Fort McCoy News Oct. 9, 2015

Training explores laser, radio-frequency hazards

STORY & PHOTOS BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

Fort McCoy's laser- and radio-frequency (RF) radiation-hazard safety program will be further improved because of recent training at the installation in late September.

Nearly 30 range and safety personnel from Fort McCoy and other Army installations participated in laser- and RF-radiation hazard and countermeasure training coordinated by the Installation Safety Office (ISO). Training instructors were from the Laser/Optical Radiation Program of the Army Institute of Public Health (AIPH) at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.

Photo 1
Bryan Kobe with the U.S. Army Institute of Public Health addresses the class. Personnel with the Installation Safety Office; Range Operations of the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security; and U.S. Army Reserve Command and Installation Management Command attended the laser and radio-frequency safety-training course.

ISO Manager Randy Eddy said this is the first time Fort McCoy personnel received this specific type of training. "This helps us increase our knowledge on what safety factors we should be looking for," he said.

The use of laser and RF equipment is expected to increase in the Army and at Fort McCoy, so leaders at many installations are expanding their laser- and RF-safety programs, said Physicist Jeffrey Pfoutz with AIPH.
Pfoutz explained some aspects of the training.

"We like to teach the language of lasers, which is physics," Pfoutz said. "We explain this to the students so they understand what a laser is and how it works. We also teach how it could hurt you — the biological effects of laser radiation. We talk about dangers to your eyes and skin, and how we (prioritize) that.

"Once we describe and define hazards, we (then teach) how to control and mitigate them, both in combat and in training," Pfoutz said. "We teach how to apply (an effective) administrative, engineering, and personal-protective-equipment scheme of control measures."

Range Safety Officer Brad Veith with Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security (DPTMS) Range Operations said the course was "intensive."

"(The training) gave me more information about the (laser- and RF-equipment) inventory, what's out there and what to look for (with the equipment)," Veith said. "It's all good basic knowledge that will help increase our safety procedures here for laser and RF radiation safety.

"More and more of this type of equipment is coming," Veith said. "What is coming we don't fully know yet, but this training helps us be better prepared."

Photo 2
Personnel attending the laser and radio-frequency safety-training course discuss solutions to a scenario as part of the training.

Range Officer Mike Todd, also with DPTMS, said he found the information on RF equipment "eye-opening."

"(At Fort McCoy,) we are going to give more focus on the RF systems that are set up in the field, so we are going to have to make some changes to our form that requests information (from troops training here) on these systems, and we'll look more at risk assessment with this equipment," Todd said.

The training also will be crucial to the creation of a range-safety standard-operating procedure (SOP) that will be attached to the Fort McCoy range regulation, Todd said. There currently is information in the regulation about laser and RF safety; however, the SOP will provide more-specific information to aid personnel in safe operation of the equipment.

"As we learn new things from others (about these systems), we can continuously update that SOP to keep up with the changes," Todd said.

Todd said the planned SOP and other changes in policy will affect customers. Each range training package requesting use of laser and RF equipment will be considered a nonstandard package and be reviewed more extensively.

"You will have us looking (deeper into) what they are doing, ascertaining what the hazard could possibly be, and then working to mitigate it," Todd said.

Eddy said the ISO regularly looks for ways to improve safety throughout Fort McCoy, and this training added a new dimension to ISO capabilities. The training, he said, will lead to improvements to already-established protection efforts for laser- and RF-equipment use at Fort McCoy.

"This is not going to make us experts, but it will provide us with (additional) things we need to be looking for," Eddy said.
For Army Public Health Command and the AIPH, Pfoutz said conducting field training helps fine-tune policies and procedures.
"As I told the class, this training is as worthwhile for Public Health Command as it is for Fort McCoy," Pfoutz said.

"This is where the rubber meets the road. I don't want Public Health Command to develop an ivory tower kind of mentality where we sit back East and think that everything we say and do is the gospel. Here, we are talking with the people who actually implement these procedures and find out how they are doing it. We can note any flaws in policies and procedures and also understand the needs of the actual operators."

Both Eddy and Todd said work to update safety procedures related to laser and RF equipment will begin immediately.
For more information about safety at Fort McCoy, call the ISO at 608-388-3403. For more information about Range Operations, call 608-388-5110. For more information about AIPH, go online to http://phc.amedd.army.mil.