When it gets hot on a carrier, turn up the H.E.A.T.
By CHRIS CHURCH | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 9, 2016
ABOARD THE USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER — When it’s really hot, bring on the H.E.A.T., a program to keep crewmembers aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower from suffering heat injuries during the summer months in the Persian Gulf.
Temperatures were often well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer and into the fall in the 5th Fleet area of operations, which covers the Middle East and Persian Gulf. Humidity and engine heat made it feel like 140 or more.
Yet the Ike had only five reports of heat injury through the summer, and all of those servicemembers returned to work within a day or two, according to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.
Medical staff were instructed to respond aggressively to heat stress reports, administer intravenous fluids, and put sailors on “sick in quarters” status for 24-48 hours until their body temperatures returned to normal and all symptoms were gone.
“What’s most important is the safety of the crew,” said Ike’s Command Master Chief Tyrone Blockton. “We want to make sure they remain hydrated, that they remain safe, that we don’t have a lot of heat injuries.”
To that end, the ship implemented a series of measures that commander Capt. Paul C. Spedero Jr. dubbed H.E.A.T., for hydrate, eliminate, acclimate and treat.
Most of the crew wore CamelBak hydration packs that they could refill from water coolers all around the ship. Uniform regulations were relaxed, allowing sailors to wear their blue T-shirts, unless safety requirements demanded other gear. Work rotations were increased to reduce the amount of time sailors spent in hot spaces or on the flight deck and the entire crew received training in recognizing heat injuries.
A chief hospital corpsman was appointed “ice boss” to ensure ice made from clean water was readily available around the clock, Blockton said. An ice station was set up where sailors could fill coolers and water jugs.
Sailors who work in hot environments were periodically assigned to man the ice station so they could cool off.
“This program is important because it makes sure everyone is hydrated and everyone has some ice to cool them down,” said Seaman Jesus Diaz, who was working the ice station during a hot day in August.
Blockton also instituted Operation Deep Freeze to keep heat from getting into the skin of the ship.
The ship’s cooling system works by pulling in water from the sea, but that is problematic when the sea water is 90 degrees or higher. Also, when hatches and scuttles by weather decks or the hangar bay are left open, heat gets sucked into the ship like a vacuum.
“The hot air takes maybe two minutes to get into the ship and it takes maybe six hours to get the temperature back down to where it was before you opened the hatch,” Brockton said.
Operation Deep Freeze, proposed by a chief machinist’s mate experienced in air-conditioner repair, required almost all hatches leading to weather decks and the hangar bay to remain closed to keep spaces temperate. Only about four or five hatches are required to remain open for movement of equipment and groups of sailors, Blockton said.
“Temperatures around the ship have cooled off significantly due to Operation Deep Freeze,” Blockton said, to around the mid-80s.
The lessons learned could be employed by other ships in the region in future, as each ship passes on lessons learned to the next ship coming in.
“And they take those lessons learned and they apply them ... as useful tools and things they can do to try and mitigate some of the issues and challenges we faced,” Blockton said. “It’s a useful suggestion, and its one that doesn’t cost any money. So that’s a good thing.”
Sailors combat a simulated fire during a general quarters drill in the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower on Aug. 23, 2016. During the summer months, Ike sailors had to combat temperatures well above 100 degrees while deployed in the 5th Fleet area of operations. Personnel used the acronym H.E.A.T., which stands for hydrate, eliminate, acclimate and treat, to mitigate the risk of heat injury.
CHRIS CHURCH/STARS AND STRIPES