JULY 22, 2016, NORWICH, N.Y. – To maintain the safety of military members and patients daily, a team of public health officials inspect food, waste, industrial hygiene and water during the Greater Chenango Cares Innovative Readiness Training, July 15-24.
Though the IRT provides quality medical services at no costs to patients, an essential purpose for the mission is to allow military members to practice their skills in preparation for wartime operations. More than 190 Air Force, Army, and Navy personnel work together to offer medical, dental, optometry, and veterinary assistance. By inspecting regularly, public health ensures that members are able to do their work to help the community in a safe environment.
“It’s rewarding knowing that we are preventing problems from occurring,” said Lt. Col. Harry Moore, 136th Medical Group public health preventative medicine officer. “When situations arise, the first thing we think of is how we could have averted it all together. By taking preventive measures, we are minimizing the chances of our service members being exposed to anything that could effect their health or ability to perform the mission. A food-borne illness or exchange of bodily fluids can be dangerous–lethal or incapacitating.”
In a field environment, a water tank called a “water buffalo” is used to provide a clean, drinkable water source in the event that local potable water isn’t available. The tank is initially flushed with a super chlorination system to kill all organisms, and then again to wash out excess chemicals. The tank is then refilled with drinkable water. Every day, Preventive Medicine personnel check the chlorine and water levels, as well as the tap to ensure that it’s coming out clear.
“Though we don’t necessarily use the water buffalo here, everything we are doing is preparation for real-world events,” Moore said. With food, we are looking at product storage, which includes refrigeration and freezer temperatures, food handling, preparation, and serving. It’s important to make sure as items are prepared for everyone’s consumption, that we examine overall sanitation and hygiene practices just to ensure that we are providing the safest and healthiest meals we can for our service members.”
Army Staff Sgt. Kellee Carraway, 789th Preventive Medicine Detachment training non-commissioned officer, has worked in preventative medicine for 11 years, and stressed the importance of industrial hygiene and waste disposal as well, which are also key inspection items that public health monitors.
“In a hospital environment, proper disposal of biohazards materials are essential to safety,” said Carraway. “To keep our service members safe and healthy to serve the community, we make sure to take the bio-waste materials from both the dentist and veterinary areas to local contracted centers for final disposal. We also monitor industrial hygiene issues, which mainly involve the air conditioning units and generators in the building. Our job is to ensure that they are far enough from working areas so they do not pose a noise hazard, as well as ensuring that the condensation lines aren’t pooling creating a health hazard.