I responded to a UFO! Seriously, in real life. I know it seems bizarre, but hear me out.
Like most of everyone, I am limiting my interaction with people and staying inside. In an attempt at self care, I've been practicing yoga every day. It really helps with my mental health, and I think my waist line may be reaping the benefits too (woot woot). But that's beside the point.
Usually, while I'm practicing, I am looking out of the window at the lush green field across from my apartment, but today, I was staring right at this moving truck. I couldn't help but laugh because the Roswell, NM and Alien reference related to one of the most memorable moments in my Air Force career.
Don't get caught off guard, the truck is not what I'm talking about. When I was in the military, we got a call that a drone went down in Roswell, New Mexico. The drone happened to belong to the military installation I was assigned to, so our units were assembled to respond to the call. See the original article here.
Imagine this, a military caravan driving through the deserts of New Mexico, right into the land of the infamous 1947 UFO sighting. Let's make matters worse, we had a long road ahead of us, so we stopped for snacks. The clerk at the gas station was in awe, the incident had already made it's rounds and some of the locals were convinced a UFO crashed in Roswell. He even asked "Did a UFO really crash?" to which we could not provide a response, per policy. I'm pretty sure our lack of transparency solidified the theory. I kind of felt like the X-Files.
If you looked at the article, you know this happened in July, in the day time, in the desert. It. Was. Hot. With the exception of firefighters and the explosives team, we were the first to go in. And when I say we, it was me and my bestfriend/coworker. We were ghostbuster dressed out, with breathing air, all around the crash site to identify, quantify, and interpret any hazards at the site to better protect subsequent teams.
Did I mention it was hot? It. Was. Hot. I've never had a better understanding of what heat does to the body. I felt like my organs were peeling through my skin. There weren't enough electrolytes to get us through the response. We had to be;
1. hyper-vigilant for our own safety
2. look for anything that could hurt someone
3. avoid the burnt cow poop
4. all while in a suited up with no shade!
This was pretty much me and my coworker
Yeah, it was horrible! Heat related illness can show up in many ways. Some good examples are rashes, cramps, dehydration, clammy skin, dizziness, nausea, and even strokes. Since we were also the entity that managed heat stress for the base, we were able to recognize the symptoms and seek treatment. After our task, we got to a cool area (aka the A/C was blasting), took sips of room temperature water, and got an assessment from the EMT's. Since we were under so much stress, we didn't have to return to the same task and were able to make recommendations for the subsequent teams based on our experience.
While I was there, I was not very excited. I couldn't fathom how impactful the experience would be on me. As an Industrial Hygienist, I am responsible for identifying hazards, to include heat for people working indoors and outdoors. I require people to wear those awfully hot suits, or not. I also recommend work/rest cycles, hydration schedules, and train people on the recognition of heat related injury symptoms. It's so important to protect people, while realizing, I could be causing more danger.
Any time I hear someone talk about aliens or UFO's, I can't help but remember my time in Roswell. It also reminds me how cool being an Industrial Hygienist really is. I didn't wake up that morning thinking I would be responding to a UFO, but that's the life of an IH, you never really know what will happen. This experience will live with me forever. We did more “stuff” at the UFO crash, I just can’t talk about it. Ya know, per policy 😉
I can't post this blog without acknowledging the nearly 700 people that succumb to heat related injuries every year in the US. These are preventable injuries, and lives that should not be forgotten. The CDC is a great resource to learn more about protecting yourself and others.