JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
Few organizations require as many safety precautions as the government and military. The sheer size of the Joint Base San Antonio footprint makes the maintenance of the various buildings both a daunting and vital task.
One of the most important tasks that the 502nd Civil Engineer Group is tasked with is keeping the fire suppression systems up and running as part of their efforts to maintain JBSA’s infrastructure.
Today’s military aircraft are extremely expensive pieces of equipment. The maintenance hangers provide a potential fire hazard where a significant amount of flammable liquid aircraft fuel and other chemicals may be present. Weather extremes are a constant threat to maintenance efforts.
“Based on last two years, we had a couple of facilities known for freezing due to temperature issues inside. Normally, if the doors are closed and heat is on, the system is safe from freezing,” said Kevin A. Avila, 502nd Civil Engineer Squadron supervisor. “However, when operations require the doors to be open, we become at risk to the weather.”
Most suppression systems are comprised of hosing, tubing, wiring, and nozzles. Without routine maintenance, fire suppression systems will experience excess wear and tear which could lead to system failure. The 502nd CES civil engineers make preventative maintenance a constant priority.
“A suppression system is designed and installed specifically for every location with the customer and their mission in mind to fight fires that are specific to them," Avila said. "It can be as small as a one sprinkler head system for a room that houses flammable material. A hangar with aircraft will require Aqueous Form Filling Foam, or AFFF. Every system is unique, with the same function in mind.”
This gradual wear and tear will eventually render the fire suppression system ineffective and as a result will not activate or activate effectively.
“We focus on our preventative maintenance and make that the priority, but all mechanical devices have a mind of their own,” Avila said. "You can have a system fully functional today and by tomorrow, weather causes an electrical module, switch or valve to stick. It's a daily battle to ensure all systems are working as intended.”
Another challenge to maintaining the various systems is the size of the JBSA footprint. The 502nd CES is responsible for keeping it all working and all its members safe.
“As a water and fuel systems maintenance shop, we maintain the fire systems, fuel systems, water plant, wastewater plant, plumbing systems, and swimming pools at JBSA-Randolph and at the JBSA Recreation Park at Canyon Lake,” Avila said. “This is always a challenge to maintain all systems while ensuring nothing fails.”