Beat the heat

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Benjamin Aronson
  • 15th Wing Public Affairs

As summer continues and the weather gets hotter, Airmen need to be aware of the risks of outdoor work to stay cool and safe. 

The 15th Medical Group Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight analyzes environmental factors and distributes recommended protective measures for Airmen to take to remain safe and healthy while working outside. 

“It’s nice to know we can provide commanders and Airmen the best information for them to make the decisions to protect themselves,” said Airman First Class Aaron Hepner, 15th MDG BEF bioenvironmental engineering apprentice. 

Airmen analyze equipment to calculate the Wet-bulb Globe Temperature, which takes into account temperature, humidity, wind speed, sun angle, and cloud cover. Other information such as the globe temperature, humidity and temperature play parts into their calculations too. 

This information allows the flight to distribute the Thermal Stress Index. The Thermal Stress Index is temperature information and recommendations for Airmen to stay safe while working outside or in higher temperatures. 

“Knowing what type of environment to expect will result in the body reacting differently,” said Senior Airman Erica Daniels, 15th MDG BEF bioenvironmental technician. “You could experience heat-related injuries such as dehydration, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and other symptoms which could result in hospitalization.”

Different color flags are used to distinguish different ranges of temperature, dangers, and what precautions Airmen should take. 

White flags are used for temperatures ranging from 78-81.9 degrees, green flags for 82-84.9 degrees, yellow flags for 85-87.9 degrees, red flags for 88-89 degrees, and black flags for 90 degrees and greater.  

Airmen should know the flag conditions before working outside or exercising. 

“Gyms have flags they post each day,” said Hepner. “You can go to the front desk and they will tell you the condition before your workout.”

Work-rest cycles can also keep Airmen safe. These cycles give a ratio of time that Airmen should be outside performing physical work during a specific flag condition and how long they should rest.

The amount of work, rest, and water intake will fluctuate depending on the intensity of work, the amount of clothing worn, and what the WBGT is.  

All of this information is updated each day at 9 a.m., noon., and 3 p.m., and posted to the Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight’s SharePoint and distributed to gyms and the command post. 

“It’s important because it’s used to protect Airmen and ensure they are staying healthy and not injured due to the heat,” said Hepner. “Heat stress injuries are common in the Air Force and we want to keep Airmen safe.”

To find out more information about the Thermal Stress Index or WBGT, contact the Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight at 808-448-6769 or