Safety Office pushes prevention March through September. Typically the most dangerous months are June, July and August, but September has also been harsh.
The Safety Office tracks heat exhaustion, heat stroke and heat illness. Those who are at the most risk are Soldiers who initially come to Fort Benning and those who are in advanced training environments, like the Army Ranger Course, said Carlson. Most injuries occur during foot marches, PT and land navigation. The temperatures and injuries vary based on a person, and fatalities from heat have occurred, she said. "It is a serious condition," Carlson said.
It's important to know the symptoms of heat illness, heat exhaustion, heat injury and hyponatremia. Knowing the signs and mitigation tools, having the proper nutrition and participating in the post activity exercises can help reduce a Soldier's risk.
"When in doubt, they (Soldiers) evacuate," Carlson said.
Carlson said it is important for Soldiers to be ready for the upcoming months.
"Always prepare, have your mitigation in place, make sure that you rehearse," Carlson said.
MCoE HEAT MITIGATION
* Humidity combined with training demands at Fort Benning increases risk for heat injuries. * Acclimatization takes 10-14 days with gradual outdoor exposure.
* Heat has a cumulative effect
* Must consider training and heat conditions over the past 72-96 hours - not just today
* Heat dumping (cool showers, air conditioning) is necessary to relieve accumulation
* Prevention of heat injuries takes CONSTANT assessment and adjustment of training conditions.
Heat Illness - Soldier is evacuated to a hospital and has heat-related symptoms and dehydration. Evacuations are by vehicle or helicopter.
Heat Exhaustion - Heat exhaustion is characterized by significant sweating, loss of color, cramps, fatigue, fainting and dizziness.
Heat Stroke - Symptoms include a body temperature over 103 degrees Fahrenheit, dry skin, high heart rate, confusion and even unconsciousness.
SOLDIER HAS SUSPECTED HEAT ILLNESS
* Signs: dizziness, headache, dry mouth, nausea, weakness and muscle cramps. * Questions to ask yourself: o Are there mental changes? o Vomits two times or more? o Unconsciousness for more than a minute? o Temperature greater than 101 degrees Fahrenheit? o Apply iced sheets and if there is no change within 30 minutes, call 911.
WHEN IN DOUBT, EVACUATE!