Selfridge Airmen Keep Close Tabs on High Temperatures

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
When the temperature in southeast Michigan gets hot - really hot - and the air hangs heavy with humidity, Brandon Reif goes outside. Twice an hour. Every hour. For two or three minutes at a time.

A bioenvironmental specialist with the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Airman 1st Class Reif's job is to take a series of temperature readings and pass along recommendations to commanders and work supervisors around the air base on the safety of their people who are working outside. The temperatures are recorded on a specialized thermometer he maintains a couple dozen steps outside his office at the 127th Medical Group facility on the base.

His most recent reading, taken around 1400 Wednesday, 17 July: 87.1 degrees. The heat index at that time - about 2 o'clock in the afternoon on the civilian clock - was 101 degrees.

"We actually take three readings, a dry bulb temperature, a wet bulb temperature and a dew point temperature and derive an average from the three," Reif said.

The Air Force then uses a color-coded system - white, green, yellow, red and black, in that order - to recommend the amount of work that should be done outdoors. Under the most severe high heat conditions, when the temperature is above 90, the black flag warnings are in effect, meaning Airmen are generally limited to 10 minutes of heavy work outdoors, followed by 50 minutes of rest in the shade or other cool spot. Exceptions to the work/rest cycles can be made in emergency or other urgent situations.

"Working out on the flight line in the hot weather, where there is little to no shade, that can be dangerous," said TSgt. Dean Klovski, also a bioenvironmental specialist with the 127th Medical Group. "It can be easy for a person sitting in the relative comfort of an air-conditioned office to not realize how dangerous it has become working outdoors."

"We want to prevent heat exhaustion, or worse, heat stroke," he said.

With the temperature at 87.1 degrees at 1400 on Wednesday, it was an eeven-money chance that Selfridge would be under black flag conditions later in the day for only the second time of the year. The highest recorded temperature at the base so far this year was 90.7 degrees on Tuesday, July 16. That day the heat index, or "feels like," temperature was 103 degrees.

Comprised of approximately 1,600 personnel and flying both the A-10 Thunderbolt II and the KC-135 Stratotanker, the 127th Wing supports Air Mobility Command, Air Combat Command and Air Force Special Operations Command by providing highly-skilled Airmen to missions domestically and overseas. The 127th Wing is the host unit at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, which is also home to units of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection.