DOD IG finds electrical, fire safety issues at Camp Buehring, Kuwait
By CHRIS CHURCH | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 7, 2016
MANAMA, Bahrain — A series of “significant” and potentially dangerous problems with electrical and fire protection systems in military housing at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, are due in part to inadequate maintenance and oversight, the Defense Department Inspector General found during a recent inspection.
“Any individual or combination of these deficiencies increases the risk of shock, fire, injury, and the loss of life or property,” the DOD IG said in a report summarizing findings of an inspection to determine whether facilities occupied by the U.S. military complied with DOD health and safety standards.
The inspection, conducted in February, covered living quarters, including buildings, trailers, tents, latrines, showers, and laundry and mechanical rooms. The inspectors also looked at the new Kuwaiti Energy Efficiency Project buildings, known as KEEP, which provide energy-efficient housing. In total, the IG inspected 59 buildings and 178 rooms.
Of 538 total deficiencies identified, 198 were electrical in nature. They ranged from failure to meet the National Electrical Code for the installation and maintenance of electrical equipment to unsafe tenant practices, such as daisy chaining power cords and unapproved use of heat-generating appliances in sleeping quarters.
The deficiencies could have been prevented if U.S. Army Central Command had ensured electrical installation and maintenance were performed according to proper protocol and standards, the report said. “As a result, these deficiencies pose an increased risk of shock, electrocution, and fire.”
Besides electrical issues, the IG report identified 340 fire-protection deficiencies, many of which concerned fire escape routes. Many external stairs had steps of inconsistent heights and unsafe or missing handrails. Some windows had bars bolted across them or furniture blocking them.
Alarm systems were also identified as being deficient, with the possibility that the fire department would not be alerted or a first responder would not be able to notify residents or shut off air circulation to stem the spread of fire or toxic fumes.
For example, problems with the Mass Notifications Systems in the KEEP buildings included inaccessible functions, an inoperable microphone, no prerecorded messages, strobe lights that didn’t operate properly, and no air-distribution shut-down.
The report also found that Camp Buehring lacked permanent, government-employed master electricians or fire protection engineers and that the Kuwait Base Operations and Security Support Services contract Performance Work Statement didn’t provide requirements to ensure adequate electrical and fire-protection inspections.
Most of the deficiencies were due to “insufficient inspection, inadequate maintenance, lack of an effective maintenance and inspection plan, and ineffective project oversight,” the report found.
The IG recommended that U.S. Army Central Command conduct a root-cause analysis and take corrective action.
Assistant Chief of Staff, Engineers, Col. Jerry L. Farnsworth II, who responded on behalf of ARCENT, agreed with the IG findings and recommendations and the Army has begun to correct the deficiencies. As of Aug. 8th, the date of ARCENT’s response to the draft report, 122 deficiencies had been corrected.
The Army is going through all structures at Camp Buehring and addressing all issues it sees, the commander of Area Support Group Kuwait, Col. Joseph W. Power, said in a statement to Stars and Stripes. It is adding electrical outlets to living areas to prevent daisy chaining.
“We are telling our leadership they have to get in the barracks and make sure their soldiers are adhering to Army safety standards,” Power said.
Camp Buehring, a temporary training camp about 25 miles from the Iraqi border, is used by both U.S. and Kuwaiti Military personnel. The U.S. military has occupied the facilities there since 2002.