PATRICK W. FLEMING
The job of an aviation safety officer is practically identical to that of “007” — filled with intrigue, danger and martinis (shaken, not stirred). Well, maybe not so much intrigue or martinis, but definitely danger, as in protecting our service members from it. At times, the challenge can be quantifying the threat and then communicating its existence effectively.
When talking about the inherent dangers of containerized housing units, it’s hard for some Soldiers and civilians to accept that these can be both our refuge and downfall if not designed and maintained to standard. As an expeditionary force, the use of containerized housing has increased dramatically. In efforts to identify and install proper force protection measures, it’s important to know there are two basic models. The first, which is typically used for housing, has corrugated (ridged) one-sixteenths-inch Corten steel sides, is built in accordance with International Standards Organization 1496 and 668 to bear up to 65,980 pounds and can be stacked up to nine high. The second, used primarily for storage, has flat sides and is typically made of aluminum. Force protection measures must be postured accordingly when using various forms of these containers.
As we move to occupy sites in the future, it becomes imperative we look forward and anticipate growth as small camps become larger and grow into bases. The oversight of life support area layout during the initial phase of construction is of particular importance in mitigating risks to container structures. One of the main considerations is generator (and supporting petroleum, oil and lubricants storage) placement. The key consideration is to prevent obstruction to the single means of egress from these units. That obstruction can come in the form of a fire, deflagration reaction or spill. The absence of functional windows in many of these designs means there is only one way out of the steel boxes. Therefore, it is imperative the proper means of egress is preserved. Additionally, the telltale black residue on the side of CHUs near generators can be an indicator Soldiers and civilians inside are potentially being exposed to carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and ozone.
When constructed properly, CHUs endure the harshest conditions. Yet, their indestructible appearance can lead to complacency amongst the housing occupants and those who must inspect the LSAs. It’s important to mention that buildings should be certified by a qualified master electrician. This will require opening electrical panels to ensure the bonding jumper is installed correctly and to test of the grounding rods. However, not all safety officers are necessarily qualified to conduct those inspections.
Between 2004 and February 2013, there were two Class A accidents in which Soldiers died in the shower because their immediate area became energized. Additionally, there was a similar Class C accident in 2008 and two in 2009 that were the result of faulty wiring in air-conditioning units. Circuit breakers that consistently “trip,” ground fault circuit interrupter outlets that do not test correctly and extension cords that have been used as permanent wiring are all key indicators of areas that are at higher risk of having an electrical accident. Regular inspections will help remedy these and other issues that occur as intelligent, crafty people try to make work-arounds for inadequate facilities.
As we attempt to reduce the footprint in our deployed locations and increase the Soldiers in others, it’s important to remember the Department of the Army Pamphlet 40-11 and U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventative Medicine Technical Guide 314 guidance for living space is clear. Seventy-two square feet is required per Soldier in any living area. The 20-foot shipping container, which is the standard CHU configuration, provides 148 square feet of usable living space, which exceeds the requirement for two people (bunked or not). Increasing occupancy above this number will increase the probability of disease transmission as well as egress time in the event of an emergency or fire.
Through proper project management, facility inspections and planning of occupant loads, we can use these facilities to their maximum potential safely. Let’s keep the risk to the force where it belongs — outside the wire.