Photo Information

Heat Index Flags are posted at the main gate of Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, California, based on the temperature as determine by the Base Safety Office on a daily basis starting May 1.

Photo by Laurie Pearson

How to survive soaring temperatures aboard MCLB Barstow

4 Jun 2024 | By: Laurie Pearson Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow

As temperatures begin to soar in the Mojave Desert, personnel aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow are cautioned to pay close attention to the heat flags, and environmental conditions.
“Exposure to extreme heat is reality of military training and workforce operations in the High Desert,” said Latham Woods, Safety specialist. “Many heat illnesses are preventable, and none should be fatal. Accordingly, leaders must assess the organization’s mission(s) and training requirements against the risk associated with conducting daily task(s) in a hot weather environment. Training, acclimatization, hydration, early recognition, and treatment of our Marines and civilian Marines presenting heat stress symptoms are key to preventing heat related illnesses and injuries.”
Even on-duty and off-duty recreational events can present heat related illnesses and injuries.
The same measures that help with work, can help with recreation, to prevent heat related illnesses.
“It is important to take precautionary measures for the well-being of personnel,” Latham explained. “Heat injury prevention shall be incorporated into risk management worksheets, safety briefings, standard operating procedures and letters of instructions pertaining to all events.”
Some recommendations for personnel who have to continue outdoor operations despite heat are:
• Take frequent breaks in the shade
• Spend some time in air conditioned buildings as able
• Wear vented hats, light colored long sleeved and loose fitting clothing
• Hydrate often and consume electrolytes
“Some of the signs related illnesses include heat cramps, such as painful cramps in the stomach, legs, and/or arms. They are caused by loss of electrolytes in the body due to excessive sweating,” Latham explained. “Heat cramps may occur without the individual feeling thirsty. Heat exhaustion is defined as resulting from peripheral vascular collapse due to excessive water and salt depletion. Symptoms include profuse sweating, headache, weakness, pale appearance, nausea, vomiting, mild dyspnea (shortness of breath), and palpitations. The causality may become faint or lose consciences. The blood pressure may be low, the body temperature may be elevated or normal, and the pupils may be dilated.”
Heat stroke, the most extreme of the heat related illnesses, is a medical emergency that may result in death if care is delayed.
“Heat stroke is typically defined as a core temperature greater than 105 degrees Fahrenheit or any changes in mental status of an affected individual with any elevated core body temperature,” he explained.
In order to help educate those who have newly arrived to the base, and those who may need a refresher, Base Safety hosts 101 Days of Summer each year. This training is one tool used to help base personnel understand the importance of specific heat related care between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
“It is recommended that a healthy adult drink 78 – 100 ounces of fluids per day, on average,” said Brian Korves, Safety specialist. “Ensure you are replacing your electrolytes.”
In addition to dehydration, Korves also warns of the potential danger of over-hydration.
“Drinking too much water (too quickly) can be dangerous,” Korves said. “Overhydration can lead to water toxicity, also known as water poisoning, which is caused by electrolytes in your body being diluted.”
Symptoms of overhydration include:
• Nausea and vomiting
• Headache due to pressure on the brain
• Changes in mental state, such as confusion or disorientation
• Drowsiness
• Muscle cramps

“You may not recognize symptoms of overhydration in its early stages,” he explained. “However, urine is a good indicator of hydration status in a healthy person. Pale yellow urine that looks like lemonade is a good goal. Darker urine means you need more water. Colorless urine means you (may be) overhydrated.”
“Electrolytes are chemicals that regulate nerve and muscle functions in the body,” explained Greg Kunkel, Fire Operations chief. “When the electrolytes are depleted, the body can essentially malfunction.”
These electrolytes include:
• Sodium
• Potassium
• Chloride
• Calcium
• Magnesium
• Phosphate
• Bicarbonate

Some of these can be obtained through foods such as leafy greens, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, fruits, root vegetables, fish, dairy products and more.
“A standard rule of thumb is to drink three waters to one sports drink,” Kunkel said. “Especially if you are working outside in the High Desert. This ensures that you get electrolytes in addition to water.”
“In addition to foods and beverages that can help, there are beverages to avoid such as alcoholic beverages, caffeinated beverages, and beverages with large amounts of sugar,” said Nicholas Perez, Safety specialist.
The sugars, alcohol and caffeinated beverages can alter the way that the body processes water, and electrolytes in the body.
“You may notice that if you’re out drinking, maybe having a few beers while you are mowing the lawn, you begin to pee a lot,” Kunkel said. “This flushes your system of both water and electrolytes and could be potentially dangerous. You really need to limit alcohol and caffeine when doing anything outside here in the summer.”

Set your own course through any hazard: stay informed, make a plan, build a kit. Live Ready Marine Corps.